Starring Aaron Kwok, Marc Dacascos, Norika Fujiwara, Coolio, Leehom Wang, Ken Lo
Fight Choreography by Stanley Tong
Directed by Stanley Tong
China Strike Force follows the adventures of two Hong Kong cops, Darren (Kwok) and his partner and best friend Alex (Wang), who play the typical not-following-the-rules detectives who run into a ton of trouble after witnessing an assassination at a fashion show they were attending to see Alex’s fiancée. The man committed the murders was an assassin sent by villains Tony Lau (Dacascos) and his South-central LA drug contact, the villainous…Coolio. They plan to ship drugs into China via tankers (It’s never explained how Coolio got the money to do this.) but standing in their way is Mau, the head of Tony Lau’s cartel. Darren and Alex also meet Norika (played by the insanely beautiful Norika Fugiwara) who may or may not be an undercover Japanese agent sent to bring down Coolio in an act of revenge. Darren and Alex find betrayal and danger as they deal with Lau and Coolio, leading to an all-out finale at a recreation of the Emperor’s palace…
Let’s get this out of the way: This isn’t a good film. It’s a Jackie Chan film that forgot to put Jackie Chan in it. Stanley Tong (Rumble in The Bronx, First Strike, Supercop) directed this feature, and his fingerprints are all over this. Flimsy script? Check. Silly, over the top characters? Hell, you have Coolio in this. Check. His Jackie Chan-directed films have this problem too, but Jackie Chan’s presence is all over his films, and can make up for any of the above deficiencies. Aaron Kwok and Marc Dacascos, as good as they are, cannot. My biggest problem with this film are twofold: The film was shot for an English-speaking audience, so we have everyone save Marc Dacascos and Coolio speaking in broken English the entire film. At least those who can. Others are dubbed over, and the entire effect is off-putting and just stupid.
My other problem? Coolio. Not just that he portrays the stereotypical Hollywood gangsta, but his acting is terrible, and too many scenes are devoted to him and Marc, who looks as if he’s thinking (at least nowadays):
“Jackie Chan gets Chris Tucker. Steven Seagal gets DMX and hell even that hobbit-looking rapper, so how in the hell did I wind up with Coolio? They could’ve at least tried calling Kadeem Hardison.”
What’s even worse is that, with no buildup or forewarning, Coolio busts out martial arts at the end of the film that left me with a WTF?! Moment. Suffice to say he was horrid, except for when his stuntman stepped in to do the more complex acrobatic movements.
Aaron Kwok (The Storm Riders) did a passable job as the hero, but even here he was too wooden. In fact, it’s as if Kwok and Wang were two halves of what should’ve been Jackie Chan without the charisma. Norika’s acting was marred by her terrible English delivery, but she acquitted herself well in the fights. Dacascos had a better part here, and played the villain well, but a shoddy script kept him from being a more memorable baddie.
The fight choreography follows what Stanley Tong likes to do: Fast, acrobatic but short fights that are full of stunts but the kicks and punches don’t appear to have any real power generation to them, so it looks cool, but it lacks that “oomph”. Jackie Chan can make that work (of course JC has the final say on how long a fight scene is) but Stanley forgot he wasn’t making a Jackie Chan film. You can see this at the end, where he has incorporated the gag and stunts-that-went-wrong reel that JC is famous for into the closing credits.
(On a scale of 1-10, 10 being the best):
CHOREOGRAPHY: (5) It was “meh”. Not bad, but nothing innovative or that fun to watch, but it moved with speed and everyone save Coolio looked great doing it. Dacascos needed better choreography that what he was given. Also, there was wirework in some scenes that was entirely unnecessary. Ken Lo (Drunken Master 2) wasn’t used nearly enough.
STUNT WORK: (8) The stuntmen did a good job here, taking some decent falls and reacting well to the choreography in regards to their timing. I wouldn’t be surprised if some of them were part of JC’s Stunt team.
STAR POWER: (6) There is some of that at work here. Aaron Kwok, Marc Dacascos, Ken Lo. We’ll try our best to forget Coolio. He actually downgrades the score here.
FINAL GRADE: (5) This film is probably the worst film Jackie Chan never made, and that’s a good thing. Stanley Tong needed to go back for more lessons from the Master.
NEXT: Jet Li jumps into the Indiana Jones arena with Dr. Wai in The Scripture With No Words!
What a waste of talent from Mark Dacascos. The thing I hate the most from this ‘kind’ of movie that they prefer to put pretty boys for screen presence but lack of martial arts skills. Kwok and Wang aren’t, let’s say, Jon Foo or even Dan O’neill.
You nailed this one, my friend. Great review!!! Jon Foo is smoldering in my humble opinion. We all love Jon Foo here at community development of Florida. The “pretty boys” seem to get the good deals. Folks just love pretty people.
To be fair, Jon Foo wasn’t even making films when this one came out. Aaron Kwok is quite proficient when the movie calls for it – he has some good moments in China Strike Force but check out Barefooted Kid remake by Johnny To for some even better ones. Also “Throwdown” by To and starring Kwok also lets the pretty boy shine. Yes, he’s no Jon Foo, but he can bring much better MA style work than a mere “pretty boy” like, say, Ekin Chen.
I do agree though that Dacascos was horrifically under-utilized in this film. But the final fight with Coolio on the sheet of hanging pane glass was awesomely entertaining. No Jackie Chan finale, but I dunno, I loved it to pieces.
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