Fox Hunter (1995)
Reviewed by: ewaffle on 2007-04-15
“Fox Hunter” is a crime thriller with a lot of bullets fired and grenades thrown, a buddy movie with the usual pair of utterly mismatched partners and even has a bit of family melodrama. Jade Leung Chang is Yeung Ling, a Hong Kong cop with an obsessive streak and Jordan Chan Siu-Chun is Chan Hong, a Mainland pimp trying to cut a deal with the Hong Kong police. Both actors turn in terrific performances and both characters remain consistent to the end. While neither of them are people you would want to know—Ling is too insanely fixated on her self-defined mission and Hong is too rapaciously venal—they are credible and, after a while, sympathetic. Eventually we want Ling to put down the supercriminal she is pursuing even if she comes close dying while doing so and we want to see Hong get his forged passport and bag of money and be on his way to Australia.

The movie depicts a bleak and dark world with criminals outsmarting the police forces of both the Crown Colony and the People’s Republic. Ching Fung plays Brother Tung a villain who is more a force of nature than any human bad guy who has ever existed. He is shot, beaten and (apparently) blown up but always survives, seemingly made stronger by his wounds. He enjoys hurting people and gets a special thrill from humiliating his foes in the most degrading and horrific ways he can—for example he kills Ling’s Uncle Chung by forcing Ling’s finger onto the trigger of his pistol and firing at the helpless Chung. Tung kills without compunction and never uses one bullet when one hundred are available. Compared with him Dr. Hannibal Lecter is no worse than a serial jaywalker.

Yu Rong-Guang plays Captain Yu, a Mainland police commander who is much given to brooding in the dark while smoking—actually he does just about everything while smoking or at least lighting a cigarette. The flare of the match highlights his craggy, cheerless features. Captain Yu and his men are under siege—Brother Tung is stalking them and almost always has the upper hand. He is able to bomb a police car sitting in a guarded lot at headquarters, tricks Yu into abandoning his Ling and Hong to make it easier for him to target them and actually tries to extort millions of dollars from the police themselves.

Both Ling and Hong are guilt ridden. Ling because she was forced to point the gun that killed her uncle and because she has some unresolved issues concerning her father, a cop who died of cancer without ever making an important arrest. Hong, the flashy pimp, is the son of a farmer and his wife—he hasn’t seen his parents since he told his father that he didn’t want to take over the farm. Ling’s guilt provides the energy that keeps her going after Tung while Hong’s sets the stage for a well done and touching brief reunion with his parents.

Ling is obsessed but Hong is victimized. He is one of the many small time criminals that the HK police use to set up more important gangsters. Ling’s superiors lure him with promises of money to emigrate if he helps them identify and trap Brother Tung. He does so but the ambush is a spectacular failure, leaving heaps of dead bystanders and cops, and they then renege on their promise. He is afraid to return to the PRC where Tung has his base but can’t stay in Hong Kong. Ling forces him—essentially kidnaps him—to accompany her across the border where she uses him as bait to flush out Tung. Chan Hong is cheated, exploited and endangered by everyone he comes into contact with, barely surviving from one scene to the next. He is desperate—fearful of Tung, coerced by Ling, abandoned or ignored by Captain Yu. Jordan Chan Siu-Chun does a great job of conveying his fear and despair.

Jade Leung was one of the most attractive and desirable actresses of the 1990s. The combination of her striking looks and the dreadful parts in boring movies that characterizes much of her career blinds many to her ability as an actress. While there is little subtlety in her role here—Ling is brave, foolhardy, angry, grimly determined and indefatigable and she correctly plays every emotion full out, to the extent that we accept her ability to absorb an astonishing amount of punishment, including being beaten with a nail studded board, and continue on her single-minded quest. She never looks anything less than beautiful in this movie, whether undercover as a bar girl in a form fitting black dress or skidding across the floor while firing an automatic weapon.

There are a number of exciting gunfights in “Fox Hunter”, particularly one in an abandoned building in the PRC between Tung and Ling. Changing points of view, film planes and camera angles keep it engrossing as it moves from room to room and floor to floor of the building. It involves some hand to hand combat, grenade blasts and real apprehension as Ling has to reload a number of times. Unfortunately there are simply too many gunfights and chases to make them all interesting. At one point while he and Jade are hanging onto a rope which keeps them from falling down a sheer cliff face (it actually makes sense in the context) Chan asks if there is a police station below—a good question since they have just been chased through a market town by an AK-47 wielding madman in a jeep and haven’t drawn the attention of the cops. For long stretches of time there don’t seem to be any cops anywhere in this part of the PRC and when they do show up it is often to get killed.

The art director, set designer and editor did a superb job in a long and complex battle in a department store. The set is destroyed—parts of it are blown up, parts shot full of bullets, other parts thrown off a balcony—and, like in the fight in the abandoned building, we are once again riveted by the action. Boxes flew, appliances exploded, walls fell and a lot of ordinance was expended, all to good—or at least exciting—effect.

Ultimately there are no winners in “Fox Hunter”, just losers and, by the very end of the movie, those who haven’t lost yet. Nothing is resolved; evil isn’t defeated and good does not triumph. This may be Jade Leung’s best performance, partially based on her ability to play off the acting strengths of Jordan Chan. It is well worth seeing.

Recommended
Reviewer Score: 7