Asian Connection

1995, NR, 110 min. Directed by David Lam Tak-Luk, Yuen Tak. Starring Danny Lee Sau-Yin, Michael Chow Man-Kin.

REVIEWED By Russell Smith, Sat., Jan. 17, 2004

If your culinary tastes run to wild boar cutlets served on polenta with green peppercorns and port wine sauce, you can definitely get that in Austin. But taken as a whole, this is still more of a T-bone steak ’n’ spuds kind of town. Similarly, for all the ink expended lately on the work of high-profile Hong Kong-bred artists such as John Woo, Chow Yun-fat, Samo Hung, and Jackie Chan, movies like Asian Connection are far more accurate bellwethers of modern Hong Kong cinema. What we have here is an absolutely typical, utility-grade specimen of the Badass Cops and Triads With Enormous Guns product that crowds the racks of Asian video outlets nationwide. Having said that, I’d still recommend Asian Connection to genre fans looking for a synapse-jolting study break or a viable alternative to yet another angst-ridden episode of NYPD Blue. Sure, the story is boilerplate: A couple of lovably gonzo detective buddies (Danny Lee and Michael Chow) from Hong Kong pursue sinister drug traffickers into Taiwan, while experiencing culture clashes, grisly gun battles, and plentiful car chases along the way. But within these well-delineated confines, there’s enough solid craftsmanship to afford a pleasant 90-minute mental getaway. The pace never lags for a minute, and the action scenes by co-director Yuen Tak are good examples of how energy and ingenious shot composition can compensate for the constraints of a sub-Richard Donner budget. Especially effective are the night scenes, in which dazzling city lights, moody indigo shadows, and hurtling vehicles create an ambiance of menace and hallucinatory beauty. The quality of the acting is sound from top to bottom, even if no one performance rates as particularly stellar. As is par for the course for Hong Kong imports, the English subtitling ranges from stilted to near-dadaistic, and the production values as a whole suffer by comparison with equivalent Hollywood products. But for those who don’t bring any unrealistic expectations to the table, The Asian Connection will serve as nourishing, stick-to-the-ribs comfort food.

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