Judge Daniel Kelly was exiled for being a Dynamite Warrior.
Brotherhood. Honor. Loyalty. Duty. Which one is strongest?
An interesting little double pack combining a tiresome martial arts flick with a fairly tight mob actioner. Johnnie To's Exiled is definitely the sharper of the two flicks, easily outpacing Dynamite Warrior in terms of competent execution and solid entertainment value. Granted, neither film is worth anything more than a rental, but audiences should be adequately amused with To's picture.
Exiled opens in 1998, some eight years before the picture was filmed. The story follows two pairs of assassins pitted against each other; one group seeking to take out a target, with the other attempting to save him. The victim in question is Wo (Nick Cheung, Sin Yan), and when both pairs eventually cross the man, a great shootout ensues as a consequence. The best assets of the film are the well constructed moments of violent action; the picture devolving into a slightly less compelling narrative, as the two factions of gangsters join forces to pull off a massive heist.
The acting in Exiled is assured, certainly much more respectable than it is in the shoddy Dynamite Warrior. Audiences won't have much trouble engaging with the lead actors, and nearly everyone has good screen presence during the project's more intense instances. The cast is decidedly male heavy, so it's odd that one of the most cracking performances is given by a woman. Josie Ho does sterling work as Wo's wife, adding a dose of reality and unnerving edge to the movie. To shoots the picture with vigour and considerable style. Despite some of its more bumbling narrative faults, Exiled does look magnificent.
The screenplay starts well but slowly gets worse. Thanks to the professionally orchestrated action and relatively simple story, this isn't a fatal flaw, but it is notable and certainly renders the production good rather than great. The film develops a bizarre but ambitious Western dynamic before it concludes, its score capturing the sort of melodies one might expect from a Sergio Leone effort. Unfortunately this switch in tone coincides with the slump in writing and storytelling, but it is a brave touch none the less. A well adjusted and reasonably enjoyable offering of foreign cinema, Exiled is a clear cut below the best works of John Woo, but remains a fairly decent action picture.
Dynamite Warrior, on the other hand, is outright weak. The second movie in this double pack is a 99 minute slog, punctuated by the odd efficient martial arts sequence. The film sounds much better on paper than it is; a mysterious warrior coming back to defeat an evil warlord who's trying to sell Tractors. Yes, I did just say Tractors. There's a revenge subplot hacked into the mix, but it really doesn't improve anything. The action is crazy enough to warrant a look, but everything else about the movie totally stinks.
Weird but not overly interesting, the story is despicably uninvolving and turgid to follow. The production has wizards, buffalos, and menstrual blood, but something about it still feels fantastically dry. Dynamite Warrior should be a lot of fun but it simply isn't. Maybe it's the frustrating degree of exposition, boasting far too many flashbacks and unconvincing moments of vengeful simmering, leaving audiences cold and thirsting for something that packs a little genuine punch.
The acting is atrocious (not that I was expecting otherwise) and director Chalerm Wongpim fails to coax any emotion out of his performers. The script is mishandled too; unlike Exiled, nothing is grounded in reality. Granted that's not the point, but hey, if you're making a goofy action spectacular it also pays to remember to keep things fun. Dynamite Warrior doesn't. Exiled receives a hard R rating, while Dynamite Warrior is unrated; it's modestly gory in parts and the action is incredibly violent. Certainly I wouldn't try anything featured here at home.
Both of these imports look well on DVD, albeit neither film has a bonus feature to its name. Exiled is worth watching once, but unless you're a martial arts fanatic, I'd give Dynamite Warrior a pass. Maybe give this set a rental or pick it up when it's cheap, but at full price neither of these flicks deserve a place in your permanent collection.
It's a hung jury on this set.
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