Theres no doubt that Jet Li is a legend when it comes to Hong Kong cinema. The man is one of the most recognizable stars the country has ever produced and his fluid, yet brutal style of screen Kung Fu made him one of the most important successors to Bruce Lees throne in regards to Martial Arts films. His legitimate fighting background gives him instant credibility when it comes to his screen presence, and he has never really disappointed when it came to those aspects of his films. Thing is, for most of his Hong Kong career, many of Lis films tended to lean toward extreme fantasy, as wirework-heavy epics like the Once Upon a Time in China series or The Tai Chi Master ended up Lis bread and butter, which didnt always showcase what amazing form and elegance the man possessed. This is what makes a film like The Enforcer such an important movie in Lis filmography.
Unlike his contemporary Jackie Chan, who specialized in more modern, urban stunt-oriented adventures such as the Police Story films during his early to mid Hong Kong career, Li had very few opportunities to play rogue cops or crime fighters over this same period. Even a film like Fist of Legend, his most famous non-wirework picture, was a period piece that took place at the beginning of World War II. While he did make lesser efforts like High Risk and The Bodyguard from Beijing, The Enforcer was really the only major film of this time where Li made a picture that took place on the streets of Hong Kong, his undercover cop having to risk his life and the lives of his family in order to bring a gang of terrorists to justice.
Moreover, The Enforcer is even that rare Hong Kong film from this period that dares to weave in emotionally dramatic subplots as the action drives the movie to its conclusion. These subplots surround Miu Tse as Johnny, the young son of Jet Lis Kung Wei, who must deal with his fathers constant absences due to his job and must take care of his mother, whose failing health seems to strain the familys finances even further. The youngster shows amazing talent in this film, handling not only some well drawn out dramatic sequences, but holding his own in several action scenes, even display some incredible martial arts ability.
Li also gets to flex his dramatic muscles more than usual, as the strain of being an undercover cop starts to get to him. While not all of the elements of the film work as well as they should, especially when it comes to scenes involving Lis wife in the movie, the actor does some of his best work here. Of course, you dont necessarily watch a Jet Li movie for his acting, and when it comes to fighting, Li is once again on the top of his game.
Directed by Corey Yuen, the action director of The Transporter and its sequels, the movie has some terrific martial arts sequences. Having to face off against HK cinema veterans like Collin Chou (Flashpoint, The Matrix Reloaded), and Ken Lo (Supercop, Drunken Master II) Li has his hands full, but as usual gets to strut his stuff, especially a jaw dropping beat down at films end where Miu Tse joins the fun. This high-kicking duo show amazing chemistry together, as they also do in the swordplay epic Legend of the Red Dragon, but this is their best showing together by far.
The Enforcer stands as another testament to the sheer screen charisma of Jet Li. This is one of his most important works, and dramatically works nearly as well as any film of his that Ive ever seen. While the action in this film isnt the showstopper of Lis best film, Fist of Legend, fans looking for another reason as to why Li is so revered should definitely check out this example of both Lis Kung fu and acting prowess.
Now heres where some people may be disappointed. Sure, the movie looks great on this edition. Having seen an original Hong Kong edition and the Dimension release of this film from the late ’90s, I can safely say that visually, this Dragon Dynasty edition of the movie is the best looking one you can find. Unfortunately, where the line of DVDs has been able to bring us the original language track on all of its previous really, The Enforcer comes only with the English dub. The company has said that no viable Cantonese track could be found, but it still comes as a huge disappointment.
Crowd-pleaser: an exclusive interview with legendary producer, Wong Jing – This is a very cordial interview with the producer, as Jing goes into a lot of detail about his relationship with Jet Li. He talks about how Li is a very reserved person and does not really like to talk a lot unless he knows all the people around him at any given time. He also talks about how he really wanted to stretch Lis screen persona in this movie, and how he didnt want to just do another costume epic with the star, and the results speak for themselves.
Like Father, Like Son: an exclusive interview with star and former child prodigy, Tse Miu – Im glad to hear in this interview that Jet Li took the young actor under his wing at the start of this production as Miu speaks fondly of Li, citing the action star as his mentor, both in martial arts and acting. The actor has grown up and is almost unrecognizable from his younger self, and you can tell he learned a lot from his experiences on this film. I especially like the portion of the interview where Miu discusses how much of the filming and performance was his own responsibility, as it was up to him to perform on screen convincingly without the use of doubles, and it took a great effort on his part to make the character and the action work.
Born to be Bad: an exclusive interview with super-kicking nemesis, Ken Lo – Much like he did on the Supercop release from Dragon Dynasty, Lo speaks a lot about his early career and how he got into the business, but he goes into greater detail and discusses how his love for Bruce Lee got him into Martial Arts to begin with. This is another great interview from one of Hong Kong perennial screen villains.
Feature-length audio commentary with Hong Kong Cinema expert Bey Logan – If youve heard one of these commentaries from Logan in the past, you know what to expect. This is wall-to-wall commentary, and Logan does his usual unbelievable work, bringing up tons of tidbits per minute in this film. My favorite piece of trivia has to do with a part of the Chinese production code on the mainland that states that you have to show how amazing the response time is for the Mainland Chinese Police Departments. This is something Ive never really noticed before, but now that hes pointed it out, Ill probably see examples of this all the time.
Jet Li fans, this DVD might be worth the upgrade for the better visual experience and special features that were not on the last release, but be warned that this version does not have the original language track, which is a big disappointment. Still, you get one of Jet Lis best films in the best visual presentation of the movie Ive ever seen.
Dragon Dynasty presents The Enforcer. Directed by: Corey Yuen. Starring: Jet Li, Anita Mui, and Tse Miu. Written by: Sandy Shaw and Wong Jing. Running time: 104 Minutes. Rating: R. Released on DVD: Feb 10, 2009. Available at Amazon.com
Tags: Jet Li