The Enforcer (1995)

*. I wonder if Jet Li is more of an acquired taste, or if he loses something in the horrific dubbing of his films. He’s always been a huge star in China, and is the real deal as a champion martial artist, but in all the movies I’ve seen him in he tends to fade into the background. He’s good looking, but doesn’t have star presence. In the Expendables franchise he almost disappears, and even in this movie he’s upstaged by Anita Mui and child star Mo Tse (credited as Xia Miao).
*. Maybe he’s just too low key. In The Enforcer Rongguang Yu is a lot more fun as the bad guy Po Kwong. I don’t think he takes his white gloves and sunglasses off once, and his playing against the transgender villain Miss Li was a zany highlight.

*. I’ve already mentioned the horrific dubbing. It’s par for the course here, with the voices not matching up with the actors and several scenes where the characters clearly aren’t speaking but you can still hear them nattering on. What I was most curious about, however, was Blackie Ko’s street name, which is rendered as G-Dawg (or, alternatively, “Darkie”). I wonder why they decided on G-Dawg. To replace a potentially racist nickname with one even more inappropriate?
*. What can you say about a genre movie where the most memorable bit is also the worst or most ridiculous thing in it? Like the sleeping bag scene in Prophecy, for example. On the plus side, you have to admit that such a movie does at least have one scene or sequence that stands out from all its more conventional peers. On the other hand, that one thing . . .
*. If you’ve seen The Enforcer you’ve likely forgotten all about it except for the fight scene at the end where Kung Wei uses his son as a human yo-yo, tying a rope around him and flinging him toward bad guys that he (the kid) punches out before being yanked back. It’s physically impossible, and not even convincingly rendered as a stunt, but once seen it can’t be forgotten.
*. Aside from this, the fight scenes are nothing special. Li does a great turn with the tonfas, but that only lasts a couple of minutes. Most of the rest of the fighting relies on interesting settings (the catwalk over a huge auditorium, a specially-built glass cube of a restaurant with an indoor waterfall), assisted by some pretty obvious cable work. I mean, people can’t really jump that high, or that slowly.

*. Bey Logan, who seems to know every single thing there is to know about martial arts movies, has a good DVD commentary where he talks about the stylized, over-the-top quality of Hong Kong action films as opposed to what you get from Hollywood. Is that still true? I wonder how much the superhero franchises of the twenty-first century borrowed from the former in fashioning what has become the new house style for action flicks.
*. Logan suggests the freeway under construction might have been borrowed from Lethal Weapon 3. It also made me think of the (much) earlier Don Siegel vehicle The Lineup. There was probably just some construction going on that they decided to get production value out of. That was that happened in the Siegel film.
*. I couldn’t credit the story for a second. I didn’t understand Anita Mui tracking Li all the way back to Beijing, and immediately not only injecting herself into his family but actively supplanting the dying mother. She even starts wearing the mother’s dresses the very next day! At the end, “the newly put together family unit” (Logan) struck me as having been established in unseemly haste. Did Li even get a chance to mourn his wife?
*. So one good fight, a whole lot of silliness, good performances all around, and some nice photography and direction by Corey Yuen. Aside from the human yo-yo scene, however, it still doesn’t add up to much. A week after watching it the only part I could still remember was the kid on a rope.


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