November 7, 2013
Having Jet Li headlining the cast will really set high expectations for fans of Chinese martial arts movies. However, just in the first few scenes of this particular film, you will already know that you need to tone these expectations down.
There is a series of mysterious deaths in the city. The victims were all young men who strangely die with a silly grin on their faces. The policemen who get assigned to this case were unlikely partners, the young reckless Wang Bu Er (Zhang Wen) and grizzled veteran Huang (Jet Li), under their lady boss Angela (Michelle Chen). Investigation lead them to a young actress Liu Jin Shui (Liu Shishi), who was the girlfriend of all these victims.
Zhang Wen plays the slapstick comic lead role. His character's name "Bu Er" literally means "never second," which is ironic for this bumbling foolish policeman. Zhang is shameless in some really embarrassing scenes and stupid situations. He does have several exciting fight and chase scenes, but will usually end up bungling everything. This young actor made his mark in several popular television dramas and had won a Best Actor award playing the autistic son of Jet Li in the 2010 dramatic film Ocean Heaven. Badges of Fury is Zhang's first all-out action film, and I must say, he did quite well with his stunts and wire-work.
Jet Li only plays a supporting straight man to Zhang here. It may disappoint his fans that he appears in only about a third (or less) of this film despite his prominent billing. Li, of course, still rules his scenes, figuring in some exhilarating, though over-exaggerated and obviously CG-aided martial arts fights.
The ladies in the cast are all very easy on the eyes. Michelle Chen is quite funny in her cute little way, though she was not entirely believable as a senior police officer at all. Liu Shishi plays it serious here as Jin Shui, the lonely girl who seemed to be a curse for the men who fall in love with her, all of them winding up dead. Sexy Yan Liu plays Liu Shishi's liberated sister Dai Yiyi, whose uses her feminine wiles to seduce men and sell life insurance.
This film is shallow and light-hearted, not to be taken too seriously. There will be scenes that you cannot help but laugh out loud in their craziness. The investigation of the murders has its own nifty twists and turns which can puzzle you. It can be a fun way to spend a lazy hour and a half, if you do not expect very much. Think of it as a poor cousin to those classic Jackie Chan or Stephen Chow martial arts action/comedies. 4/10.