T.H.E. Professionals (1998)

Directed by
Heat? What's that? :D
Reviewed by Simon on 2002-03-25

Not sure why it's "T.H.E" rather than plain old "The" - perhaps to suggest that these are the only real professionals, and all the others were just amateur professionals or something. T.H.E Professionals are a gang of robbers who open the movie by robbing a security van for some bonds. One of the gang gets a little bit twitchy and shoots a guard, after which the gang have to kill all the rest to cover their tracks. They then disappear off to Mainland China. Louis Koo is also a professional - a work-obsessed cop, to be precisely. He heads off to China to track them down. The only information they have is that one of the gang is called "Bill". Don't know how they found that out, but luckily it's enough for them to narrow down their search from 1.2 billion people to... one. And to identify the rest of the gang by association. The gang is led by Norman Tsui, and besides Bill it has Simon Loui and Elvis Tsui as it's members.

A remarkable piece of sleuthing, which just leaves Louis and his mainland partner the job of catching the bad guys. There's a little bit of "Oh we're partners but we hate each other" between the cops, but thankfully it isn't given much time. The movie instead spends most of the time developing the characters - attempting to give equal development to both the good guys and the bad guys, which is a nice idea. Norman & Louis get the most time, and it's one of those "we're both professionals, we respect each other, but we happen to be on opposite sides of the law" situations.

That's probably more plot synopsis than the movie deserves, as there's little here that doesn't adhere to some convention or caricature. It's quite a solid movie (a few glaring implausibilities like the speed-sleuthing and the cops happily opening fire with machine guns in a crowded area aside), but doesn't really contain anything that's new, and doesn't develop its elements to an unusual degree either. Director Wilson Tong obviously has a higher budget here than in his 1995 classic Ghostly Bus, but $$$ does not buy creativity as we all know.

There's some nicely staged shoot-outs (in a realistic manner), though I had trouble buying Norman, Simon and Elvis as machine-gun weilding professionals. Performances are so-so, probably suffering from the fact that almost nobody appears to have been dubbed with their own voice (Elvis being most notably wrong because of this). The movie is a competently made cops & robbers thriller with medium-low production values, pleasant and interesting to watch, but breaking little to no new ground. Don't really know if I recommend it or not :-/