Red Zone – Power Play

Country: Hong Kong
Genre: Action/ Martial Arts/ Suspense
Director: Edward Tang
Year: 1995

Rating: ★★★½☆

TRASH CINEMA RECOMMENDED MOVIE

For the most part, Red Zone is an exception to the usual rule of Hong Kong action films that appear to be written on the fly, and produced and directed the same way. The story and characters in Red Zone are well thought out. The same appears to be true of the action choreography.

Gang boss Wong Wai-Hung (Waise Lee) had the bad luck to be in a car stuffed with 25 kilos of raw opium when his driver was pulled over for a routine traffic stop. Now he’s in the pokey, awaiting trial.

After a failed attempt to get Wai-Hung sprung, second-in-command Wei (Lester Chan) decides that this would be a good time for a hostile takeover of the gang. His obstacle is Wai-Hung’s girlfriend, Ivy Lau (the awesomely beautiful and elegant Valerie Chow), who controls the finances of the gang. Wei attempts to seduce Ivy, and when that doesn’t work, he resorts to more aggressive methods.

In the calculus of social relations in Hong Kong at that time, if a man was having sexual relations with a woman, he automatically had total control over her, including her finances.

The cops decide that Ivy is the key to busting up the gang because she knows all the details of the dirty deals, so they send in undercover cop Kwong (Ken Lo) to seduce her. So poor Ivy has two men trying to get into her pants for reasons that have nothing to do with her innate desirability!

For a westerner, it will be hard to believe that Ivy would fall for Kwong so easily, but my guess is that most Hong Kong men are so charmless and predatory that Asian women aren’t all that choosy when it comes picking a mate.

Reading back over the review so far, I don’t think I’m doing a very good job of singing Red Zone’s praises. The key isn’t so much what Red Zone is about, which doesn’t sound very compelling. It’s how it’s about it.

The script by Lee Wai-Yee, Fibe Ma, and Edward Tang is chock full of dramatic reversals and challenges for our heroes. The dialog is snappy.

The film has a great cast: the standouts are Yu Rong-Guang, Ken Lo, Valerie Chow, Waise Lee, and a wonderfully sleazy Lester Chan, but director Edward Tang gets good performances out of everyone in the cast. That’s one sign of a good director. His camera setups and moves are carefully considered and effective. In the non action scenes, he maintains a brisk pace and high energy.

And speaking of high energy, the action scenes, choreographed by Nicky Li and Hon Chun, are a knockout. The fights are creative, brutal and logical. All the punches and kicks seem to connect, and a few nice stunts are thrown in, too.

Red Zone isn’t perfect. The coda is anti-climactic and there are a few plot points that seem less than logical, but Red Zone is damned entertaining. It pumped me up, anyway.

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