image courtesy of View from the Brooklyn Bridge
Year of release: 1999
Stephen Fung, Nicholas Tse and Sam Lee (from left to right). Image courtesy of Columbia.
After the death of one of the top Triads in Hong Kong, a disgraced cop (Eric Tsang) enlists the aid of three police academy wash-outs (Nic Tse, Sam Lee and Stephen Fung) to go undercover in order to find out what the connection is with the dead Triad's brother (Daniel Wu) and a notorious Japanese crime boss (Toru Nakamura). The plot thickens when one of the "Gen-X Cops" -- as they get dubbed by their superiors, who as you might guess, don't like the kids too much and try to stop their investigation at every turn -- turns out to be the ex-boyfriend of Wu's current girl, played by hot newcomer Jaymee Ong.
After a confrontation in Wu's club, the trio are "enlisted" to carry out a hit on one of Wu's enemies (Francis Ng). The hit goes wrong and the kids (who along the way hook up with a computer expert played by Grace Yip) are then suspected to be Triads themselves. Knowing they will have no help from the "real" police, the Gen-X Cops must try to clear their names so that they can stop Nakamura's plans, which involve some kind of super explosive, from coming to fruition.
Gen-X Cops is part of a new breed of Hong Kong action film that tries to retain some of what has made them so unique, but at the same time tries to make itself more palatable to an interantional audience with the use of English and high levels of special effects. Some "purists" may decry this trend, but many HK film-makers themselves will admit that they are heavily influenced by Hollywood films, so it would only make sense that they would try to beat Hollywood at their own game, especially with dwindling box-office returns in the face of rising international competition at local theatres.
Daniel Wu (left) and Terence Yin. Image courtesy of Columbia.
At any rate, Gen-X Cops is an entertaining (but ultimately forgettable) way to kill a couple of hours. The film looks great and the action is well-done. Surprisingly, the young stars look pretty impressive delivering martial arts moves and there are a couple of suitably high-octane shootouts. The actors (especially Ng, in a painfully short role, where he gets to display his English profanity skills) work well together; the use of English is annoying in parts, especially newcomer Daniel Wu's Chinglish which is delivered badly in either language, but overall it's not as painful as some other reviews have made it out to be. Some note must also be made of the special effects, which are are probably the best to date in a Hong Kong movie. Gen-X Cops used the same team that produced some of the effects in Independence Day, and a major Hong Kong landmark is blown up in similar spectacular fashion.
What really de-rails Gen-X Cops from being a great, as opposed to merely good, action film is that there's nothing really underneath the surface. If this were a US film, it would most likely get lost in the heap of similar action movies. Maybe if you could have a Jackie Chan (who helped produce the film and makes a short cameo) or Jet Li movie with this kind of budget, then we might get something extraordinary. As such, Gen-X Cops provides some nice eye candy but little else. At least it shows that the Hong Kong studios -- for better or worse -- are willing to change with the times and are trying to keep their industry thriving.
Toru Nakamura. Image courtesy of Columbia.