Reviewed by: ewaffle on 2006-08-22
“” is an ineptly made, stupefyingly boring movie that concludes with ten minutes of exciting, brutal and convincing action. It follows four recruits through training for an elite South Korean police unit, the S. D. U., which seems to be a paramilitary unit of the uniformed branch that specializes in rappelling down the sides of buildings, hanging from helicopter skids and using jet skis to pursue fleeing bad guys. While doing all this and more they keep their neckties tight and their top buttons buttoned—obviously a very spit and polish crew.

Madame Cheung is the implacably tough drill sergeant who takes the kids through their paces. She is as slim as a knife blade, mean as a snake and able to run any of her younger charges into the ground. The four recruits are led by Cynthia Khan, gorgeous as usual and, for a change, costumed to take advantage of her looks. Most filmmakers seem to think that boxy jackets and poorly fitting slacks are the right look for her but this is one of the few details that Phillip Ko and his crew got right.

One would expect the young policewomen to develop and change under the stress of training—that we would find out enough about them to identify with them, share in their triumphs and agonize in their defeats. They would be types, of course—the tough city kid, the brain, the offspring of a police family—and at least one would have a hidden motive for wanting to join this elite unit. The audience responds to the characters and psychically invests in their successes and failures. It has worked in countless movies, such as “Top Gun”, “An Officer and a Gentleman” and “The Fighting 69th are examples although life most of the rest they involve men undergoing military training. The problem with “” is that we don’t learn anything about the characters—other than KK, whose father is a retired cop—we don’t know anyone’s fears, hopes or dreams. The four of them are just there.

Instead of developing the characters, Phillip Ko, who both wrote and directed, filled time—a LOT of time—with shots of extremely dull activity. I felt as tired of watching the recruits run as they must have been themselves. The obstacle course—which looked like it had been put together from cast-off primary school recess equipment—was shown from every angle possible. Cynthia Khan did look quite fetching doing one arm chin-ups, though. The worst was saved for after the training had been completed. Squads of graduating policewomen marched past a Korean police band. At first it was mildly interesting—the marchers carried a briefcase in their left hands and swung their right, in cadence. By the time the third squad marched by it was no longer interesting and when the nth squad had finally made it past it seemed that this graduating class had enough womanpower to repel a North Korean invasion while keeping the traffic moving in Seoul. Ko could have used stock footage of a Moscow May Day parade to better effect. The medal ceremony at the graduation also dragged and dragged. All of this could have been done—and has been done a lot—much more effectively with a few well placed shots of smiling or weeping faces, some montage and a couple of establishing shots. One hesitates to say that the excruciatingly protracted scenes were artistic decisions—it was as if he forgot to edit these scenes and just used whatever he had shot.

A secondary and almost unrelated plot brought in Anthony Wong and Angela Tong who head a Honk Kong police unit on the trail of counterfeiters operating through South Korean, the SAR and the Mainland. Angela Tong is, as usual, quite fetching and Anthony Wong delivers a professional if not particularly rousing performance. The two plots don’t ever intersect.

The chase and fight at the end of the movie, while excellent, isn’t really worth sitting through the first 85 minutes for. It involves the four recruits, now police officers, chasing Ken Lo who is the hitman for the counterfeiting ring and Cynthia Khan’s ex-fiancé. The villains escape on a speedboat and the policewomen pursue on jet skis, with Madame Cheung appearing like a deus ex machina in a helicopter. The girls are armed with handguns while the boys have firepower to spare. Their boat crashes in flames everyone winds up in a warehouse stalking each other. Here the action is plentiful and compelling. Essentially everyone fires at everyone else until he or she runs out of ammunition after which beat the hell out of each other. Surprisingly, Cynthia Khan isn’t featured here—all of the women (or their doubles) are terrific kickers and tough fighters with Madame Cheung reigning supreme. She shoots two of the bad guys and knocks two more of them out—the counterfeiting gang picked up some reinforcements when we weren’t looking because each of the policewomen dispatch at least one of them.

Not recommended, although I give it one point for the fights at the end.
Reviewer Score: 1