“Giant Fireballs, Volume 2.”
Prince Six (Tan) is plotting rebellion against the legitimate government, but Ming (Chu) has obtained a piece of compromising evidence from a dying Imperial guard. Before he can deliver it, the seal proving his identity is lifted by Tang Lyn-Yu (Ng), who runs a circus troupe, but has set her amorous eyes on Mind. He returns to the troupe, to try and locate the seal, but also there, undercover, is Fire Devil (Lin), who has been tasked by Six with locating and destroying the evidence of his treachery. However, after her involvement in a battle which leaves a young child orphaned, along with her beginning to fall for Ming, she begins to question whether she is on the right side of the fight. It doesn’t count as much of a spoiler to say that it ends with Fire Devil taking on Six, in a finale which involves so many things blowing up, you’d be forgiven for thinking the title of the film was as given at the top.
As usual, the fight scenes show why Yuen Woo-Ping is the greatest action director in modern cinema. Unfortunately, the bits between the fight scenes, also show why he is not the greatest director in modern cinema; it’s as if all the invention and imagination went into the wire-fu. Yuen appears content for the rest to be told with a series of bland characters (Chu is entirely forgettable, and shows the range of a wardrobe), desperately unfunny stabs at comedic mugging (courtesy of the Empress of Comedic Mugging, Ng, who has basically made her entire career out of that sort of thing), and broad cliché (Taotao the orphan, who could only be more obviously designed to be Adorable with a capital A, if he was carrying a box of sneezing baby pandas). The results are never less than unsubtle, and rarely pass as adequate.
It’s up to Lin to carry the emotional heart of the film, and she does well enough. At one point, Six tells her he doesn’t want her to be a dog, obeying him without question, he wants a hawk, soaring free. I guess he gets his wish: however, considering how that turns out (reminder: a large number of giant fireballs), it probably wasn’t the wisest of similes for him to choose. More exploration of their relationship, e.g. how did she come to work for him, would have been preferred over the less successful element that may well have you reaching for the fast-forward button.
Dir: Yuen Woo-ping
Star: Joe Chu, Brigitte Lin, Sandra Ng, Tan Lap-Man