I’ve always thought that some movies can have a great cast, an ambitious premise and great action, can still be either a hit or a miss. Such a film with such promise is a sure bet that it’ll make a killing in the box-office. But sometimes, things just don’t work out because well, a director doesn’t have the necessary skills when it comes to storytelling. Such is the case with writer-director Dennis Law with his latest movie “BAD BLOOD” (2010). It boasts of great fights choreographed by Li Chung-Chi, a great cast with Simon Yam (SPL), Lam Suet (Vengeance) and Eddie Cheung, the film also stars skilled martial artists Andy On, Ken Lo, Xin Xin Xiong and butt-kicking new actress Jiang Lu-Xia (CoWeb). So what happened? Is “Bad Blood” as awesome as it is at first glance?
After a heist that goes awry in China, Tung Lung Shun leader Andy Lok (Eddie Cheung) is nabbed by the police and is sentenced for execution. His last will and testament is that his property and assets be transferred to his sister Audrey (Bernice Liu) and his brother Jason (Lok Yi Lau) with the family lawyer (Lam Suet) overseeing the whole thing. However, now clan leader Funky (Simon Yam) and the other family members (sexy Pinky Cheung, Xin Xin Xiong, Ken Lo, Michael Chan) objects and insists that the money should be transferred to the Tung Lung Shun clan. Calf (Andy On) is a wildcard and can play either side because his mother was a hooker and his large birthmark makes him a black sheep. Now emerges a big power struggle as the family members vie for power and the riches. But there is also another wildcard; as Calf has a protégé in an orphan who is also a mute and a skilled fighter called “Dumby” (Lu Xia Jiang)…who will win in the end?
“Bad Blood” has the right cast, good action and the right ambition. But for some reason, the film never really engages the viewer. The direction is a little clumsy and I have always said that Dennis Law has the right bold attitude and the right tools (he knows who he has to work with), fight choreographer Li Chung Chi and cinematographer Herman Yau does work well together in bringing the viewer up close and personal with the fight sequences. The fights are nicely staged, as Li Chung Chi makes use of some wire work to enhance the bone crushing impacts. I liked the way that Li maintains the power of the blows while keeping the camerawork tight and close, with the right angles to take the viewer really close to the action. Wires were used to enhance the scenes although actress Bernice Liu isn’t really a skilled fighter so Yau and Law makes use of a lot of wirework to make her fight scenes appear more intense.
However, Dennis Law is one of those storytellers that overreach and never really gets to where he wants to. He tries every effort to make the story a lot more intricate than it is supposed to be. In his attempts to add complexities, he opens up a lot of plot holes and a lot of questions unanswered. The direction also spends a lot of time in trying to develop elements that never needed developing, and never develops things that should have been fleshed out. Dennis Law also spends a lot of time trying to inject some emotion but the scenes end up very forced and clumsy because of the bad editing and dialogue. The direction also has some stylish walks to look cool while explosions get all tuned up in the background. Yes, it isn’t bad to try to inject style, but without the proper set ups, it all feels hollow and pointless.
I did like the manner with which the screenplay did play dumb with the skills of Audrey Lok; as it served its purpose in concealing the fact that she is a skilled fighter. Bernice Liu’s performance as the film’s femme fatale is rather uneven. Pinky Cheung was underused as with Ken Lo. Simon Yam is a great actor as well as Lam Suet, but they were given so very little to work with that they couldn’t save the film from the bad dialogue. Andy On is his usual charismatic self as his relationship with “Dumby” (nicely portrayed by Lu Xia Jiang) proves to be the film’s saving grace.
Yes, “Bad Blood” can prove to be entertaining to the martial arts fan; so I guess the movie is saved from becoming really terrible. The film has the potential for quality filmmaking but it didn’t deliver; but the unintentional goofy expositions can be overlooked as long as one focuses on the action. Dennis Law’s script and direction feels rather pretentious, as it tries to be cooler, more precise with an intricate plot when it should’ve been simpler and more straightforward. The film isn’t a total loss because of Andy On and Lu Xia Jiang; Pinky Cheung and several lovely ladies were nice to look at also. Oh, let’s not forget the good fight scenes.
RENTAL [2 ½ Out of 5 Stars]