Year of release: 1997
Jordan Chan. Image courtesy of Mei Ah.Even though many Hong Kong film fans don't like the recent "Hollywoodization" of the industry, Downtown Torpedoes (despite having an extremely silly name) is a stylish movie that shows that HK film-makers can take some inspiration from the US without totally diluting their product. It's not a classic, but compared to crud like Tokyo Raiders or this movie's pseudo-sequel Skyline Cruisers, it's a refreshing change.
Borrowing a bit from the Mission: Impossible movies, the story has Jordan Chan, Takeshi Kaneshiro, Theresa Lee, Ken Wong and Charlie Yueng as a team called ATM (Advanced Tactical Mercenaries), who perform high-risk industrial theft "jobs". After a successful job, they are brought in by the MI5 (British CIA, led by Alex Fong in an extended cameo role) to steal money printing plates from a rogue agent. The job turns out to be a double-cross, and the ATM team must try to find the plates to clear their name.
Alex Fong. Image courtesy of Mei Ah.
From the get-go, Downtown Torpedoes sets itself up as a slick spy caper and it doesn't disappoint. The movie mixes in just enough high-tech gear and gutsy action to make it both believeable and exciting at the same time. In a time when many films mistake computer gimmickry for action, it was refreshing to see more of a straight-forward style. As always with these types of movies (especially ones that are a few years old), not all of the gadgets make sense or look great, but overall the spy action in Downtown Torpedoes is well-done, culminating in a climatic chase scene that is one of the best done (in either the US or HK) over the last several years.
Even though the plot is reminiscent of the first Mission: Impossible, thankfully Downtown Torpedoes isn't as convoluted as that film. Even though there is a fair amount of double-crosses, hidden agents and other plot twists, the story is easier to follow because of the movie's efficent storytelling. The film-makers realized that we don't need to see each detail of every character's life, and this helps move Downtown Torpedoes at a brisk pace. Even the dreaded mandatory romantic subplot fails to rear its' head here, and the film flows much better as a result.
The emphasis here is on spy hi-jinks, not mushy love stories. This streamlined storytelling is welcome in this day and age of movies that try and pretend to be more important than they are by dumping everything but the kitchen sink into the mix. From top to bottom, Downtown Torpedoes is a solid action movie that's worth your time.
Charlie Yeung. Image courtesy of Mei Ah.