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Hot War (1998)

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Starring:

-Ekin Cheng
-Jordan Chan
-Kelly Chen

Synopsis:

Ekin Chen, Kelly Chen, and Jordan Chan are scientists working in the CIA on subliminal message research. After a group of terrorists who are interested in using subliminals for their own means kidnap Agent Blue Zeto (Chen), her two colleagues decide to use a new subliminal training program to become trained fighters so they can save her and defeat the terrorists.

Review:

In previews and such, this movie came across as another "Matrix-y" type movie. It should be mentioned that such similar elements are limited to a small portion of the film. This film is more in line with the standard new-wave, conspiracy, action movie that has come out of Hong Kong in recent years, with a little more sci-fi element to it. It's a movie with some really great stuff that is also plagued by some major flaws.

The hard part in portraying an opinion on this film is that the first half and second half of the film significantly differed in their ability to keep me interested. The first part of the film, as it introduces our characters and sets up the plot, is okay but seemed to drag after a while. The virtual training missions break this up a bit, as they are fairly interesting with some nice VR scenery. It is the second half of the film, though, when I finally got gripped. Without revealing any major spoilers, I will say that the second half of the film seemed to have a much more human element to it. I associated with the characters more and understood their motivations. A number of various emotional and psychological issues come up and all the feelings from this whole second half of the film are nicely punctuated by a perfect monologue by Kelly Chen at the end of the film. This is when it really hit me.

The subliminal premise was an interesting concept and used fairly well here. It was a little disappointing, after all the interesting things we find them researching and using subliminals for, though, to see the generic use the terrorists find in it. Nonetheless, it adds a nice pseudo-sci-fi element to this standard conspiracy/action film and gives the plot a step up.

Unfortunately, not all the performances in the film were that great. All the white actors were just god-awful, although this isn't exactly an uncommon occurence in HK cinema. Ekin, though, was also fairly bland here and his English dialogue was just piss-poor. Kelly Chen was a bit better and managed to show some more emotion, as well as handling her English dialogue fairly well. Jordan Chan tops the bunch, though, with a solid performance that easily outshines everyone else in the film. I felt his character more than anything and could see the emotion in his face, and hear it in his voice.

Action was quite good. It is fast paced, well plotted, and stylishly captured, as has since come to be expected from Jingle Ma. While we may not have the true martial arts masters of HK cinema in years past, a few of the quick moves here show that there is still some solid stuff to be shown (even if it is a little less technical and a little more stylish). One thing that hurt on my particular viewings, though, was the sound. This is a DVD problem, and while I don't usually go into DVDs in movie reviews, as I expect most people to see this on DVD, I should make this known. The DVD's sound is quite muffled and action scenes suffer as the impact of hits, bullet shots, and items smashing just lose all their impact.

I have a tough choice rating Hot War. I've been torn between a B- and a C+. Some of the bad acting, and the somewhat boring first half really take away. But the film starts to mean something more in the second half and really comes together in the end. It's also a very stylish film and that works well. In the end, I'll opt with the C+, as I really think the acting and slow first half will put a lot of people off. I do wish to let everyone know, though, that watching through till the end really pays off eventually, which is why I'm happy to have this film sit in my DVD collection.

Director:

-Jingle Ma

Language/Cuts:

-Original Cantonese/English language.

Grade:

C+

Pictures: