“They are the ideal example of script-by-brainstorming; each scene is stuffed with gimmicks. The opening is likely to be breathless. Within the first sixty seconds there will be a gag, a chase, or a suspenseful encounter.” David Bordwell, on Wong Jing’s films, Planet Hong Kong, P. 172
And Bordwell is right! The very first scene of High Risk, written, directed and produced by Wong Jing, slams open with a primary school being taken over by terrorists and a bunch of kids being blown up in a bus. The movie then whizzes through a boob bedecked pool party scene before taking up residence in a high class hotel. Here our terrorists return to stage a jewellery heist and traumatise a bunch of glamorous VIPs. In At the Hong Kong Movies, Paul Fonoroff calls this film “…a smorgasboard movie, there is an abundance of undercooked dishes, lapses in logic, and incredibly juvenile gags.” (p. 494). There is also an abundance of gunfire, explosions, and martial arts leavened by smutty jokes.
As well as the aforementioned pyrotechnics there is lots of quite nasty but very inventive violence perpetrated against person and property. I would love to see the check list of the terrorists in the movie. As well as the usual arsenal of guns, fake invitations, walkie talkies, mobile phones and an array of disguises, according to this film it would have to include:
A machete and knives
- A CD of classical music to play and dance to while you wait to use your machete
- A flame thrower
- Grenades and bombs
- A rag for wiping the blood off glass surfaces following a massacre (I consider this to be a nifty and thoughtful touch)
- Sacks of venomous snakes and lizards
- A Bruce Lee inspired canary yellow tracksuit with matching yellow numchukas (just in case you can force one of your victims to wear it while you beat them up).
Memorable moments from this movie include 2 characters driving a mini car across a hotel lobby, through a hail of gunfire, into a hotel lift, which they then take to the top floor in order to drive out to combat the terrorists (who are lying in wait with more machine guns and the flamethrower). At one stage, a helicopter flies through an entire floor of the hotel (one hopes that the hotel’s insurance is good). The terrorists must be overjoyed when they track Chingmy Yau’s character down to a toilet decorated with a jungle theme as this proves to be the perfect setting for them to scatter their sack loads of poisonous reptiles. It turns out that it was very perspicacious of them to come prepared with these creatures. This necessitates the rescue of Chingmy’s character by Jet Li’s character, who then saves her life by sucking venom out of a snake bite. Now, seriously, I have done my First Aid training and I know for a fact that this is NOT how you treat snake bite. But, if I were Wong Jing and I wanted to sell millions of dollars’ worth of Hong Kong movie tickets, then I would tweak my script so that I could show Jet Li sucking on Chingmy Yau’s thigh too.
Being the rabid Jet Li fan that I am, a minor beef of mine is that he doesn’t get to participate in the film’s climactic fight scene – this crowning honour goes to canto pop star Jacky Cheung (frantically sending up Jackie Chan and Bruce Lee in this film) and martial artist Billy Chau (whose hairdo alone should be arrested for grievous bodily harm). The climactic fight scene opens with an image of a beautiful female terrorist playing Beethoven on a grand piano while the hotel burns around her – only in a Hong Kong action movie. Little Jet does get a decent fight in the middle of the film when he gets to clobber a high kicking terrorist with a sparking light fitting. Corey Yuen and Yuen Tak are credited with the action direction and do their usual good job of keeping the action moving along.
Overall this film invests its silliness with high energy, and is so crammed full of high jinks that the viewer forgives its trashy elements. Wong Jing is a pacey director who never lets his audience have enough time to think too deeply. As a result, his films can be reasonably entertaining to watch for those of us willing to suspend our disbelief, and check our political correctness at the door.