Excessive Force (2002)

Directed by
Direct-To-Video cheapie
Reviewed by Simon on 2006-01-04

Sometimes you have to question exactly what you’re doing with your life… e.g. when you find yourself watching a direct-to-video cheapie from Hong Kong *with no English subtitles*, because you know nobody else will ever write a review of the thing if you don’t… and because you seem to have become a Douglas Kung completist. Surely this isn't how life was meant to turn out?

EXCESSIVE FORCE really is a low-budget cheapie, showing much less budget and sophistication than Undiscovered Tomb from the same year, or Chinese Heroes from the year before. It feels like a kind of demo-reel made to encourage somebody to give them money to make a real film, leading me to wonder if it might not have been made some years earlier than the 2002 copyright date. It was definitely made after Snake Charmer though, as clips from that film are used in this one (Fan Siu-Wong sees it on TV, which turns out to be an important plot point!). Fan Siu-Wong does look rather young here though – barely older than he did in Story Of Ricky in 1992 – but he does have a strange face that makes it hard to really judge his age (he resembles Tony Jaa quite a bit here, I thought).

It might be asked whether I’m really qualified to write a review since I only understood 1 word in every 100+ that was spoken. The plot wasn’t terribly difficult to follow though, except in the middle everyone suddenly started talking about FLYING RODS (written in big English capitals in the Chinese subs) and UFOs and I wondered if maybe I’d misread everything that had been going on up to that point. The appearance of some creatures that looked like they came from an old DOCTOR WHO episode made me further doubt my comprehension, but I picked up the thread again after a bit and it turned out I hadn’t been far wrong with my initial understanding.

In a nutshell, Yuen Kit-Yee is investigating the site where her father apparently committed suicide when she nearly falls from the building herself. She is rescued by mysterious stranger Fan Siu-Wong, who promptly disappears. She investigates further with the help of her computer hacker friend, and suspicion falls on the property developers her father was working for. She bumps into Fan Siu-Wong again, things get a bit weird (the FLYING RODS business), but everything comes together in the end. Fan Siu-Wong’s character has some bizarre illness that I didn’t understand, and I’m not sure if he had some connection to the case or just kept being in the right place at the right time.

I like Douglas Kung because he seems to be the only person left trying to keep the “Golden Age” of HK film alive – making unpretentious films in the genres that Hong Kong used to be known for, with some old-school action scenes. I’m not sure whether this description can be meaningfully applied to EXCESSIVE FORCE though… what genre is it in? Thriller? Crime? Mystery? It’s a rather generic tale that could have been made anywhere at any time, i.e. not the kind of film whose passing people have been lamenting for a decade. There is not much action – only two fights, both quite short and not especially thrilling. There’s no comedy (that I could tell), no romance… it’s not really clear what the aim or selling point of the film was meant to be.

Regardless of this, it still managed to be somewhat entertaining despite not understanding what people were talking about… actually, trying to decipher the plot and inventing my own dialogue may have been what made the film bearable :p It certainly wasn’t the acting, which was dreadful from most of the cast – especially Yuen Kit-Yee. It was nice to see Fan Siu-Wong in a half-decent role, but I can’t say his acting was especially good either. There wasn’t much in the way of eye candy either, being shot on video without any budget for sets, lighting etc, and offered few aural pleasures either.

So, I can’t say that EXCESSIVE FORCE is a good film, or especially recommend it whether the lack of English subtitles is a problem for you or not (or even a bonus). I won’t give it a formal score since I couldn’t follow the dialogue, but I’d say it’s probably a 4/10.