Cheetah on Fire (1992)
Reviewed by: ewaffle on 2009-03-22
Summary: A waste of acting talent
“Cheetah on Fire” is a terrible movie. The actors seem to be trying their best but the Royal Shakespeare Company couldn’t breathe life or even coherence into this script. The director might have been doing his best to keep everything moving but it is a very static action movie. It does, however, have one scene that fortunately comes toward the beginning that is so over the top that it should take its place in the film firmament of “so bad it’s good”. More on that later.

Carrie Ng, Sharla Cheung and Takajo Fujima all look good, Sharla Cheung particularly so. She goes from a burnt orange ultra-suede pantsuit with a silk scarf to a very sharp double-breasted jacket worn over a man-tailored striped shirt. Everyone else dresses down—business very casual or camouflage—and Donnie Yen styles a white T-shirt and black jeans. Donnie is a hotheaded loner with a past, Ken Lo is an evil mobster, Shing Fui-On is a brainless lout and Michael Woods was a big strong guy. No one was challenged on this project. Neither the director nor the screenwriter worked in Hong Kong movies other than in the early 1990s. They clearly weren’t missed.

An instance of incompetence was during one of the gunfights. Someone tossed a hand grenade which was framed in a tight close-up as it landed. Both the safety pin and the safety lever were still intact so it would not have exploded—but it did. What is really stupid about this is someone had to look at that shot and make the decision to leave it in the film. In the middle of yet another gunfight Sharla Cheung was stabbed with a poison tipped blade. While she lay dying (or maybe not—we don’t find out if she shuffled off this mortal coil) and while the battle was at its height Donnie Yen and Gwan Lai-Git stood over her and pointed their pistols at each other, each blaming the other for her predicament.

But this movie broke new ground in one jaw-dropping, what the hell scene, a Hong Kong variant on how an amateur surgeon removes a bullet without using anesthetic. In Hollywood westerns of days gone by this was a not uncommon occurrence. The victim was given a shot of whiskey and a bullet to bite on, his friend probed for the slug with a really big knife and the rest of the gang tried to hold him immobile while the knife went in. In “Cheetah on Fire”, to the everlasting delight of film fans everywhere, he had sex with an attractive woman to distract him from the pain while the confederate wielded the really big knife, a task made more difficult (and completely ridiculous) since the patient was not going to be still.

I am not making this up.
Reviewer Score: 1