Got two hours to spare for an entertaining popcorn action flick? This Taiwanese action franchise does the job with its explosions, car chases and shoot'em ups
Call this writer a traditionalist, but he has never been too impressed whenever he hears a young artiste bagging an acting award. Showbiz is a cruel place, and he somewhat believes that accolades, as shammy as they are, belong to veterans who have been slogging it out. That is probably why, whenever the media goes all excited about a young actor winning an industry award, this columnist would read the coverage with many pinches of salt.
So here we have 30 year old Mark Chao (Monga, The First Time) who established his reputation by starring as one of the two protagonists in 2009 Taiwanese TV series Black & White. The 24 episode drama tells the story of two cops who have vastly different personalities. Wu Ying Xiong (Chao) believes that law and justice are the pillars of the society and are constantly on the lookout for baddies, while Chen Zai Tian (Vic Chou) lives a luxurious lifestyle while waiting for dubious sources to crack his cases. Chao went on to win Best Actor at the 44th Golden Bell Awards, the prestigious annual TV production award presented by Taiwan's Government Information Office. The series was a big winner, taking home Best Drama, Best Director, Best Art Direction and Best Marketing.
While this writer has never watched a single episode of the TV drama, it makes perfect sense that there was a 2012 movie spin off chronicling Wu Ying Xiong's days before the series. Rumours have it that Chou and Chao's friendship soured after the latter's Golden Bell win, and hence Chou's absence in the movie. Titled Black & White: The Dawn of Assault, the movie was a success – hence this sequel (which also takes place before the TV series).
For someone who is watching anything related to "Black & White" (the predecessor to this movie was only released on home video here), this 126 minute action blockbuster is entertaining popcorn fare. The latest installment of the police action series is evidently grander in scale (go catch some of the TV episodes on YouTube), with special visual effects and 3D production companies from Taiwan, Hong Kong, China, Japan, Thailand, France, Australia and Hollywood coming into the picture. Yup, the filmmakers had a very, very big budget to work on.
Director Tsai Yuen Hsun makes his point clear by opening the movie with a dramatic car chase and countless loud explosions that sabotage all of the roadways leading in and out of the city. This is where we have to count on Wu Ying Xiong and a new character (a very likable Lin Geng Xin) to save the day. Chao and Lin have worked on Tsui Hark's Young Detective Dee: Rise of the Sea Dragon (2013), and the chemistry between the two work well in their latest collaboration.
Our senses are kept frantic by collapsed buildings, airplanes and trains crashing onto city streets, a rocket attack and an impending biological weapon explosion. The special effects are above average (you know that nothing can beat Hollywood), and the performances from the ensemble cast are commendable. Look out for the award winning Huang Bo who returns from the last movie as a criminal with a heart, as well as other familiar faces like Chang Chun Ning, Zha Na, Terri Kwan and our own Christopher Lee.
Will Chao wow critics with his acting here? Unlikely, because from this point on, it's really about bringing in the bucks. And this very entertaining popcorn movie works delivers with its impressive production values.
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