It seems like Jet Li has been laying low a bit lately, but he’s back in the new film BADGES OF FURY, now available from WellGoUSA Entertainment. We posted a trailer earlier this month, but I got a chance to watch the film and thought it would be worth reviewing.
Directed by Tsz Ming Wong, this Hong Kong production is presented with English subtitles and no English dub track, though if you’re like me that won’t be a problem. The film opens with a rather odd series of event involving people dying under mysterious and somewhat kooky circumstances, and with a big smile on their face just before. It then cuts to a flashy opening title sequence that is, in a word, bizarre. We meet three principal characters on an undercover police operation – Wang Bu’er (Zhang Wen) is an antsy detective, Huang Feihong (Jet Li) is the seasoned detective, and Angela (Michelle Chen) is the tactical detective keeping tabs on them in a police van. Things get nuts pretty quickly, and Wang finds himself chasing after a villain. But Huang eventually steps in to finish the job, showing he is without a doubt the superior fighter.
As the investigation into the bizarre murders gets underway, the detectives find themselves looking at two sisters, Lin Jinshui (Shishi Liu) who seems haunted and nervous, and the sexy Dai Yiyi (Yan Liu) who very cocky and seductive. Yiyi has a history of stealing Angela’s boyfriends, and the detectives aren’t sure if one of these sisters may be responsible for the recent deaths. Their job gets them into some unexpected fights and tricky scenarios as the story progresses, leaving the audience to wonder who the real bad guy might actually be.
BADGES OF FURY at its core seems like an attempt at a buddy cop movie, but at times is so outrageous it almost seems to be channeling Zucker Brothers levels of satire. In essence it is a parody of big American action movies, though not a very focused one. The tone of the film frequently shifts back and forth from insane comedy to stoic drama, at times in a very uneven manner. The fight scenes are usually pretty solid, and it’s great to see Jet Li back in action, however it’s also obvious that many of Li’s scenes make heavy use of a stunt double. It wouldn’t be so bad, but the double is clearly a much thinner man and looks nothing like the seasoned action star. If I had to guess, this could either be the result of Li just being too old to handle these moments, or perhaps his participation on the film and time allotted simply wouldn’t allow him to be there long enough to shoot the entire fight. Zhang Wen, on the other hand, is very competent and impressive with his numerous action segments, and exhibits a strong comedic prowess when needed. He reminds me of Yeun Biao, one of Hong Kong’s most masterful acrobatic action stars who for some strange reason never reached the level of popularity contemporaries like Sammo Hung or Jackie Chan did. The scenes with Jet Li and Zhang Wen together play rather well, utilizing the old pro and young protege motif, but there’s also a large amount of screen time where they’re separated. Director Tsz Ming Wong is obviously trying to mimic the style of Stephen Chow, though the budget appears to be much more limited.
From what I’ve read BADGES OF FURY was not received well by fans of Asian action films, perhaps because the marketing of the film sold it as something quite different than when it was. The trailers focus almost entirely on Jet Li, and make the movie look very serious in tone. The end result uses Li very sparingly, and the tone is rarely serious at all. Even I was surprised when I watched it, based off what I saw in the trailer. But one thing the film does is keep things moving, and no matter how odd the proceedings get they’re almost always exciting enough to keep you interested. Legendary fight choreographer Corey Yuen directed the action scenes, so expect plenty of cool battles. Watch for a fight inside a upscale apartment in the middle of the film, which is easily the highlight of the piece. If you go into this knowing what to expect, and understanding Jet Li is more of a supporting player than a lead, you might have a lot of fun with the end result.
As for the Blu-ray, it feature some nice bonus features. There’s a “Making Of” featurette broken up in a few sections that runs (total) about a half-hour. Also look for some bloopers. As with many WellGoUSA titles, there’s also several trailers for other WellGo releases. Picture and sound are great, a nice release.