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April 18, 2014

Movie Review: Badges of Fury (aka Bu er shen tan, 2013)

Movie Review by Greg Goodsell

Directed by Tsz Ming Wong

An action film star plunges to his death without his parachute. A dancer is crushed to death by his overweight partner. A high diver plunges to his death during a competition. All three men die with smiling grimaces on their faces, to the consternation of the Hong Kong Police Department. Veteran cop Huang Feihong (Jet Li) and eager-to-impress rookie Wang Bu’er (Zhang Wen) trace the victim’s mysterious deaths to aspiring action starlet Liu (Shishi Liu). While the toast of action cinema, Liu has had little luck in the romance department. The three aforementioned men who died in freak accidents were all at one time betrothed to her, before they were stolen out from under her by her – according to the subtitles – “catty skank” older sister, Angela (Michelle Chen) who lives very comfortably in spite of her most unglamorous position as a life insurance salesperson. There are lots of “hilarious” fight scenes and “wire fu” involving peripheral characters, until Bu’er has a capital suggestion: Why doesn’t he draw out the killer by proposing marriage to Liu? There is a big slam-bang surprise ending.

Anyone familiar with Hong Kong cop comedy from the Eighties through the Nineties will know what to expect here. All the characters in Badges of Fury has superhuman powers that would make Spiderman envious. Every single last joke is punctuated with cartoon sound effects and music. The plot changes on a dime, with the sudden introduction of details that make little sense to the action preceding it. Badges of Fury benefits greatly from CGI, lavish photography and action sequences, but many Western audiences just won't cotton up to a feature that by intent and design, is little more than an old Roadrunner cartoon with human actors. This style of comedy was introduced a few years back by Scott Pilgrim vs. the World (2010), but as the meager box office take of that feature proved, some things just play out better on paper.

Overall, the most humorous aspect of the film is the fact that Liu plays a movie star within the film. Put bluntly, she has all the charisma of dried library paste. Given one pensive expression to wear throughout the entire story, it's little wonder she’s a strikeout in the romance department. The sibling rivalry between the two sisters Liu and Angela further drags down the slight story. The movie’s blatantly sexist approach – Liu is a movie star, but her life is empty without a man, along with some stereotypical gay characters at the beginning of the film renders Badges of Fury very much out of date.

Badges of Fury would otherwise be good for a night of six-pack and chips entertainment if it wasn't so stuck in HK comedy tropes of yore. Overall, Asian Trash fans may find it passable.

The Blu-Ray is packed with extras. There is making of featurette, behind the scenes, an English language track, along with Spanish, English and French subtitles. There are also ample trailers for other Chinese genre epics.

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