Uncle Choy is like the Nick Fury of HK comic
books. He is an old cat, but all kinds of tough. His comics were published from
the late 1950s into the early 1970s, but they really found their stride when
the veteran Republican era military doctor started taking the fight to the
Imperial Japanese and their cringey figurehead, last Emperor Pu Yi. The good
doctor uncle will indeed heed the call of patriotism in Ching Siu-tung &
Tsui Hark’s The Raid, which releases
today on DVD from Well Go USA.
Since Uncle Choy is a comic book character, he
will get comic art for his opening credits and transitions in the Creepshow tradition through the film. Uncle
Choy carries garlic and red pepper for medicinal purposes and dynamite for
emergencies. Unfortunately, he cannot save the colonel ailing from a Japanese
poison gas attack. However, he can make jolly well certain it never happens
again. Initially, the dedicated Lt. Mang does not understand how handy Uncle
Choi is have around, but he will soon learn to appreciate his resourcefulness.
Likewise, Choy have reason to thank his young adopted niece Nancy for
disobediently trailing him, just as she will be happy her Oliver Twist-ish
admirer invited himself along.
Choy’s misfit commandos will finally reach
full strength when they rendezvous with Mang’s spy in Pu Yi’s camp, Tina,
a.k.a. WO-1 and the smitten junior warlord Bobo Bear, who joins up to impress her. Together,
they will challenge the schemes of the local Japanese commander Masa and the
treasonous movie star Kim Pak-fai. Ostensibly, she is the puppet emperor’s
mistress, but she is betraying him and her country with Masa.
There is a good deal of physical humor in The Raid, but happily, it is much cleverer
and far less shticky than one might fear. Ching (the action director on the
Tsui-produced New Dragon Inn) and
Tsui never water down their fight scenes with slapstick foolishness. They recognize there is a time for comedy of
errors and a time for getting down to business.
Although he was only forty-two at the time,
Dean Shek is remarkably convincing as the crafty old uncle. He balances to
comedy and his unlikely action smackdowns quite adroitly in his final screen
appearance before his early retirement. He also seems to forge a comfortable
rapport with almost the entire ensemble, except perhaps the “Big” Tony Leung Ka Fai’s
gleefully moustache-twisting, unapologetically villainous Masa, with whom he
rarely shares screen time. Jacky Cheung is also appealingly earnest as Bobo
Bear, but Fennie Yuen upstages nearly everyone as Tina, the film’s smartest
character by far.
As Tsui fans would
expect, there are some big, suitably chaotic set-piece sequences in The Raid, including a crazy bit of
business involving a plane that prefigures the conclusion of The Taking of Tiger Mountain. In many
ways, it is like a live-action cartoon, but Ching and Tsui maintain a vibe of
rugged camaraderie that is pleasantly distinctive. It is a fun film that holds
up quite well for action connoisseurs twenty-four years after its initial
theatrical release. Recommended for fans of Hong Kong film, The Raid (not to be confused with the
Gareth Evans franchise) is now available on regular DVD, from Well Go USA.
Labels: DVD, Hong Kong Cinema, Jacky Cheung, Tony Leung Ka Fai, Tsui Hark, Well Go USA