Gunmen: ”I would do my best to serve the people of Shanghai, and exterminate all crimes.”

Year: 1988
Directed by Kirk Wong
Produced by
Written by Law Kam-Fai and Lip Wang-Fung
Cast: Tony Leung Ka-Fai, Adam Cheng, Waise Lee, Carrie Ng, Mark Cheng, Elizabeth Lee Mei-Fung, Andrew Kam,Elvis Tsui, Hoh Leng-Leng, Yuen Bun, Wong Kam-Kong, and Chui Bo-Lun

A war veteran turned cop struggles to take down the criminal underworld in the crime-infested city of Shanghai. Now, he must turn to the aid of his ragtag friends for support as he endures the wrath of gangsters and his boss.

Gunmen probably takes a page from of similar period films from Tsui Hark which is namely Peking Opera Blues and Shanghai Blues. Although the shared visual styles can be misleading, Gunmen has a very different ethos. Gunmen invokes the heroic bloodshed genre but without injecting much of John Woo’s sentimentality. Its violence is closer to Ringo Lam’s chaotic gunplay excluding the careful hyperrealism. The narrative could have been more effective if it was more of an ensemble piece because, in the end, Ding’s wartime buddies merely serve as means to an end than actual characters in their own right. That comradery is painfully undeveloped though always convincing . Ding’s personal troubles consisting of an awkward love triangle and Ding pursuing revenge for the death of a colleague. Such overdone entanglements render a hackneyed feel to the proceedings. The strong performances do alleviate this feeling . Haye, the lead villain’s motivation having a more than a materialistic concern does put villain and hero on more even grounds. Haye’s rage and fury might be fundamentally wrong, yet the intention behind it is not purely evil per se. The clash between Haye and Ding could have been fleshed out more up due to their previous war time embroilment. The war scenes during the prologue only serve more as window dressing to set up the frantic tone than any serious character exploration. The holes are in Gunmen’s script are all too commonplace frankly, nevertheless, the frantic overload of action and drama leaves little room for slow pacing.

Gunmen is the frantic cousin of Brian De Palma’s The Untouchables that Hong Kong deserves. Gunmen contains an excessive amount of violence and drama back to back. Its overbearing frenzy has little care for coherence,yet, the emotions it produces could be worthy of your time.

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