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SUSPECT, THE (Jidu zhongfan)(director/writer: Ringo Lam; screenwriter: W. K. lau; cinematographer: Ross W. Clarkson; editor: Marco Mak; cast: Simon Yam (Hung Chan/Dante Aquino), Don Lee (Eric Moo), Max (Louis Koo), King Tso (Ray Lui), Ada Choi (Annie Chung); Runtime: 108; Yin Nam; 1998-Hong Kong)
“A brainless action drama from Hong Kong filmmaker Ringo Lam.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

A brainless action drama from Hong Kong filmmaker Ringo Lam, featuring a story where there is absolutely no gray matter in sight. This step in the wrong direction film, an anti-art spectacle, taking violence into its bosom with all the seriousness of a waif being given hot soup by an elderly matron in an Italian neorealism film. It moves along at breakneck speed, even though it has no place to go but down a dark alley. It is set in the Phillipines, and it uses as the backdrop to its violent story a political race for president of the country. It also brings up how the Chinese are made scapegoats for the rise of crime. The film’s most endearing qualities are its urban gritty look and nonstop action sequences.

The beauty in the action sequences comes from its choreographed nonstop action: one gets car chases, plenty of shootouts, helicopters dropping explosives atop cars, and daredevil escapes. Sex scenes and common sense are all but absent from the story line. Friendship and loyalty are valued most.

Don Lee is incarcerated when he kills someone for a mob boss when he is 17 and serves 12 years, leaving prison at 28 (Who am I to argue with the filmmaker about his math!). Don was raised by Hung Chan into a life of crime. He never had a break in life, as his mother was a prostitute and she disappeared when he was just a youngster and Hung became her pimp. His best friend Max was also raised by Hung Chan, and both boys put all their trust in him as he trained them to carry out violent hits for his crime organization. Hung says he gave the boys a family. Don’s only visitor in prison was Max; so you see, Don’s not completely sold on Brother Hung’s family commitment.

Upon Don’s release from prison a rented car picks him up and takes him to an expensive hotel, where he checks into the presidential suite and finds a gorgeous hooker waiting to serve him. Afterwards he receives a call from Brother Hung, who tells him there is a rocket launcher under his bed and that he should immediately kill a front-running presidential candidate who is standing and waving to the crowd in the street across from his room and then kill the girl. But Don has learned something in prison, and what he learned is that he shouldn’t do something if there is not a good reason for doing it. With that new profound philosophy embedded in him, he doesn’t go through with the assassination. But his friend Max, who is in the next room, uses his own rocket launcher and does the job for him.

Don becomes a suspect and goes on the run, grabbing with him a cute little reporter, Annie Chung, as he uses her van to escape the hotel. He then calls the NBI, which must be like the FBI, and tells them he will surrender if the police get Hung Chan for him. At their critical meeting the police tell him that Hung died 8 years ago in an auto accident. Don tells them I was just talking to him a few moments ago. It then dawns upon him that the only chance he has of clearing his name, is to capture him. Hung has now become Dante Aquino and is the one running for president against the candidate he just ordered to be executed. Needless to say, it was very difficult to swallow such an improbable plot twist.

Don gets rescued from the police by a fantastic helicopter escape scene where a group of foreign legionnaires, led by King Tso, scoop him up and take him with them. They tell him they are working for the assassinated presidential candidate, and believe that he can lead them to the murderers. But Don will not betray Max, even as he helps them.

The action keeps coming at a relentless pace, and the reformed assassin runs from the police and from his former gang. His only aim is to clear his name and tell his story to the reporter who believes him. In the end, he will face-off with Max and Hung in a church. The culmination to this excuse for a violence film, is the predictable confrontation between him and Max.

This film was inert: it easily accomplishes its aim to be pointless and disposable.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”