“The somewhat-magnificent seven”
As with the preceding entry, there’s a smattering of social commentary; here, the topic is Vietnamese boat people, who reached Hong Kong in droves during the late eighties. The bad guys are a group of pirates, led by Keung (Chu), who prey on the boats, stripping the refugees of valuables before killing them. On one raid, member of the crew John (Yam) recognizes friend Gary (Chow): while he manages to hide Gary, and stop him from being killed, the stowaway suffers cinematically-convenient amnesia, until the boat docks in Hong Kong.
Gary then escapes, and the ship is held in port, due to suspicions about Keung’s true purpose. Turns out Gary has shacked up with Yelia, Yeung’s friend and part-time whore (yeah, seems an odd kinda of friend for a police inspector, but there you go….), and it’s a race to see whether the pirates or Madam Yeung (Khan) can track Gary down first, before the sea wolves have to be released.
Particularly early on, Khan takes a back seat. After showing up at the start, she then more or less vanishes for the next 30 minutes, as the whole back story of the pirate crew is established. Indeed, in terms of overall screen time, she likely trails both Yam and Chow. The former is fine, as he usually is, but it’s easy to see why Chow’s career petered out, as he has the dramatic range of a glass-topped coffee-table. However, the good news is, when Madam Yeung does appear, it’s pretty much the cue for action.
And under the care of action director Philip Kwok, best known for playing Mad Dog in John Woo’s Hard Boiled, the film delivers a copious quantity of solid and hard-hitting fights. Most notable is the final brawl on the ship, as our boarding party of hero(in)es take on an endless stream of bad guys, in the cramped confines of its walkways and engine rooms around the boat. It also helps that the cringe-inducing efforts at comedy seen in some earlier entries, are largely abandoned here.
The entire product does feel rather rushed – likely a necessity, considering this was one of twelve feature films in which Yam appeared this year. Those included two other GWG flicks, unofficial Nikita remake Black Cat, and revenge flick Queen’s High, the latter also alongside Khan. This is likely the least of those three, and looking back to what the Line of Duty series delivered at its peak, it hardly compares. However, that’s more likely a tribute to just how good the best entries were, and it’d be as much a stretch to call this the worst member. It’s competent and hard-hitting enough to provide a satisfactory 90 minutes of entertainment for most kung-fu fans.
Dir: Cheng Siu-Keung
Star: Simon Yam, Garry Chow, Cynthia Khan, Norman Chu
a.k.a. Sea Wolves