Since making his stateside debut with Maximum Risk, noted HK action director Ringo Lam (City on Fire, Twin Dragons) has made several movies back in Hong Kong. The Suspect is the first one to be released in the U.S.
Louis Koo plays an inmate released from a Philippine jail. Upon his release, however, he is framed for the murder (by anti-tank rocket!) of a politician. While on the run, he links up with what is described by the subtitles as the Philippine "foreign legion", and tries to prove that his old mob boss Hung (Simon Yam), long thought dead, is actually alive and acting as an advisor to a another Filipino politician.
Ringo Lam tries to bring his usual brotherhood-among-thieves themes to what is essentially a political potboiler, and the results are mixed. Louis Koo is fine in the lead, and Simon Yam and Julian Cheung (as one of Yam's associates and Koo's former best friend) are also good. The action scenes are very exciting, despite the obvious low budget nature of the production. It could be much worse. Just compare the helicopter crash here to the helicopter scenes in Theft Under the Sun to see what I mean.
Despite those strengths, the plot is filled with so many fantastic leaps of logic, it's hard to swallow. Of all the people to frame for the assassination at beginning of the film, why did Hung choose the only person in the Philippines who could identify him with his old life? How did Hung, a known drug smuggler, manage to rise so high in Philippine government? And who are these "foreign legion" guys? They seem to be part of the Philippine government, but they either shoot at or avoid the cops, and even seem able to operate in Hong Kong. Hopefully Lam will go back to working with scripts more on the level of Full Contact and City on Fire again.
For a Hong Kong movie not being released by Columbia TriStar, this disc looks quite nice. The print used has its flaws, including lots of dirt at some points and occasional floating. The colors look accurate, though the movie looks like it may not have been shot under the best circumstances. As to the sound, I would suggest you forget about any of the soundtracks other than the Cantonese Dolby Digital 5.1. The movie was apparently shot with synch sound, and the three Dolby Digital 2.0 tracks seem dull compared to the 5.1. They also don't seem to have many of the sound effects heard on the 5.1 track.
Up until now, Tai Seng's discs have featured boring or annoying menus. On this disk some actual thought went into the navigation, and they're quite nice.
Tai Seng has included filmographies for Ringo Lam, Simon Yam, Louis Koo, and Julian Cheung. Unlike most filmographies, these are presented as scrolling video, and can be fast forwarded, paused and rewound with those controls on your remote. It's kind of funny that they talk about Louis Koo being a newcomer, yet he's already starred in 19 films -- since 1996. The Hong Kong film industry moves fast.
Trailers included are Phantom Lover, Naked Killer, Beast Cops, and two separate ones for The Suspect.
Scott Hamilton, 8/18/00