Genius Products // 1995 // 105 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge David Johnson // February 20th, 2009
My father the hero!
Dragon Dynasty, probably my favorite DVD label, releases another film from Jet Li, probably my favorite kung fu star. Too bad it's The Enforcer.
Jet Li (The Forbidden Kingdom) is an undercover detective, struggling to balance his two lives. He's both a loving husband and father and a badass mofo infiltrating the most dangerous Hong Kong criminal syndicates. His latest assignment dumps him into the most dangerous syndicate of them all, led by a ruthless gangster who wears sunglasses all the time and treats his subordinates like dog poop.
Things are going fine, the bad guys are getting snuffed out, the criminals are panicking, but then they go there, kidnapping our hero's son (Tse Mui) and forcing him to open up the biggest can of whoop-ass they will ever see. Yada yada yada, Jet Li fights a bunch of guys with a small boy attached to a rope.
I just don't like little kids fighting grown-ups in action movies. If they're swinging paint cans at hapless burglars or setting booby traps in pirate caves, fine. But in a kick-ass Jet Li movie, I'm not willing to swallow the sight of a tiny boy whose punches probably pack the same velocity as a mosquito fart laying out professional henchmen.
No offense to Tse Mui, who puts forth an impressive physical performance here, but his fighting, especially the big tandem bout with Li, sabotaged the entire movie for me. I won't lay all the blame on Tse Mui and the fight choreographers. For a Hong Kong Jet Li action caper, The Enforcer is disappointingly slow in the middle. It opens fiercely with Jet Li doing his thing and smacking around some local toughs and then there's a pretty dope shooting sequence (you don't see Jet Li handling a firearm much) and a garbage truck fight soon after and builds up a quick pace and then there's an awful lot of character development and plot and if the payoff was worth it that would be cool, but the big finale implodes in a flurry of goofy wire-work and poor parenting (you'd think a loving father would opt not to have his young son endanger his life engaging in mortal combat with the deadliest gangster in Hong Kong amidst highly volatile explosives).
The good news: Jet Li's as awesome as always. If you're a fan you'll be loving the stuff he does here. For the most part, his action is grounded with less wirework than his fantastical outings, save, of course, for the big final fight. His showdown with the bad guys on the boat, thrashing them within an inch of their life with his tonfa, is a thing of beauty.
Not only is this a disappointing action movie, it's a mildly disappointing Dragon Dynasty release. My primary complaint is the audio mix, a 5.1 affair that's active enough, but the English dubbed track is used instead of the original audio, and it's not great. The 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer is a winner though, strong and clear throughout. Extras: another staggeringly informative feature commentary from Hong Kong cinema expert Bey Logan, who's pretty much one of the greatest DVD commentators to ever lay down a track, and three interviews with producer Wong Jing, Tse Miu all grown up and Ken Lo, who plays the villain.
Aside from the dubbed track and the mediocre film contained within, this Dragon Dynasty DVD is...well, let's just leave it at that.
The accused is reported to the Division of Youth Services.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Genius Products
* 1.85:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
Running Time: 105 Minutes
Release Year: 1995
MPAA Rating: Rated R