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The Film
High Risk

Its Origin
Hong Kong

Running Time
101 mins

Genre(s)
Comedy
Martial Arts

Director(s)
Wong Jing

Stars
Jet Li
Jacky Cheung
Chingmy Yau
Billy Chow

DVD Distributor
Universe

DVD Origin
Hong Kong

Region Code
All

DVD Format
NTSC

Audio Tracks
Cantonese DD 5.1, DTS
Mandarin DD 5.1


Subtitles
Chinese, English

Screen Format
Letterboxed

Special Info
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Film rating:
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High Risk


Film & DVD Review

Kit Li quit the police force in Mainland China because of the death of his wife and son at the hands of "The Doctor". With the Doctor escaping capture, Kit is unable to get over the loss. Despite this he becomes a bodyguard for the superstar Frankie. One day when Frankie is attending a jewellery show, Li overhears the voice he recognises as that of the Doctor. Their paths have crossed once again and this time Li needs to make sure the outcome is different.

This DVD has been released in the UK (& US) under the title Meltdown. As far as I know, that version is cut and dubbed only, so avoid it! This version is uncut and in its original language!

I first saw High Risk quite a few years ago and I remembered loving the film. I recalled liking it so much that when this remastered version was released by Universe, I sold on my older version to get this one as it has DTS sound and is uncut. Me being me, the film has sat on my shelf for quite a few years and only today (12 Jan 2007) did I decide it was finally time to give the film its second viewing.

If there is ever a film that shows how your perceptions change and how inaccurate your memories can be, this is certainly one of them for me. Maybe I am more of a critic now than I used to be, but the film I saw is not the High Risk I remembered. I remembered a film with a good story, great action, funny comedy and very good fight scenes. What I got was a decent enough story, so-so action, not-funny comedy and some decent-to-good fight scenes. I'm almost convinced someone at Universe managed to completely change the film with this remaster, yet somehow keep the look of it the same.

One of the first things that put me off the film on this viewing was the complete contrast of moods on screen. From starting off really quite dark and brutal with the murder of all the women and children, the film immediately switches to zany, terrible, typical Hong Kong film out-of-place comedy. This was something that completely killed the mood. From seeming like the film was going to go down a dark, gritty action thriller sort of path, all thought of sense like that was utterly bitch-slapped from my head as I remembered that this is a Wong Jing production, so sense and mood balance were out of the question.

Maybe it is because technology and filming techniques are getting better and this is a mid-nineties production, but the action for the most part looked really quite dated. Sure there were lots of guns being fired for the majority of the film and there were enough explosions to keep a 'getting pretty good at it now' pyromaniac happy, but to me it felt like there was no energy of greater substance to all of it. Bad guys stood there firing guns of some description, the good guys elaborately dived out of the way, shot back and killed them. With a little variation here and there, usually with the number of bad guys shooting, that was a suitably accurate description for most of the gunfight scenes. There is a bigger, more unbelievable explosion involving a helicopter crashing into a building, for which it is best to switch off all reality filters. A lot of it is big, bright and goes 'boom' and is adequate eye candy.

The characters come across pretty much as they are meant to throughout the film. Jet Li's character, imaginatively called Kit Li, is the quiet hero. He's suffered a great loss in the past and now has the mood to show he can't get over what has happened. Jet Li is good enough in this role, the character isn't there for dramatic readings, he's there to kick, and shoot, butt. Jacky Cheung plays Frankie, the film super hero and idol of many screaming women. However, his off-screen persona is not remotely the same. He is a complete womaniser and a coward, who has let his fame go to his head. Originally he was an expert at kung fu, but his fame changed him. Predictably there is a turning point in the film for Frankie. Chingmy Yau plays the reporter after the big story, who gets a lot more than she bargained for. Films like High Risk are not written with great character development in mind, the action is the number one focus. This is also why so many characters do inexplicably stupid things. A reporter trying to get the big story is a character who is able to get into many situations where stupidity can rule over sense. Chingmy's character does not disappoint in that regard.

All the faults that I've mentioned so far I could quite happily overlook if the fights in the film were of a really high standard. Alas they are not. In fact, there aren't that many fights in the film, maybe just two that are worth mentioning. The first is between Li and the main bad guy's brother. There are quite a few good moves shown here and it is obvious that the two actors are both proper martial artists. From hand to hand they get into some weapon work, which again you have to suspend your belief for - Li uses part of a lighting rig, which despite it being completely severed from the rest of the rigging, one of the bulbs on it still manages to find electricity from somewhere and shine! However, a few good moves here and there didn't make the fight as exciting as it could have been. I was entertained, but not enthralled or in awe. The other fight is between Billy Chow and Jacky Cheung. While I've got no doubt that Cheung was doubled for a lot of the scenes in this fight (probably by Jet Li), it is a rather depressing state of affairs that I enjoyed this fight more than Jet Li's main fight in the film. Here there are some exciting kicks from both combatants, and more conventional weapons make a showing here. Cheung is dressed in the Bruce Lee "Game of Death" style suit (yellow with the black stripe down the sides), as that is who his film character is meant to be like. It was fun, it was entertaining and it was the best fight sequence in the film.

Other little things bothered me as I was watching, things like seeing the extra padding on some of the characters before they got hit in a fight, other little continuity errors and the general stupidity of some of the scenes. After finishing my viewing, I was really quite disappointed as High Risk did not live up to how I remembered it being. Despite most of the review being fairy critical, the film was just alright. Nothing special at all, just simple mindless, and too stupid at times, entertainment.

Audio & Subtitles
This remastered release comes with Cantonese and Mandarin DD 5.1 and Cantonese DTS 5.1. I chose the latter for my recent viewing. Having DTS on here I think was nothing more than a gimmick, cashing in on the DTS name as I wasn't aware of anything throughout the film that made it worthwhile. The vast majority of the audio came from front centre, with only gunshots, explosions, shattering glass and the like being spread around the surrounds and rear speakers. I didn't notice any discrete sounds from any of the 4 surrounding speakers. I'm guessing the film originally had a mono or stereo soundtrack that has been mixed up to 5.1. There may also have been several lines of dropped dialogue from the audio as there were a few occasions that subtitles appeared on screen, but there was no audio to go along with it.

The English subtitles are ok. It is obvious in many places that whoever wrote them does not have English as a first language, and is a few lessons short of being completely fluent. There were many grammatical errors throughout, with wrong words and tenses being used. Spelling actually seemed ok though. Some lines weren't on screen long enough either, meaning you have to be a speed reader on occasions.

Quality
This is a non-anamorphic, letterboxed print from the mid-nineties in Hong Kong. Hong Kong, a country not previously renowned for its care and quality in storing film prints. This shows here. The print is quite grainy in its entirety, with speckles and other brief lines appearing frequently. Detail levels were lower than other letterboxed prints I've seen.

DVD & Extras
Nothing much to speak of here. Just Stars' Files on Jacky Cheung, Jet Li and Charlie Yeung in English and Chinese.

Overall
High Risk is not the film I remember it being. It is not the great, good fun action feast that I wanted it to be. It is, however alright, loud, brainless action entertainment. Just don't get it if you are wanting to see Jet Li kick ass in his usual way. There is a lot more emphasis on guns here.

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All review content copyrighted © (2003-2009) Kris Wojciechowski

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