The Direct Line (HK 1992)

Rating: **
Review Date: 4/15/13
Cast: Waise Lee, Wu Ma, Yukari Oshima, Melvin Wong

Another generic action film with a nonsensical title that is a victim of its own silliness. A high ranking military officer goes rogue and steals a bunch of gold, with the intent of selling it in Hong Kong on the black market. In order to catch the crook and recover the gold, the mainland police put together a task force consisting of the bad guy's top student (Waise Lee), an escape artist with ESP (Wu Ma), and the commissioner's daughter, who is skilled in kung fu. Their first attempt to nab the bad guy is foiled by the Hong Kong police (led by Yukari Oshima), which leaves Ms. Oshima kidnapped and the commissioner's daughter MIA. In order to combat Wu Ma's special powers (which include clairvoyance, telekinesis, and X-ray vision), a Hong Kong crime lord (Melvin Wong) brings in a witch doctor from Malaysia. In the last ten minutes, the film shifts gears into high action mode, with a free-for-all gun fight and kung fu showdown at a dockside warehouse.

Unfortunately, the film is weighed down by its goofy antics, and the entire hour in the middle is dominated by Wu Ma's tricks. Yukari Oshima is mostly used as a comedic foil, but she gets into a couple of good fights along the way. Her two female partners suffer even more indignities as bimbos with guns, but they're cute and take their roles as seriously as they can. Waise Lee gives a nicely subdued performance, letting Wu Ma hog the spotlight. Even though it's mostly for laughs, Ma gives a strong and well balanced performance, which lends an air of credibility to the production. The commissioner's daughter is absent for most of the film, but her brief fight scenes are nicely executed. The action bits are good and fun to watch, and the finale features some of the most shockingly explosive squibs I've ever seen. It's not a terrible film, but the weak material doesn't allow the cast to reach their potential.