The Fatal Raid (HK 2019)

Rating: **
Review Date: 9/6/21
Director: Jacky Lee
Cast: Patrick Tam, Jeana Ho, Min Chen Lin, Jade Leung, Michael Tong, Elaine Tang, Hidy Yu, Jadie Lin

A confusing and disappointing mess that tries to invoke the spirit of classic Hong Kong action. Twenty years ago, a police operation to stop a group of gunrunners in Macau resulted in Tam (Patrick Tam) and Fong (Jade Leung) losing their entire squad in a devastating gunfight. Now they're back in Macau on a security detail with two young female officers, Alma (Jeana Ho) and Zhi Hen (Min Chen Lin). A seemingly random chain of violent events occurs as soon as Tam's team shows up, and two additional female cops from Macau (Hidy Yu and Jadie Lin) are assigned to assist the Hong Kong team. The Macau police want Tam to leave, and it's clear that he's up to something. The final showdown puts the women in a fierce firefight against the bad guys, while a sappy ballad underscores the tragic resolution.

The reviews I read for this film mentioned it bringing back the "girls with guns" genre from the 1990's, which definitely piqued my interest. While it features a lot of loud and crazy action, it ultimately fails to deliver because the tone and execution are wrong. The film also suffers from a disjointed narrative, unlikable characters, goofy misplaced humor, and an overwrought sense of melodramatic sentimentality. Jeana Ho and Min Chen Lin spend the entire film bickering and hurling petty insults at each other, which makes neither of them likable or endearing. All of the young women are attractive and athletic, but the film chooses to tastelessly objectify and fetishize them in hilariously skimpy outfits rather than let them stand on their own merits. While I can appreciate this on a certain level, it becomes ridiculous when a heavily armored S.W.A.T. team retreats so that the girls in crop tops and booty shorts can take over and wipe out the bad guys. At least they're not wearing stiletto heels as they charge into action, but I did notice some shoe continuity issues in several places. There's also a laughably tasteless scene of the women changing clothes in slow motion accompanied by heavy metal music, along with the typical undercover hooker sting operation. Subtlety is not the film's forte. The only woman I've left out so far is Jade Leung, who is spared from most of these indignities. She's one of the only action actresses from the 90's who is still in the business, but she's definitely showing her age and is hard to watch. A lot of that is due to the amount of makeup she's wearing, not to mention a completely absurd wig that she wears during an extended flashback. And speaking of Ms. Leung, there's an awkward post-credits scene that shows one of the characters being recruited into the Black Cat program. Will that sequel ever get made? Probably not, but it's an interesting callout to the genre that the film is obviously trying to emulate.

The action is decent and fast-paced, and mostly focuses on over-the-top gunplay. Most of the impact effects utilize digital blood, which I'm not a fan of, but it tends to be subtle enough to not be distracting. The one exception is a close range shotgun blast at the end of the film which would have benefited greatly from a big, juicy squib, but the scene falls flat with a weak digital effect that disappointingly evaporates into thin air. The fight scenes are pretty good and the choreography is visually appealing, although the women tend to prefer flashy grappling moves over standard kicks, blocks, and punches. They also handle their weapons well, although a common problem throughout the film is that everyone tends to just mindlessly spray bullets all over the place, without specific targets in mind. The chaotic editing also doesn't show you what they're shooting at, which makes the action difficult to follow at times. It's a good looking film with high production values, but it ultimately misses the mark and left me not caring about any of the characters or what was going on. Perhaps if the women had respected each other and worked together as an efficient unit instead of acting like spoiled and immature brats, I would have found it more engaging.

Also, in the Interesting Disguises Department, this is the only film I've seen where a group of criminals conceal their faces by wrapping their heads in duct tape. That doesn't seem very well thought out...