In case The Avengers: Infinity War is not slaking the thirst for a comic-book movie, one might turn to this Hong Kong product. And if one is in the mood for a Western, gangland thriller and some light science-fiction, this movie has that too.
Prolific actor Cheung writes and directs this genre-bending work, his third time doing so. On the plus side, he is not shy about offering a buffet of everything he likes, resulting in a fanboy bow to tough-guy epics such as The Godfather (1972) and The Matrix (1999), with a dash of The Dark Knight (2008), for starters.
Cheung’s undercover cop Qiu is Clint Eastwood-taciturn – the loner cop embedded with baddies in an unnamed, crime-infested city. Children are literally shooting adults in daylight street muggings. The gangs and various colourful mob bosses are sketches. They muse about power and money while Qiu is torn between what is legal and what is honorable and which side he would rather stand on.
He is a ronin, a leaderless samurai bound to a code from another time. That is, one that mows down rival gangs with a machine pistol in each hand, each encounter decorated by spectacular sprays of blood.
Not only is Qiu a warrior-poet, he has a few weird powers, too, such as an ability to stare down African predators (this actually happens and features a crudely rendered computer-drawn animal).
As writer-director, Cheung suffers from a classic case of creator narcissism, blocked from thinking about the story as he makes the protagonist – himself – the focus of the film.
As vanity projects go, this is not all terrible. Cheung has enough charisma to stop this from being completely unwatchable, and the car chases and gunfights are well-staged.
THE TROUGH (NC16)
112 minutes/Now showing/
The story: Undercover cop Yu Qiu (Nick Cheung) is facing his toughest assignment: Infiltrate the city’s most powerful gang, run by a boss whose identity is unknown to the authorities. In this fictional pan-Asian city run by mobs and crooked cops, Qiu is a lone beacon of justice.
Asia could do with its own comic book lone-wolf hero – Hollywood makes too many of them as it is – but let us hope it is one directed and written by someone other than the lead actor.