Big Bullet | aka EU Strike Force (1996) Review

"Big Bullet" Chinese Theatrical Poster

"Big Bullet" Chinese Theatrical Poster

Director: Benny Chan
Producer: Benny Chan
Cast: Lau Ching Wan, Jordan Chan Siu Chun, Spencer Lam Seung Yi, Theresa Lee Yi Hung, Woody Chan Chin Pang, Francis Ng Chun Yu, Anthony Wong, Yu Rong Guang, Berg Ng Ting Yip, William Tuan Wai Lun, Steve Brettingham, Bruce Fontaine, Vincent Kok, Michael Ian Lambert
Running Time: 91 min.

By Reefer

Cop roles are like assholes, every actor has at least one. Lau Ching Wan has certainly had his share. Full Alert, Running Out of Time, and Black Mask are only a few of the titles. As everybody knows, Lau Chin Wan has amazing screen presence. Like Chow Yun Fat, he achieves instant credibility in each role he plays. His performance as Bill in Big Bullet is no different. The man acts his ass off.

Unfortunately, his performance is irrelevant because the movie itself seems to be suffering from an identity crisis. In my opinion, HK cinema has two schools of action movie-making: Ringo Lam gritty realism or John Woo apocalyptic chaos. Benny Chan’s Big Bullet chooses to skate right through the middle. Too many glamorized shootouts and beat-downs conflict with its real life procedural tone to be considered of the Ringo Lam variety and not over-the-top gung ho crazy enough to come close to Woo’s kickass mayhem. This movie is quite simply the ugly spawn of two beautiful parents.

The casting of Anthony Wong and Yu Rong Guang as the major villains is a stroke of maniacal genius. That is, if you give them something to do besides kill everyone in sight! These guys can provide enough menace for three or four movies. Anthony Wong replaces dialogue with a dozen varieties of “screw you” stares. Look into his eyes as he confronts an Interpol agent leading to a massive shootout. The bad intentions of that stare alone are enough to elicit a month of nightmares. Yu Rong Guang readily exhibits his natural athleticism, so much that you wonder again why he isn’t a huge star.

This brings me to the action sequences. The are ok. Nothing special. It helps that Lau Ching Wan and his squad give us someone to root for. Despite a huge continuity error, the shoot-out in the middle of the city is well-staged. The finale happens to be a poorly lit group fist fight on an airplane!!! By the way, why in the world would you pit Lau against Yu Rong Guang??? Anthony Wong ok, but the Iron Monkey!? Whatever. I guess I had higher expectations.

Overall, Big Bullet didn’t stink. But it didn’t inspire any philosophical truths about good and evil either. It didn’t excite me. It didn’t move me in any way. It passed time and sucked $10 + shipping/handling off from my credit card.

Reefer’s Rating: 5/10

By TheFrankEinstein

Lau Ching-Wan in a Benny Chan film. Sounds good, right? Yes, it does. It’s got decent performances, an uncharacteristically logical plot with rational characters and dialogue (even the mandatory car chase’s cardboard boxes are stacked in a sensible location), the cute as a button Theresa Lee pulling duty as the vicious-yet-sweet young female officer, and even a laugh or two. Lau Ching-Wan is credible as the cop with a bad attitude (though not overdone), and Anthony Wong is chilling as Bird, the main villain’s right-hand-man (both mentioned later). So it’s got all of the ingredients to be an above-par action flick, but it just never seems to come together like you’d hope. The stars’ charisma isn’t quite enough to hook you, the story and its subplots aren’t quite interesting enough to grab you by the *ahem*, and the action isn’t quite exciting enough to push Big Bullet into the style over substance winner category. Big Bullet just isn’t quite enough.

Lau Ching Wan’s Bill is a believably rogue cop, not as far-fetched as, say, Mel Gibson’s Riggs from the Lethal Weapon series. But I still can’t decide if the believability of his character is a flaw or a quality. I never howled out at the absurdity of a line of dialogue or situation, but would that have been more exciting? It might just be boring to watch a movie about a cop that could exist in the real world. That’s not what we watch Hong Kong movies to see. On the flip-side, Anthony Wong’s bad guy Bird has what it takes. He shoots people’s hands off, indiscreetly stabs people on bustling streets, and takes the gutsy (if lame) Bond villain method of destruction by throwing a grenade into a large stack of water bottles, thereby flooding a stairwell to push pedestrians all over the place to divert the cop hot on his trail, rather than just throwing the grenade into the actual crowd of civilians/cops. Overly complicated, unrealistic and silly, sure, but stylish. The problem being that Bird gets no back story, no depth, and very little screen time, all of which pretty much negates anything positive he brought to the film when weighed out. So what you end up with is a story that’s boring enough to be in the local newspaper, a generic musical theme, a painfully abrupt cop-out of an ending and a few positive points to the film that just don’t make the movie worthwhile. That Theresa Lee sure is cute, though.

TheFrankEinstein’s Rating: 5/10

By Numskull

Yet another action movie about a tough, uncompromising cop who does things his own way when standard operating procedure just doesn’t cut it. It’s been done before, and it’s been done better.

Lau Ching Wan takes the role in question and doesn’t do a whole lot with it, but then again, it’s not as if there’s a dynamite script to work with. He gets booted out of his unit for assaulting an incompetent superior and transferred to an emergency unit where he has to team up with a gun freak, an overly loquacious storyteller, a goofy girl inexplicably named Apple, and a strictly-by-the-book type with whom he inevitably has a clash of philosophy. They have to take down some bad guys who did something or other that they shouldn’t have. The details aren’t important.

There are moments of levity sprinkled throughout the film. They don’t always work, but they try. The vast majority of the action comes at the end, when Lau Ching Wan and company surprisingly do some hand-to-hand fighting instead of the shooting and chasing that one would expect. Aside from that, this is just a basic cops and robbers movie, totally unapologetic in its averageness. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but many of us have seen a few too many of these from both Hong Kong and the U.S. If you’re not yet tired of cops having all the fun, dig in.

Numskull’s Rating: 6/10

By Vic Nguyen

Director Benny Chan Muk-sing once again proves why he is one of the most talented men working in the business, transforming an average screenplay into an enjoyable, action packed romp. Credit must also go out to Lau Ching-wan, Cheung Tat-ming, Jordan Chan Siu-chun, and Theresa Lee, who are just a few of the actors and actresses who light the screen up with their terrific group chemistry, while the baddest of the badasses, Yu Rong-guang and Anthony Wong Chau-sang are wise choices as the sadistic villains. Touches of light humor and some tension-filled action sequences are just a few of the perks featured in this production, and aside from a disappointing ending, this is one of the best pictures of 1996.

Vic Nguyen’s Rating: 8/10

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