Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Reel Asian Review: Cold Steel


Mu Lianfeng (Peter Ho) is out hunting boar when a fighter plane crashes into his perch. Lianfeng saves the pilot trapped inside who, in turn, helps him learn how to refine his shooting skills. These skills eventually come in handy as Lianfeng is forced to save some Chinese soldiers that have been pinned down by Japanese snipers. Before he knows it, Lianfeng is recruited into the sniper division of the Chinese army and sent on missions to eliminate high ranking Japanese officials.

As Lianfeng proves himself with his unique talent, he becomes a hero in his village. He even catches the eye of a widower (Song Jia) who runs a popular tea house. His mentor Mengzi (Tony Leung Ka Fai), who is haunted by events of the past, advises Lianfeng that attachments only cause weakness in their line of work. However, Lianfeng is soon forced to choose between his heart and his country when a ruthless Japanese sniper takes aim at Lianfeng and those he holds dear.

A long-time collaborator of John Woo, director David Wu knows a thing or two about creating exciting action on the big screen. He is also not shy about incorporating, and refining, scenes from other films. In one particular standout moment, Wu recreates the classic scene from The Bourne Ultimatum in which Jason Bourne leaps from the roof of one building into the window of another. The major difference is that Wu’s cameraman extents the sequence by having one continuous tracking shot where the cameraman not only follows Lianfeng through the window but down the hallway as well.

The exciting action sequences throughout the film are the main reason to what Cold Steel. However, the film stumbles whenever Wu focuses on the dramatic side of the story. The film tends to lay the melodrama on a little thick at times to the point where it becomes comical. While some may try to argue that this is intentional, the scenes do not fit well with the tone of the other genuine comedic moments in the film. As a result the film feels rather uneven in these segments.

Fortunately, you do not go into a film like Cold Steel for the drama, it is a film that cares more about entertaining on the most primal level. In that regards, the film is successful in delivering the action and fun you hope it would. Whether Wu is referencing classic films like Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid or showcasing shootouts behind enemy lines, Cold Steel is an entertaining romp that should satisfy both action fans and those looking for a fun way to kill a few hours.

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