The good stuff
Dante Lam finally delivers a film that mixes enjoyable, adrenaline-inducing action coupled with a more stylish and classy exterior.
Chinese equivalent of Hollywood's patriotic war cinema. There's quite a lot of cheese to wade through, but the action scenes are pretty brilliant. Graphic, explosive and exciting, then again with Dante Lam in the driver seat that isn't too big of a surprise. Switch off your brain and enjoy.
So, China found out that people love a good war flick. In recent years, there's been a notable rise of blockbuster war films, with big-name directors tied to them. The Battle of Lake Changing did even better and tied no less than three of the biggest directors in China to its production, just to manage its scope.
The plot isn't all that interesting, except that for Westerners it might be somewhat novel to see the US army as the bad guys, whereas The Chinese soldiers are the heroes. You basically get three battles round and about Lake Changing, highlighting the bravery, perseverance and comradery of the Chinese army.
You can't escape propaganda in a film like this, and if that triggers you, it's probably best to ignore this film altogether. If on the other hand you just see good guys smashing up bad guys, the film certainly delivers in spades. The scenes with the tank in the little village are superb, the rest of the action is on point too, but three hours is a little much. It's not a great film, certainly not up to the level of the names attached, but I had fun with it.
Commissioned anthology that was made to lift the spirit of Hong Kong during the SARS epidemic. The who's who of Hong Kong cinema participated, but the result is a little uneven. Not too surprising considering the exterior motives behind this anthology, and there are a couple of worthwhile entries, but overall it's probably best to lower your expectations when watching this.
Worthy but flawed
More Chinese war propaganda. The Battle at Lake Changjin must've been quite the success, or this endeavor was simply so huge that they figured a second film would be necessary to recoup the effort. If you're looking for 150 minutes of action and sentimentality, Hark, Lam and Chen have you covered.
The plot is basic, we get another battlefield where the Chinese soldiers are allowed to show their bravery, their commitment and their selflessness. This time they're monitoring a bridge that is right on the escape route of the American troops. A strategic location that will form the center of another heated battle.
The action is pretty spectacular, but it does get quite messy, and the film doesn't really let up. And when it does stop, it's only to make room for some sentimental drama. It's a shame, as these directors are capable of making way better films. Let's just hope they're not turning this into a trilogy.
A mediocre disaster flick by Dante Lam. The kind that makes you question the quality of his older work. Is it that Lam is getting a bit too old to make dashing blockbusters? Or is it the move to China that's getting in his way? Or maybe it was never Lam in the first place, but the well-oiled machine that used to be Hong Kong cinema. I can't say for certain, but the fact is that Lam has made much better films than what he delivers here.
The Rescue serves four major rescue operations, with a bunch of crappy melodrama in between. The operations are unrelated to each other, so there's really not much of a build-up, except that each one is more dangerous (and claims more victims) than the next. Still, it's almost like watching a 4-part mini-series with a bit of unnecessary drama to glue everything together.
Eddie Peng is decent and Zhilei Xin is a good find, the rest of the cast is not up to par. The overreliance on CG is distracting, the quality of the visuals not what you'd expect from a major blockbuster, resulting in rescue operations that are so obviously green screen that they come off way less spectacular than they should've been. It's loud and flashy enough to be mildly entertaining, but that doesn't save it from being one of Lam's worst films to date.
Dante Lam is a fine action director, romance and drama on the other hand aren't really his thing. Lam made When I Look Upon the Stars when he just started out, at a time when he was still searching for a niche he felt at home in. While he does his best to make things work, the romance never takes off.
Chan and Ku aren't the best actors for the job, Qi and Lee are better equipped to handle this type of work, but have trouble connecting with their partners. The cheesy soundtrack and rather pedestrian cinematography don't really add to the atmosphere either. It's all just a little too functional to be truly effective.
That said, it's not the worst film either. The characters are quite interesting and there are a few scenes where things move in the right direction, it's just that it never materializes into something bigger. This is passable filler, just don't go in expecting a typical Lam action flick, as you're bound to end up sorely disappointed.
Dante Lam's first film is no masterpiece, but it's a decent genre exercise with a solid balance between drama and action. It's a pretty standard film with few stand-out moments, but the action sequences should be enough to entertain the average action fan. It's pretty decent filler, but little more than that.