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天羅地網 (1988)

Reviewed by: Chungking_Cash
Date: 04/01/2010

Kirk Wong's thinly constructed, meagerly produced Cantonese retool of Brian DePalma's "The Untouchables" (1987) succeeds at energizing its overrated source material with a number of fine performances and heroically choreographed shootouts but that's about it.

Reviewer Score: 7

Reviewed by: j.crawford
Date: 12/08/2006
Summary: sumptuous textures

Back in 1988, before The Killer was released, I carried a VHS copy I made from a LD and showed Gunmen to people as an example of the incredible production values that Film Workshop was capable of putting together. Of course, director Kirk Wong Chi-Keung purchased his ticket to Hollywood based on the success of this movie and the rest, as they say, is infamy. Don't miss this one now that it is out on DVD. It is well worth the time to see this movie to appreciate the sumptuous textures that are layered throughout.

Reviewer Score: 8

Reviewed by: mrblue
Date: 06/18/2004

Gunmen takes place in the 1930's, and has Tony Leung Ka-Fai, Mark Cheng, Waise Lee and David Wu playing a group of friends who are captured during the Chinese civil war and tortured by an over-zealous officer (Adam Cheng). After they manage to escape, Tony heads to Shanghai and becomes a cop. Opium smuggling is running rampant, and the big boss happens to be the same officer that imprisioned Tony during the war. After his partner is killed by Cheng, Tony swears revenge, but his by-the-book boss (Elvis Tsui) will have none of it. Eventually, Tony tracks down his friends and enlists their aid to try and shut down the opium smuggler for good.

Like most of Kirk Wong's films, Gunmen is a gritty look at crime and punishment. The movie starts out with a bloody interrogation scene and rarely lets up from there. Through the work of Fung Hak On and Bruce Law, there are several outstanding action scenes that will make Hong Kong action fans remember why they started watching the genre in the first place. One notable bit has one man being set on fire and then iginiting several other men while bouncing around while a ferocious gunfight is occurring.

Wong's direction also works -- for the most part. Gunmen does meander during the second act, as Tony must decide between his wife (Carrie Ng) and daughter or a hooker (Elizabeth Lee) he is falling for. Kirk Wong's films are not normally known for strong female characters, and Gunmen is no exception. It was hard to care for either of the female leads, because there was so little to them. I would have also liked to see some of the other characters (especially Elvis Tsui's) fleshed out more. There is a good deal of character development, but almost none of it really seems to go anywhere.

Even with these faults (which, frankly, could be leveled at many Hong Kong movies of the time) Gunmen is a solid picture that ends with a bang -- literally. In one of the more unexpected turns that I have seen, the drug lord is brought down, but not in a way that you might predict. It satisfyingly brings to a close one of the better crime action/dramas that this reviewer has seen in quite a while. Gunmen might not be anything fancy or mind-blowing, but in this day and age of watered-down PG-13 garbage from both sides of the ocean, it was nice taking a trip back to HK film's "golden age".

[review from www.hkfilm.net]

Reviewed by: pjshimmer
Date: 02/22/2003

Totally unengaging movie that will more than likely confuse and disappoint you. The beginnin was utterly unconvincing, with really bad flow and confusing events one after another (see MrBooth's comments).

One can count Adam Cheng's antagonist roles with 3 fingers, but when he does play this kind of role, he always excels (a la TVB's Luk Siu Fung & Greed of Man). He doesn't play the 100% evil bastard, and in fact he may get more sympathy than the good guys.

The audio tracks on the dvd are two different things. The subtitles say one thing, but the Mandarin audio says completely different stuff. Just to confuse poor Mandarin listeners I guess.

I do want to recommend this movie, but keep in mind that you probably won't care about it at all until the very end.

P.S. I watched the whole movie under the impression that Cherie Chung played the prostitute (and then I looked at the credits)! Oh dear, does Elizabeth Lee resemble everything about Cherie.


Reviewed by: MrBooth
Date: 02/27/2002
Summary: Not a great example of film-making

Four friends narrowly escape death in the (a) war, which is something of a bonding experience. Back home, Leung Kar Fai joins the police force and quickly rises through the ranks due to his dedication and righteousness. Meanwhile the other 3 become rickshaw drivers, until Tony persuades them to become cops too.

As luck would have it, the captain that nearly killed them in the war is now Shanghai's biggest opium dealer, so the friends decide they can kill two birds with one stone or something.

The story seems more complicated in the movie than it needs to be, due to particularly weak script or direction or something. Scenes just seem to happen one after another, and then something else happens - all without any kind of flow. At first I had real trouble working out if I was meant to be watching flashbacks or linear narrative or what (it's basically linear, just leaps about a lot). As a result of this, it was hard to get involved with the movie or the characters. There's a whole subplot or subplots involving Leung Kar Fai's wife & daughter and a prostitute called Mona Fong (Elizabeth Lee) that is given quite a lot of time but still isn't very well developed.

The look of the film is not bad, though there have been better recreations of Shanghai in the 1920's. There are a reasonable number of shoot-outs (as the name might imply), but most are not all that excitingly staged or filmed. Men pointing guns at each other and firing, basically. There's a few bits of quite unnecessary violence, guns fired point blank into faces etc... not disturbing, just kind of pointless.

On the bright side, Elizabeth Lee looks cute, Leung Kar-Fai is pretty cool, and the ending is quite wonderfully unconventional :)

Not really recommended though. Especially not the new Megastar DVD, which has a decent picture but horribly echoey sound mix.

Reviewed by: hkcinema
Date: 12/21/1999

Four friends from the war reunite to form a special drug task forcenamed "Gunmen" to wipe out China's growing drug cartel.

[Reviewed by Tai Seng Catalog]

Reviewed by: leh
Date: 12/09/1999

Something of a Hong Kong version of The Untouchables, with Tony Leung as an uncorruptible cop hunting opium smugglers in the 1920's. A nice period look and a good story, coupled with some good shoot-outs makes for a good gangster movie. Tsui Hark was the producer.

Reviewed by: hkcinema
Date: 12/08/1999

Great Action/Drama in which Tony Leung and his three buddies are together in the war. The movie starts out at the end of the civil war in 1926 when they are about to be tortured to death by Haye (a general on the other side). The war is suddenly over and they all return home. Ding Chun-Bee (Tony Leung) joins the police force to fight the opium dealers. Things turn for the worse when his buddy, Captain Kiang gets killed by the opium dealers. To make matters worse, the police force is corrupt and the new superintendent (Tsui Kam-Kong) is rigid and unsympathetic. Chun-Bee runs into his old buddies on the street and they enlist in the police force with him and they set out to extract their revenge. This movie has some great acting along with some very gritty gun battles. The final shootouts are great. I highly recommend this one. The theme music is great too.


[Reviewed by Adam Scott Pritzker]