Lionsgate // 2008 // 117 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge David Johnson // November 30th, 2012
He can never walk alone.
Beware the misleading disc cover. It shows action dynamo Jing Wu walking around with a stern look on his face, while holding a sword and a machine gun. I assume the tagline is about him, because it appears he is indeed walking alone.
Seeing all this I was excited. Jing Wu is the man -- he absolutely gives it up in Donnie Yen's Kill Zone -- and I'm convinced he's the next big thing to come overseas. Here, while given some satisfying action scenes, his character is essentially the main bad guy's enforcer. Not a starring role.
That main bad guy is Lin Ho Lung (Sammo Hung, Ip Man 2), a powerful Triad leader looking to corner the market on unsavory activities. To do this, he's leaning on the brute force of his main thug (Wu) and the diabolical cunning of his significant other. As violence breaks out among the gangs, a persistent police investigator (Simon Yam) strives to defuse the situation and finally bring Lung's gang to its knees.
Triad Wars isn't terrible. There are some solid action scenes woven in and a serviceable crime story. It's also not what I expected. In fact, I was hoping for the reverse; action-heavy with enough plot to keep things coherent. I know that makes me sound like a cinematic Neanderthal, but come on, it's Jing Wu walking towards me with a sword in his hand! I want the beatdowns!
I am forced to make due with what director Dennis S.Y. Law offers me in the way of mayhem: a handful of isolated sequences that can be both entertaining and nonsensical. Take for instance the first big one starring Jing Wu. His character shows up at some type of underground mob sword-fighting event and proceeds to use his blade to hack off limbs. It's a weird set-up, but a) allows Jing Wu to showcase his considerable skill, and b) is bloody as hell. Sadly, the blood and gore is pushed out digitally but copious, a disturbing reality I'm just going to have to come to grips with. This set-up is essentially the high water mark for the action moments, challenged only by an odd final showdown between Jing Wu and a character whose name I will withhold on account of spoilers.
The bulk of the film concerns itself with the sundry machinations of Lung and his cohorts, as they attempt to seize power and the chess moves Yam's character employs to throw a wrench into the works. There are a handful of interesting twists, turns, and betrayals, but I was left largely ambivalent. Nothing going on with the plot perked my ears up, leaving the action with the unenviable job of shouldering the load, which it can't.
The DVD is solid: a clean standard def 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen, Dolby 5.1 Surround (original Cantonese and and English dub), deleted scenes, and a making-of featurette.
Some over-the-top swordplay isn't enough to lift this so-so crime film up
from anonymity. Guilty.
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Scales of Justice
* 2.35:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (Cantonese)
* English (CC)
Running Time: 117 Minutes
Release Year: 2008
MPAA Rating: Rated R
* Deleted Scenes