Will of Iron (1991)
Reviewed by: ewaffle on 2005-10-14
Summary: A timewaster.
“Will of Iron” was written, shot and directed like a U.S. television Movie of the Week. There are a lot of Tourist Board type shots of the harbor, the skyline and the garish neon canyons. It a message—drugs are bad. Having a drug habit is bad, being a drug dealer is worse. One should also not challenge heavily armed triads by threatening to call the police. It does have a decent Hong Kong action ending—lots of people get punched, hit with clubs, stabbed and shot—but its emotional impact is nil.

The backstory/exposition is done under the opening credits. The four friends—Maggie, Jackie, Michael and Carol (played by Maggie, Jackie, Michael and Crystal) are shown in home videos from years before acting happy and loving, with a still of the wedding of Jackie and Crystal coming on as the last of the credits disappear. Each of the main characters might as well be wearing a sign: Jackie is the talented but weak drug addict; Crystal is his loving but enabling wife; Michael the conflicted drug dealer with the heart of gold. Maggie, returning from Canada for a visit, is the pure as the driven snow heroine.

It is very difficult for any actor to portray a drug addict, so Jackie Cheung can’t really be faulted for his performance. Actors as diversely talented as James Woods, Frank Sinatra, Michael Keaton and Peter Weller have failed in valiant efforts in this regard. He comes across (as if often the case for me with this artist) as simply annoying. Crystal Kwok is perfectly made up, coiffed and costumed during every second she is on camera. Carol apparently lives in three piece power suits—even sleeps in them. She is given a few outbursts in the beginning of the movie to establish her character but after that is just a plot point. Michael is a terrible drug dealer, a wimpy triad member and a clumsy tough guy. His lack of martial arts skills are partially hidden by the energetic way his bad guy opponents fly around, enthusiastically launching themselves into the air every time he throws a punch.

Maggie is cute, upbeat, generous and sexy. She is unaware of the dynamic among her three friends and doesn’t know cocaine from Coca-Cola. She is the implacable moral force that is determined to set everything right and do everything by the book. If the character were played by anyone other than Maggie Cheung she would be irritating. As it is the only really irritating part of her performance is the hideous orange lipstick the make-up people used.

There are a few good scenes—Maggie knocks out a goon with a fire extinguisher, empties and entire clip into the chief bad guy and gets her fingernails pretty deeply into the face of a would be rapist. Unfortunately there are many more jaw-droppingly bad ones. The triad headquarters not only is on several floors of an office building but the gangsters work in little cubicles like help desk drones. There is an incredibly boring chase scene through a warehouse followed by another snoozer in an industrial ruin. Jackie gets shot about four times and survives, Michael about ten times and does not.

Deplorable cinematography—in addition to the stock footage shots of Hong Kong, the dull as dust chase scenes and the unexciting fights, there are l-o-n-g stretches of film that are nothing but one shots, two shots and reverses. Television soap operas have more daring camera work.

Not recommended for anyone other than those (like me) who need to see every inch of film with Maggie Cheung’s image on it.
Reviewer Score: 3