93 jie tou ba wang ("Eat My Dust" in the US) begins as if it's going to be a serious, gritty revenge flick--a mob-connected father is at home with his wife, brother and son to celebrate his son's sixth birthday, when suddenly they're attacked and some family members are gunned down.
But shortly after, it changes gears drastically as we realize that we're firmly mired in headband and leggings-styled 1980s pop culture (it would be the 1980s in the US at least--either 93 jie tou ba wang was filmed earlier than the publication date indicates, or it took this long for these cultural influences to entrench themselves in Hong Kong), and 93 jie tou ba wang proceeds as if it's going to be a goofy, light-hearted martial arts film spoof.
The shift is a bit jarring, and it isn't helped by the fact that the story is confused by the change, too. And that isn't helped by the fact that the dubbing doesn't seem to be the greatest. Unfortunately, as of this writing, 93 jie tou ba wang is only available on DVD in the US in a dubbed version over a pretty bad print that makes it appear even more dated.
The plot and the genres finally sort themselves out a bit, but one of the foremost flaws of 93 jie tou ba wang is that it tries to be too many things. Director Philip So alternates serious mob stuff, goofy comedy, semi-serious martial arts and action scenes, spoofy martial arts scenes, and romantic comedy elements, but tends not to integrate them well and tends to not stick with any long enough to really draw you into the film. Overall, he does martial arts and action okay. The romantic comedy stuff starts to be charming. The comedy and the spoofs are funny as often as not. The serious stuff starts to get gritty. It's just that you start settling into a mood, then So changes it.
It doesn't help that throughout the film, there continue to be elements of the plot that are confusing, although again, that might be more the fault of the dubbing.
It's not that 93 jie tou ba wang is a bad film. I enjoyed it overall. My wife seemed to enjoy it even more than I did. When So gets into a groove in a particular style, you can see the potential for a really great film, even if a couple of the action scenes become a trifle too ridiculous when he wants them to be serious.
In some ways, 93 jie tou ba wang plays like an underachieving Jackie Chan film. But it's just too disjointed to recommend strongly. It would be much better to watch a Chan film you haven't seen, but if you're a serious connoisseur of those types of movies and you've seen most of them, this isn't a bad choice for a lazy Sunday afternoon.
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