Reviewed by: mrblue
Powerful Four's director David Lam was a bit player in Hong Kong movies (his biggest role was in Jackie Chan's Project A Part 2, where he played the inspector Chan is handcuffed to in one of the movie's most memorable action sequences) before heading out to make his own features through his own production company, the epynomous David Lam Films. This was the first, and arguably, the most (pardon the pun) powerful of his directorial efforts. Like his other works, Powerful Four deals with police officers -- more specifically, the area of corruption and how cops use/react to it, and the effect it has on both those people around them and society at large.
Loosely based on real events surrounding the 1970's indictment of Hong Kong police superintendent Peter Godber, and the eventual formation of the Independent Commission Against Crime (ICAC, similar to an "internal affairs" department in a US police department), Powerful Four steps back a bit to the mid-1950's, when British and Chinese relations within the police force (for both legal and illegal activities) first came to a head in the area of corruption.
Powerful Four revolves around four officers -- Luk Kong (Danny Lee), Hong (Waise Lee), Lui (Simon Yam), and Fatty B (Kent Cheng) -- who rise to sergeant major (the highest rank a Chinese officer could attain at the time in British-controlled Hong Kong) through hook and/or crook, but realize too late that they are just puppets for the British commanders to control. There is a slim subplot involving Luk Kong and Hong with a love triangle incorporating singer Yolinda Yam (from John Woo's Bullet in the Head, where she also played a wannabe pop star), but thankfully, for the most part, Powerful Four stays very focused on the plot proper. This sets the movie far above many similar films, which tend to lose themselves in ultimately useless twists and turns. There is a lean and mean direction to Powerful Four which comes off as quite refreshing compared to similar fare which seems more concerned with putting over its' pop star leads as legitmate actors than telling a good story.
Even though Powerful Four is pretty straight-forward and holds no suprises for the viewer (What? You mean there are nasty white guys in a Hong Kong movie? No way!), it is tightly paced with some of the best performances put forth by the actors involved, especially Kent Cheng and Waise Lee. Powerful Four also sports some great action sequences that are violent, shocking, and exhilarating at the same time. There have been a lot of "true crime" gangster epics produced in Hong Kong, but very few of them come close to Powerful Four. With its' synergy of action and drama, it stands out as one of the best representaions of the genre. The fact that it doesn't involve John Woo or Chow Yun-Fat should in no way keep you from seeing this almost-masterpiece.
[review from www.hkfilm.net]
Reviewed by: MilesC
This movie has a lot in common with David Lam's later FIRST SHOT, but it is inferior in most respects. The film just lacks the fast pace and tension I look for in a good police thriller. It spends too much time on fairly lame "character development" and not enough on more interesting "cop stuff". The most unusual thing about this movie is that all the participants in the final shootout are wearing loud shirts. This isn't a terrible movie, but it's a disappointing waste of an all-star cast.