Director: Herman Yau
Writer: Herman Yau, Erica Lee
Cast: Andy Lau, Jiang Wu, Song Jia, Philip Keung, Ron Ng, Wang Ziyi, Felix Wong, Shek Sau, Liu Kai-chi, Cheung Chun-kit, Louis Cheung, Babyjohn Choi, Felix Lok
Running Time: 118 min.
By Martin Sandison
Superstar actor/singer Andy Lau (The Great Wall, God of Gamblers) has had one of the most enduring careers of any Hong Kong celebrity, and he keeps going strong. Despite the setback of his injury while filming a commercial earlier this year (he fell off a horse), Lau is almost fully recovered and will continue to make movies soon. His latest film, Shock Wave, is a high budget, Hong Kong/Mainland co-production that boasts a good performance from Lau and some bombastic action set pieces.
Lau stars as Cheung Choi San, a member of the Bomb Disposal Unit in Hong Kong. Seven Years previous, Cheung had solved a case involving a criminal called Blast (Jiang Wen, A Touch of Sin), as he had gone undercover with his gang. However, Blast managed to escape and swore revenge. As Cheung climbs the ladder in the unit, Blast begins his retribution by holding hostages and planting bombs in the super-busy Cross Harbour Tunnel.
Having the biggest budget he has worked with (allegedly $23 million US), director Herman Yau (The Sleep Curse, Untold Story) really lets rip with the set pieces in Shock Wave. In fact, a set was built to approximate the Cross-Harbour Tunnel, which the film utilizes to great effect during the last 20 minutes. There are tense moments, superbly creative action and solid acting in this section of the film, although there is a tendency to fall into the trap of overwrought melodrama. Yau utilises all of the tricks and camera innovation he can, with visually pleasing results. There is even some extreme violence thrown in, such as an arm being ripped off by a speeding car, which will please fans of Yau. One tracking shot, which moves through an entire tunnel during a gunfight, had me in raptures.
Lau, as usual, is more than convincing in his role as a moralistic cop. Wen is inventively savage and charismatic as the villain, and steals every scene he is in, especially towards the end of the film. Felix Wong does a good job as Superintendent Chow, Lau’s superior (he is perhaps best known as playing Fishmonger Tsan in the classic Drunken Master 2, where he goes toe to toe with Jackie in a memorable fight). The Westerners in the film suffer from the usual problems, e.g terrible voice acting and stilted performances. Unfortunately, the romantic subplot involving Song Jia (Red Cliff, The Bodyguard) is outrageously cheesy and doesn’t do the film any favours.
A problem with Shock Wave is one we’ve all heard before: it panders to Mainland China. The message of the film being “Chinese cops are great! Don’t challenge them or you’re f*cked!” Saying that, there are some moments in the film wherein the patriotic stuff does work, whether you like it or not. They’re too spoilerific to mention here.
Ultimately, Shock Wave misses out on being a classic, but it’s certainly not a failure. It looks like this is the kind of movie we’ll see come out of Hong Kong and the Mainland more often – and that’s certainly not (really) a bad thing.
Martin Sandison’s Rating: 7/10