Rating: 2 stars out of 5
You would think that after more than three decades in the industry, Jet Li would know how to choose better scripts.
His latest outing, once again pairing him with Wen Zhang, is a crime story that is a throwback to the senseless Hong Kong police dramas of the 1980s, with an almost nonsensical plot.
There's plenty of action, none of it particularly original, and there are characters weaving in and out with little payback while making jabs at Western movies.
How unoriginal? Li is a veteran inspector going by the name of Huang Fei Hong. Ho-hum. Wen Zhang is a cheeky cop called Wang Bu Er. They are led by Angelia, played by ‘Apple of My Eye’ star Michelle Chen. The trio investigate a series of murders where the victims, all male, have smiles on their faces. The trail leads them to a movie starlet played by Cecilia Liu.
Apparently, all the victims were ex-boyfriends of the starlet, and it appears that her busty older sister, played by Ada Liu, might be responsible for their deaths. The plot throws in elements such as acupuncture, fortune-telling, art thievery, a love triangle and much more. Many plot threads are left dangling and some scenes just lead nowhere.
Wen Zhang, who starred with Jet Li in ‘Ocean of Heaven’ and ‘The Sorcerer and the White Snake’, tries to steer the movie along while the action movie star takes a backseat. However, he does not quite have the chops to hold the movie.
Despite being a police officer, Chen's character feels like an extension of her teenager role in ‘Apple of My Eye’, childishly engaging in a love-me-love-me-not back-and-forth with Wen Zhang.
Li, who appears tired and half-hearted in his portrayal of the inspector, sleepwalks his way through the movie and for his paycheque. Newscaster-turned-actress Ada Liu flashes her assets throughout the film, and displays little other talent.
First-time director Wong Tsz Ming has little control of the film, allowing it to veer all over the place. The characters have too little depth, and never rise above type. He relies on pratfalls and stingers for humour, and tries to squeeze poignant scenes out of Cecilia Liu.
Li does face some classic Hong Kong martial art stars such as Wu Jing, Collin Chou and Bruce Leung, but the fights, choreographed by Corey Yuen, use too much wirework and special effects. The showdown at the end of the film is a letdown in comparison with Leung's battle against Stephen Chow in ‘Kung Fu Hustle’.
‘Badges of Fury’ is a confused, haphazard effort. This police story, besides a few passable fight scenes, should get locked up in jail.