*Reviewers Note: This review is for the English dubbed version of the film.
In my review for Supercop, I explained that I never found myself getting into HK cinema heavily because in the mid 90’s when it really came to my attention, the only way most of the films were available were through English dubbed versions, and you were forced to watch them if you really wanted to see the films. That had always left a bad taste in my mouth, but seeing Supercop in its original Cantonese language was a bit of a revelation to me, and it was with anticipation that I went into Jet Li’s The Enforcer. Sadly, the copy I was given to review only included the English dub, and it only helped remind me of all of the bad experiences I had with HK cinema in my teenage years.
Kung Wei lives a happy life with his wife, who loves him dearly, and son Johnny, who worships the ground he walks on. To protect them, they don’t know that he works as an undercover police officer that infiltrates some of Hong Kong’s deadliest gangs. After successfully returning from a mission, he’s quickly thrust into the middle of another: to break out a man named G Dawg from prison and get in close with the leader of his gang, a psychopath named Po Kwong. The assignment couldn’t have come at a worse time however, as his wife has come down with an unknown sickness and he’s forced to leave his son Johnny to look after her.
Kong Wei is successfully integrated into the gang, and is immediately put into a deadly situation that has him stealing back 2 million dollars from another gang that has supplied Po Kwong with explosives. To do this, Wei wears a vest wired with bombs so no one would dare shoot him. Things don’t go according to plan, as an officer named Fong is at the café where the deal goes down, and calls for backup when the shoot-out begins. Wei is forced to take Inspector Fong hostage to escape the situation, and once he lets her go, she's none the wiser that he's a fellow officer.
While Wei may have been wearing a mask, his eyes were unmistakable, and Fong IDs him from a photograph taken by a bystander minutes before the incident at the café. She tracks down Wei’s son Johnny at school, and follows him home to meet with Wei's wife. Inspector Fong tells her she’s a business associate of Wei’s, and integrates herself into their life. Wei’s wife is soon overcome with her sickness, and Johnny is left in the inspector's care. Seeing how much Johnny and his mother love Wei, Fong begins to suspect that he isn’t the bad guy she had initially believed, and may just be a cop.
At its core, The Enforcer is nothing more than another run-of-the-mill undercover cop story that permeated Hong Kong cinemas in the 90’s. Nothing about the film is original, and I guarantee you’ve seen every single plot device the film has to offer before. But it is an action film, and many films of this ilk aren’t noted for their Pulitzer Prize winning stories. Luckily the action for the most part delivers. There’s a little too much wire work at play in a lot of the scenes, making them come off way too unnatural in a setting that is pretty modern, but the film does shine in scenes that feature weapons and gunplay. The penultimate fight scene, where Kung Wei uses his son as a human yo-yo, is way out there, but it’s so comical that you can’t help but eat it up.
Outside of the action, I didn’t find much to enjoy about The Enforcer. Even if I choose to overlook the dubbing, many of the performances aren’t noteworthy, outside of Miu Tse, whose Martial Arts abilities are just flat-out incredible, let alone the fact that he was 10 when he made the film. It’s a shame that he hasn’t been in much of note since wrapping the film. The character of Po Kwong, played by Yu Rong Gwang, is far too over-the-top to take seriously as a threatening evil villain. The dub doesn’t help matters, but his mannerisms and posturing, which aren’t changed, are comical to the point of causing laughter. It’s apparent that the script called for a character that was supposed to come off as unstable and insane, but Gwang takes thing to a ludicrous level, and it just doesn’t work.
The story is full of many inconsistencies and outlandish situations that will surely make you shake your head in disbelief. Hell, the basis that the entire film hinges on doesn’t make any sense. Kang Wei busts G Dawg out of jail, and just has him tag along when he goes to meet up with Po Kwong. Po Kwong appears to have little respect for G Dawg, yet he just allows Kang Wei into his circle of criminals without a second thought; Po never even asks G Dawg who Wei is! The “good guys” are no less inept, as from all appearances, Wei looks like a criminal, yet once Inspector Fong meets his dying wife and son and sees how much they love him, she does a 180 and decides that Wei MUST be an undercover officer; apparently, Fong has ESP.
You know I can’t end the review without speaking of the dub I was forced to endure, and here it comes. It’s absolutely gut-wrenching. The voice actors are nothing short of inept. They show no emotion and sound like they’re delivering lines by reading them straight off of a script without any rehearsal. The voice actor for Johnny is especially terrible, and as much as I loved the character, all I wanted to do was punch him in the face to shut him up. Kong Wei’s wife’s death scene is reduced to hilarity thanks to the horribly dubbed sobs and gasps, and the school kids that taunt Johnny all sound like pedophiles putting on a kids voice at an attempt to lure small children into their van. The soundtrack is also “updated” along with the English dub, and it’s reminiscent of every direct-to-video Seagal or Van Damme film I’ve encountered. In other words, it sucks. I’m sure the original soundtrack, which was the standard synth-style score that HK films of this period seemed to always have is no better, but thanks to the stock “action movie soundtrack” and the awful dub job, the film comes off feeling like a cheap STV release and not the big HK action film it is.
It’s unfair to judge a film on an altered version, but I don’t have much of a choice in the matter, and my impressions of The Enforcer are pretty bad. If I had seen it in Cantonese, I may have been able to enjoy the escapist entertainment that the film truly is, but without it, all of the films problems stick out like a sore thumb, and they’re extremely hard to overlook. Jet Li and HK action films in general have far better out there to offer.
Dragon Dynasty’s comically titled “Special Collectors Edition” of Jet Li’s The Enforcer is anything but. The film is presented in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen, and is a mixed bag. Everything is really grainy and nothing looks very good, but it gets the job done, even though after Supercop I know how good an HK film from this period can actually look. The print used is from the US release of the film, and as such there are a few cuts here and there that amount to less than a minute. Basically, a couple insubstantial scenes are cut, and a few are shortened by a couple seconds. Nothing major, but I’m sure there’s some out there that will find it bothersome.
Although the cuts pale in comparison to the discs biggest sin: it only includes the English dub. I don’t need to go into what makes it bad again, but you should never call a release a “Special” of “Collectors” edition if it doesn’t feature the film in its original state. The biggest annoyance of all is that while you can research online and find out the disc doesn’t include a Cantonese language track, Dragon Dynasty’s own page for the film makes absolutely no mention of the fact. That seems rather shady to me.
At least for fans of the film, there are some nice extras on the disc. There’s the usual Dragon Dynasty staple, a commentary from Bey Logan, which is actually delivered with more conviction and gusto than any of the voice actors that were paid to record the dub. Three featurettes are included, with interviews from producer Jing Wong and actors Miu Tse and Ken Lo, respectively. I found the interview with Miu Tse to be the most interesting, as he speaks on how he decided to get into Martial Arts at such an early age, and what he’s been up to since the film. Even though the extras are nice, I just can’t recommend this release whatsoever. Unless for some reason you enjoy horrible dub jobs, there’s no reason to pick this disc up.
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