With Dada Chen at NYAFF 2013

With Dada Chen at NYAFF 2013
With Dada Chen at NYAFF 2013

Monday, January 06, 2014

BADGES OF FURY debuting on multiple formats tomorrow

Enlight Pictures and
Well Go USA present
Badges of Fury / Bu er shen tan
Directed by Tsz Ming Wong
Written by Tan Cheung
Action Choreography by Corey Yuen
China, 2013, 98 minutes

Chinese action comedy Badges of Fury will become available on Blu-ray, DVD and Digital (VOD, electronic sell-through, and streaming) tomorrow, Tuesday, January 7th, 2014. This review is based on watching the Blu-ray version.

Jet Li (Flying Swords of Dragon Gate, The Sorcerer and the White Snake, and so many othersand Zhang Wen (The Guillotines, The Sorcerer and the White Snake) co-star as a pair of ill-matched cops. Huang Fei Hong (Li) is the "grizzled old cop," while Wang Bu Er is his young, rash and impetuous partner. Their immediate supervisor is Angela (Michelle Chen, You Are the Apple of My Eye), a no-nonsense police sergeant given to slapping the misbehaving Bu Er with whatever she has at hand.

Zhang Wen, Michelle Chen and Jet Li

The film centers around the case of the "smile murders," a series of homicides in which the victims -- all male --  each die with a mysterious smile on their face. The key suspect is aspiring starlet Liu Jin Shui (Shishi Liu). It turns out that each of the deceased was a former boyfriend of hers. Complicating the picture is the fact that Jin Shui's sister, the opulently endowed Dai Yi Yi (Painted Skin), has a habit of stealing her boyfriends from her.

Shishi Liu as Liu Jin Shui

In addition to the main cast, the film is chock full of cameos by Chinese actors and actresses, such as Collin Chou (The Four, Flash Point), veteran character actor Lam Suet as a taxi cab driver, and many others. A good bit of the humor consists of "in jokes." For example, Jet Li played Huang Fei Hong (spelled Wong Fei Hung) in the first three Once Upon a Time in China films by director Tsui Hark. There's a nice little running joke about Huang's repeated desire to leave work early; his reason is revealed near the end of the film. Jet Li's height -- or lack thereof -- is also the subject of jest at one point.

Jet Li doing some wire fu in the stairwell fight scene

The action, choreographed by Corey Yuen, consists of a considerable amount of wire work,  sometimes termed "wire fu." Jet Li has a couple of really fine set pieces, including a battle in a stairwell and, of course, the climactic final fight. However, his role is surprisingly small overall; the greater portion of the film is carried by Zhang Wen, often with the assistance of Michelle Chen. Speaking of Michelle, seeing her in this big name production was a personal delight for me. Michelle, who was born in Taiwan, received a Star Asia Rising Star award at the 2012 New York Asian Film Festival, largely because of her performance in You Are the Apple of My Eye. I had the most pleasant experience of interviewing her along with Giddens Ko, the director of that film. Michelle is cute as a button and a talented actress. Hopefully her significant screen time here in Badges of Fury will lead to even more good roles in the years to come.

Bu Er (Zhang Wen) goes aerial

As one would expect from a Well Go USA Blu-ray, the image quality and audio clarity were outstanding. The language options on the Blu-ray disc are the original Mandarin soundtrack with English subtitles, which is set as the default, or English dubbed.

The ample bonus features consist of:
- A four-part "Making of" documentary:
   - The Guys
   - The Girls
   - Wen Zhang Action Scene
   - Funny Stuff
- A Behind-the-Scenes Featurette
- Trailer

The title Badges of Fury is obviously a play on Fists of Fury, the English title mistakenly given to The Big Boss, in which Bruce Lee had his first starring role. I only know a few words of Chinese, but the original title, Bu er shen tan, obviously refers to Zhang Wen's character in some way. From what I've been able to find, the film represents Tsz Ming Wong's debut as a director, and he's pulled it off pretty well.

Dai Yi Yi adds a great deal of visual interest to the film

All in all, Badges of Fury is a nice piece of entertainment with some fine action sequences. Just how much one enjoys it may depend upon how familiar you are with Hong Kong, Mainland China, and Taiwanese actors, actresses and films, how receptive you are to "wire fu," and how the film's rather distinctive brand of humor strikes you. I enjoyed it and think it will be fun to come back to now and then.