The year is 1997. The place is Hong Kong on the eve of the Red Chinese takeover of the colony. The unsurprisingly titled HONG KONG '97 features more shoot-outs than any other 90s macho wish-fulfillment flick this side of Taiwan. That's all you need to know. Snaking through a crowded Hong Kong nitery, a tuxedoed assassin, Reginald Cameron (Robert Patrick),...read more
The year is 1997. The place is Hong Kong on the eve of the Red Chinese takeover of the colony. The unsurprisingly titled HONG KONG '97 features more shoot-outs than any other 90s macho wish-fulfillment flick this side of Taiwan. That's all you need to know.
Snaking through a crowded Hong Kong nitery, a tuxedoed assassin, Reginald Cameron (Robert Patrick), pumps lead into three Communist notables, including the Envoy, General Woo (Nonong Talbo). That evening, while the media warn of reprisals from the People's Republic, Reggie stays cool when his
lovemaking with girlfriend Li (Selena Mangh) is interrupted by massive retaliatory gunfire. Is it the Commies or the Triad gangs? The following day, after his fellow Sherwood Industries associates Simon Alexander (Brion James) and Jack McGraw (Tim Thomerson) ignore Malcolm Goodchild (Andrew
Divoff), to their later regret, Reggie accompanies his buddies to a party. When another gun battle erupts outside the mansion, Simon is forced to confess to Jack that Reg is actually a hired gun for their company.
Sequestering himself in the martial arts studio of his former main squeeze, Katie (Ming-Na Wen), and her dissident grandfather, Chun (Michael Lee), Reggie tries rekindling his romance while Simon plots an escape route on a plane to Malaysia. In the wake of more ambushes at a warehouse and
nightclub, Reg is prevented from boarding the plane by mercenaries who open fire, kill Jack, and wound Grandpa Chun. Learning that Reggie's been framed and there's a price on his head, Simon initiates a reconnaissance mission to infiltrate the Sherwood Industries computer mainframe and post false
notification of Reg's "death." Reg and Katie hook up with Li, who's then murdered by vicious gunsels as the heroes head for company headquarters. Hacking into the computer, Simon discovers that mild-mannered Malcolm has masterminded a scheme to avail himself of the corporation's millions as a
prelude to taking over Sherwood Industries. After Reg dispatches Malcolm, as well as dozens of felonious martial artists, the intrepid good guys rendezvous with Grandpa Chun and sail safely out of Hong Kong.
A variation on conventional chop-socky flicks, clearly inspired by the crossover success of Hong Kong director John Woo, HONG KONG '97 substitutes bullets for flying feet. Since random gunplay requires less skill than kicking people to death (unless it's orchestrated by an action master like
Woo), the film suffers. The feeble plot is interrupted constantly for unimaginatively choreographed shooting. Although cinematography celebrating Hong Kong's neon jungle is eye-filling, the film's direction is thoroughly ordinary, unimproved by slack editing that fails to energize the gunfights.
Leading man Patrick is a bush-league Alan Ladd whose handsome, unlined face never betrays a flicker of emotion. Given the movie's largely absent villain (he's barely in evidence till the final minutes), its indistinguishable female love interests, its stale supporting turns by Thomerson and
James, and its uninspired screenplay, the burden of carrying this adventure falls on Patrick, who improbably emerges almost unscathed from every bullet barrage. Still, the workmanlike HONG KONG '97 serves up a passably lethal array of assassins who never tire of trying to do their worst; action
buffs will find it hard to sleep through all their noisy violence. What the film fails to provide is any reason to care whether or not its anti-hero survives all this non-stop, rat-a-tat-tat peril. (Graphic violence, extreme profanity, extensive nudity.)
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