J.B. Spins

Jazz, film, and improvised culture.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Line Walker: The Movie

They are not just moles. They are also orphans. Six ultra-deep-cover police officers are now decidedly out in the cold, after their handler, Chief Inspector Hong To Hang of the Hong Kong CIB took a suspicious header off a tall building. Apparently, he saw it coming, because he managed to delete their files first, for their protection. Ting Siu-ka (a.k.a. Ding Jie) was one of them. Now she helps her boss Inspector Q search for the other five. They might have made contact with the mysterious source known only as “Blackjack,” or they might be getting played. You never can be certain of anyone’s loyalties in Jazz Boon’s Line Walker: The Movie (trailer here), the feature film spin-off based on the hit HK limited TV series, which is now playing in New York.

Somewhat embarrassingly, it is not the CIB who find Blackjack. Instead, he rather coyly reaches out to them. He will make them jump through hoops, but since they involve a stay in a luxury Macao casino, Ding is okay with it, at least initially. It turns out Blackjack is Siu Ye, the right-hand man of Ah Lam, a high-ranking Triad—or perhaps not. Siu Ye and Ah Lam have a long and complicated history together. Their mutual bro-affection is genuine, but their trust is a different matter. Even if they suspect one another of varying sorts of betrayals, they will still have to work together to survive when a drug deal in Rio goes spectacularly bad.

For fans of the show, the big news is Benz Hui is back as fan favorite Triad leader Foon Hei Gor (you’ll know him when you see him). Those unfamiliar with its previous television incarnation should also take heart, the third act is just as baffling even if you are hip to all that backstory. Frankly, this is not a film for the pedantically inclined, but if you want to see a superstar cast engulfed in some spectacular action sequences, then Line Walker is your huckleberry. Seriously, Boon has some shout out loud mayhem going on here. For old school HK action, Walker can hold its own with White Storm and Firestorm, which is saying something.

Nick Cheung is as steely as ever as Ah Lam, while Louis Koo elevates his shark-like charm to new levels of lethalness as Siu Ye. Of course, Hui steals every scene he appears in, like the wily old pro he is. Korean supermodel Clara Lee also makes quite an impression as an assassin sent to kill Siu Ye (again, there is just no way you can miss her). Although it is not exactly a star turn, former Shaolin monk Xing Yu (a.k.a. Shi Yanneng) generously lends his considerable skills to several throw-downs as the “Brazilian.” However, when it comes to action chops, Zhang Huiwen out-classes everyone serving as Ah Lam’s loyal bodyguard. 

All thing considered, it is rather remarkable how effectively Charmaine Sheh anchors the film, reprising the role of Ding. She also has surprisingly endearing chemistry with the eternally reliable Francis Ng as the likably inappropriate Inspector Q-sir.

Line Walker will always have a place in trivia books, thanks to the large scale action sequence shot in the half-finished Rio Olympic stadium. Clearly, Boon was much more successful keeping on schedule and within budget than the Brazilian Olympic Authorities. Indeed, it is pretty impressive feature debut for the veteran TV producer and director. All kinds of ruckus fun, Line Walker: The Movie is highly recommended for HK action fans. It is now playing in New York at the AMC Empire, via Magnum Films.

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