The Red-Wolf (1995)
Reviewed by: ewaffle on 2005-12-05
There are two aspects that make “The Red Wolf” notable—it is an otherwise unexceptional action programmer in which a large team of well armed terrorists who have an inexhaustible supply of ammunition and enough small arms to equip a police battalion is opposed in their attempt to take over a cruise liner by a former police officer and a cocktail waitress who is also a pickpocket.

The first aspect is the action direction of Yuen Wu Ping, especially the ultimate showdown between Kenny Ho as the ship’s security officer Alan and Ngai Sing, the treacherous first officer. Yuen seems to be using stylized violence almost as early abstract painters used familiar forms, by both exaggerating and simplifying them to the point of getting past what the form might represent and to the essence of the form itself. The last fight is so violent, so prolonged and has so many apparent climaxes in which it seems that one or the other combatant must finally prevail that it ceases to be part of a narrative and becomes an exploration of the choreography of brutality. As such it is an exemplary set of scenes.

The other is Elaine Lui who is glamorous, gorgeous, exotic, sexy and extremely deadly, a character who enjoys killing. Cast as the singer/terrorist Elaine, she sings super-saccharine overdone pop tunes—“You don’t have to say you love me” putting all of the overwrought emotion and woman crushed for love content into it, then becomes the out of control sex kitten in a scene in her stateroom and finally a killer whose eyes light up with pleasure as she guns down scores of innocent passengers. In each case she makes it clear that she enjoys what she is doing. Not sure why this talented and beautiful actress didn’t have more of a career in Hong Kong—she is completely credible as a professional killer.

One stunt, in which Elaine is set ablaze, might be a bit uncomfortable to watch—and it certainly must have been extremely uncomfortable for the stunt person to perform. It goes on for a long time and while some of its length may be due to creative editing it is impossible for the audience to know that. This is one of those cases where what is real—or what could be real—interjects itself into the way the audience sees the movie. If the sequence was half as long as it was it would be exciting. At the length it was shown it was remarkable and made it difficult, at least for this viewer, to continue to concentrate on the movie as movie and not think about the danger involved for the stunt person.

Christy Chung is the waitress/pickpocket/sidekick who is there so that Kenny Ho doesn’t have to kill all the bad guys by himself, to provide a bit of comic relief and to complete the good guys’ side of the male-female equation. She was not a particularly skilled actor in 1995 but with her creamy complexion, bedroom eyes and full lips she didn’t have to be. Through some creative editing she was able to able to do a decent comic scene when she was trapped in Elaine’s stateroom while Elaine and the First Officer discussed their progress so far, planned their next moves and sucked on each others faces.

As is generally the case in movies like this the terrorists never missed when shooting at innocent bystanders and always missed when shooting at the heroes. There were a couple of risible lines although the subtitle translators may have been partially responsible. One was early in the movie while various characters (most of whom were killed before long) were established. Dragon, as head of security, is keeping a close eye on the light-fingered Christy. At one point after he discovers her counting a stack of bills—which, in this case, she hadn’t stolen—he said to her “Don’t let me see you again”. Since they were on a ship, on a cruise and Christy’s job was to serve the passengers it would be impossible for him not to see her quite often. The second line comes after a number of pitched battles between the terrorists and Dragon, with Christy helping out. She breaks down, sobbing that she has had to kill people, something she has never done before and which she never wants to do again. Deadpan, Dragon tells her “I have some bad news—we will have to kill more people”.

And then there is the uranium which is stored in the ship’s safe....
Reviewer Score: 5