Director: Alan Yuen
Cast: Darren Wang, Milla Jovovich, Sandrine Pinna, Timmy Xu, Liu Meitong, David Lee McInnis, Lam Suet, Sean Xiao, Danny Chan, Lu Nuo, Kathy Chow
Runtime: 1 hr 53 mins
Rating: PG13 (Some Violence and Sexual References)
Released By: mm2 Entertainment
Opening Day: 1 August 2019
Synopsis: Feng Zhao (WANG Ta-lu) is a slacker whose biggest hobby is extreme sports. During one extreme challenge, Feng is unwittingly caught in a dangerous transaction when he is mistaken by a mysterious businessman as his contact. Soon, he's recruited by an international spy organization, together with the top spy agent Bruce (Milla JOVOVICH) to continue his disguise and finish the deal for the safety of the world. Meanwhile, Miao Miao (Sandrine PINNA), a cowardly police officer, and her good friend, Shan Ding (Timmy XU), are also drawn into the case. Together with Feng, they form a team to steal a priceless treasure owned by a wealthy businessman. After a series of adventures involving high- tech gadgets and lots of close calls, the rookie spies get their hands on the treasure. At the exchange, the “spies” realize that their ultimate mission is to sell the treasure in exchange for raw materials that can be used to create a weapon of mass destruction. Just as they’re about to complete their mission, the terrorist mastermind behind the original deal steals the materials. With the fate of the world hanging in the balance, the rookie spies set out to stop the terrorists before it’s too late.
Apparently, the Mainland companies still think there is a market for Hollywood style, big-budgeted action thrillers after the lukewarm received Bounty Hunters, Mission Milano and The Adventurers. Backed by no fewer than four Mainland companies and Hong Kong’s Emperor Motion Pictures, The Rookies is a dreadful action spy adventure that is hardly original or worth nearly two hours of your life.
Taiwanese star Darren Wang (Our Times, Fall In Love At First Kiss) stars as Zhao Feng who makes his living as an extreme sports athlete. When an extreme challenge went wrong, Feng finds himself caught in the middle of an illegal transaction between two groups of baddies. With his face being revealed, Feng is then recruited by a mysterious spy organization led by Bruce (Milla Jovovich) to travel to Budapest to complete the transaction with the real terrorist. Little did he know that, it’s going to take more than plain guts and money to save the world.
Co-scripted and helmed by veteran Alan Yuen who wrote Jackie Chan’s New Police Story, Rob-B-Hood and directed the Andy Lau’s actioner, Firestorm, The Rookies is a letdown in terms of action and somewhat underdeveloped in terms of story. As much as it tries to be an action comedy caper, the jokes and gags are painfully unfunny. The all-too-long prologue attempts to paint Feng as a carefree slacker, fearless vlogger though audiences will find it hard to be amused or awed by Feng’s antics. Next, Yuen decides to throw in some Johnny English’s slapstick comedy routines only to further establish it’s all too juvenile to be really amusing.
But wait there’s a villain in the form of American/Korean actor David Lee McInnis as Iron Fist (no not the Marvel character) who has developed a serum to turn human beings into plants! He is basically a ruthless, one-dimensional terrorist planned on rebuilding the world after losing his fiancée or wife to a terrorist attack. Unfortunately, the enemy is not that important to Yuen’s story as he is busy filling up the story with a bipolar suffering Interpol policewoman, Miao Miao (Sandrine Pinna), Feng’s friend Ding San (Timmy Xu) and his girlfriend, LV (Liu Meitong) who joins Feng in his madcap adventure.
Instead of going straight after Iron Fist and his deadly serum, Feng and his friends decide to infiltrate a castle and snatch the “Holy Grail” from its rich owner before Iron Fist lays his hands on it. And that’s where the actual joke comes in, the so-called “Holy Grail” is merely a plot device to stretch the movie runtime longer resulting in a wild goose chase across the beautiful city of Budapest with not much mentioning of it after all the hoo-ha has ended. Who knows, it might be in the hands of Indiana Jones.
With the indefinite hiatus of fellow Taiwanese Kai Ko, Darren Wang seems to be enjoying much success in the Mainland market after the box-office hit, Our Times. To be fair, Wang is easy on the eyes and he can look effortlessly charming and funny. Pairing up with Taiwanese-French Sandrine Pinna (who can act pretty well seriously), the pair of good lookers sizzle onscreen despite the often lacklustre plotting. And there’s Hollywood starlet and Resident Evil’s Milla Jovovich who received a prominent presence on the poster but appears slightly just more than the time you queue for the popcorn. She does get the grand entrance treatment except she is (probably for financial reason) render handicapped before the action actually gets started.
Despite all the money thrown in, The Rookies is riddled with unbelievably bad CGI from unconvincing backdrops, fake explosions, gadgets, automobiles to chopper. It’s a major distraction consider nearly every scene is tweaked with some form of CG. This in the end could be an escapist fun flick if done well sadly Yuen is too focused filling up the nearly two hours flick with inconsequential plotting, shallow characters and early 90’s computer imagery.
(You can forget about the entire movie except that Darren Wang and Sandrine Pinna looks fantastic and photogenic in Budapest)
Review by Linus Tee