Tian Di (1994)

Directed by
It's not that bad, cynics!
Reviewed by Simon on 2002-03-10

Yes it's true that the script and direction of the movie are not of the highest calibre, but the movie does at least try hard.

The time is the 1920's, the place is obviously Shanghai (apparently the only place in China where anything actually happened in the 20's). Andy Lau is an officer sent by the fledgling Nanking government to help the city police clean up the drugs problem. Trouble is, the police are the drugs problem - controlling all the traffic and the opium dens in conjunction with the city's top businessman.

Attempts to bribe Andy fail, as do attempts to intimidate him. With his (very) small band of faithfuls he decides to wage war on corruption and crime.

The movie is mostly shot in the warm golden soft-focus that seems to typify 1920's Shanghai in most directors' minds. It looks pretty good, with nice costumes and very effective scenery and props that convincingly evoke the time & place (convincing to me anyway - maybe not to somebody who'd actually been there).

Characters here are poorly defined, it's true, and it does lessen the emotional impact that the movie could have had quite considerably. They're clear enough archetypes that you can understand their situation though. Plot and dialogue are not particularly smart or original, but it all makes sense at least. The action scenes are the big pay-off here though... you have to wait for a while to get them, but when it comes there are more bullets fired, things exploded and corpses on the ground than in the whole of John Woo's filmography. The 3 man assault on the drug lords' cavernous hide-out would put most armies to shame, and the Andy vs. entire world showdown in a theatre is very nicely staged.

Sure, it's not the world's best movie, but it's certainly not utterly without virtue.

edit: apparently it's pretty much a remake of THE UNTOUCHABLES, which I didn't realise, not having seen it!


Action Director