Director: Wang Zi Ming
Cast: Jet Li, Wen Zhang, Michelle Chen, Wu Jing, Colin Chou, Cecilia Liu, Leung Kar Yan, Stephy Tang, Alex Fong, Raymond Lam, Stephen Fung, Kevin Cheng, Leung Siu Lung, Michael Tse
RunTime: 1 hr 38 mins
Rating: PG (Some Violence)
Released By: Shaw
Opening Day: 27 June 2013
Synopsis: When a spate of eerie murders erupts across Hong Kong two troublemaking cops are assigned to the case. Young maverick WANG and grizzled vet HUANG who is fed up with his reckless younger partner always landing them in hot water. Reaching a dead end after discovering all the victims were former boyfriends of aspiring starlet LIU, the detectives must play a deadly game. One of them must go undercover as Liu's lover to lure the killer out.
Jet Li may receive top billing in the action-comedy ‘Badges of Fury’, but it is his Mainland co-star Zhang Wen who gets the most screen time as the titular detective Wang Bu-er. Impulsive and often disobedient to orders on the ground from his team leader Angela (‘You Are the Apple of My Eye’s’ Michelle Chen), he is paired with Li’s laidback veteran Huang Feihong as a check against his brash behaviour - though that consideration explained at the beginning becomes less than even an afterthought once it is said.
Indeed, there is little coherence to screenwriter Carbon Cheung’s haphazardly plotted crime mystery, which pits Wang and Huang against a killer who leaves his victims with a smile on their face. Thus dubbed the ‘Smile Murders’, the killer has claimed no less than a TV star (Kevin Cheng), a ballroom dancer (Michael Tse), a diver (real-life Olympic diver Tian Liang) and a real-estate manager (Tong Dawei), the only connection among them the fact that they had once dated film actress Liu Jinshui (Cecilia Liu).
Out of sheer narrative contrivance, Liu’s jealous elder sister Dai Liyi (Ada Liu) - whose cleavage-baring dresses have Bu-er transfixed at her buxom - is bandied as the obvious suspect until she is predictably revealed as the red herring. Who is the real killer then? Well, truth be told, it doesn’t really matter - the bare-bones plot serves merely as an excuse to string together a whole bunch of madcap gags, as well as a couple of action sequences that turn out surprisingly lacklustre.
Intended as a throwback to the old-school bumbling cop comedies that were a dime a dozen of the Hong Kong film industry, Mainland director Wong Tsz Ming does a competent enough job of stitching together a hodgepodge of - for the lack of a better description - ‘mo lei tau’ jokes - beginning quite apparently from the name of Jet Li’s character in the movie. If you can’t get that, then we urge you not to bother with the rest of the movie; but if you do, and happen to dig such (erm) ‘digs’, you’ll probably be tickled by the references to ‘Infernal Affairs’, ‘Young and Dangerous’, ‘Police Story’ and even ‘Men in Black’.
Besides these self-aware gags, a fair bit of humour also comes from Bu-er’s numerous pratfalls. A running one about playing ‘good cop bad cop’ threatens to outstay its welcome, but Bu’er’s comic tensions with his boss Angela manages to be pleasantly amusing almost all the time. What about Jet Li’s Feihong? Like we said, he appears less often than one would like him to, popping up now and then to trade some inane banter with Bu-er and then disappearing for yet another inordinate length of time.
The only reason Li seems to be hanging around is to lend the action sequences some actual measure of excitement, as he gets to spar with Collin Chou and Wong Jing. These are no doubt the highlight of action director Corey Yuen’s pastiche of kungfu-heavy sequences, the rest of which are largely disappointing in their blatant overuse of CGI and wirework. Perhaps to compensate for Zhang Wen’s lack of martial arts flair, most of these scenes are designed for comic effect, but their sheer incredulity pretty much removes any genuine thrill one might get.
Never for a second does the movie demand that you take it seriously, and if you’re going to enjoy it, you can only do so by accepting it on its terms. Instead of being Jet Li’s return to contemporary action, this is a goofy action comedy vehicle built around Zhang Wen first and Li second. There are still some mildly entertaining diversions to be had with the tongue-in-cheek humour and numerous cameos (including Huang Xiaoming, Alex Fong, Stephy Tang, Lam Suet and Stephen Fung), but otherwise this old-school cop spoof is as formulaic and middling as it gets.
(Good only for the occasional chuckle at its numerous references to Hong Kong cinema, this action comedy that has Zhang Wen as lead and Jet Li in supporting is largely devoid of thrills)
Review by Gabriel Chong