After his terrific period-martial arts drama FIST OF LEGEND (1994), Hong Kong star Jet Li takes a step down with this contemporary action film. Li plays police lieutenant Kit Li, whose wife and son are killed by a bomb set by the Doctor, a criminal mastermind who calls Li by cellular phone during the incident. Two years later, Li has left the force to become...read more
After his terrific period-martial arts drama FIST OF LEGEND (1994), Hong Kong star Jet Li takes a step down with this contemporary action film.
Li plays police lieutenant Kit Li, whose wife and son are killed by a bomb set by the Doctor, a criminal mastermind who calls Li by cellular phone during the incident. Two years later, Li has left the force to become the surreptitious stunt double for a popular but basically incompetent martial
arts movie star named Frankie Long (Jackie Cheung), whom a reporter (Chingmy Yau) is trying to expose. Long and the reporter are among the attendees at a party in a hi-tech penthouse where a display of priceless diamonds is being unveiled, when the gathering is crashed by the Doctor and his team
of armed terrorists. The Doctor plans to steal the diamonds, while one of his henchmen is intent on fighting a match with Long. Li discovers what's happening and infiltrates the party, precipitating a violent cat-and-mouse game with the Doctor and his gang through the building's upper floors.
Finally, Li commandeers a police helicopter and crashes it into the penthouse, killing many of the Doctor's men. Long has his showdown with the Doctor's henchman, and with Li's guidance is able to best him; Li himself fights with the Doctor, who manages to escape. Li then finds the reporter
strapped to explosives on the building's roof, and the Doctor calls him on a cellular phone to taunt him. Remembering their previous encounter, Li defuses the explosives and informs the Doctor that he tainted him with poison during their fight, correctly surmising that the Doctor would flee too
far away to make it to a hospital. The Doctor dies, and Li and Long are celebrated as heroes.
HIGH RISK was directed by one of Hong Kong's busiest filmmakers, Wong Jing, whose work has run the gamut from great drama (GOD OF GAMBLERS, with Chow Yun-fat) to silly comedy (the Li vehicle LAST HERO IN CHINA), and who here mixes the two in a schizophrenic manner. The story starts as a
dead-serious thriller with the deaths of Li's wife and son, then switches to farcical humor in the scenes where Li doubles for Long. But just as the film appears to be developing into a potentially wicked spoof of Asian action filmmaking in general, and Jackie Chan movies in particular, the story
switches gears yet again to become a blatant DIE HARD (1988) rip-off (right down to the black computer expert who helps crack the lock codes on the diamond display cases).
There are so many supporting characters thrown into the mix that the film is never able to build real tension. Despite an action directing credit for Corey Yuen (aka Yuen Kwai), director of the great FONG SAI-YUK, Li doesn't have enough opportunity to show his stuff; it's 40 minutes before the
first major action scene, and Long's character arc requires that he, not Li, has the major climactic martial arts duel with the number two bad guy. Still, there are a number of funny moments and a few terrific action set pieces, including Li's first attack on the terrorists--in a car he drives
into an elevator and rides up to the penthouse--and the climactic chopper assault. Li himself is fine in a comparatively undemanding role, and Cheung is fun as the actor who must prove himself under pressure. This is middling Hong Kong action, suggesting what the genre is capable of without
hitting the heights of its best examples. (Violence, adult situations.)
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