Running Time: 169 minutes
MPAA Rating: Not rated, probably R
Format: 1.83:1 Widescreen
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1
Languages: Cantonese and Mandarin
Subtitles: Japanese, Korean, Chinese-Simplified Characters, English, Bahasa-Indonesia, Thai, Bahasa-Malaysia, Chinese-Traditional
Region: All
MSRP: $19.95

Own It!
Theft Under the Sun (1997) (Import)

Ka-Ho (Cheung Chi Lam) is a young undercover cop deep inside a gang run by Dan (Michael Wong), a charismatic American. When a bust by the police goes wrong and Dan escapes, Ka-Ho takes the heat. While he's on leave, he realizes that the police are watching him as if he were a criminal, so when he runs across Dan, Ka-Ho decides to join him in his newest venture. But has Ka-Ho actually turned to life of crime, or is he engaging in some unauthorized undercover work in an attempt to clear his reputation? That is the question Ka-Ho's superiors must answer as Dan prepares to smuggle a truckload of missiles into the city.

Deftly plotted and supported by a wonderful performance from Cheung Chi Lam, Theft Under the Sun is one of the most satisfying HK action films I've seen produced in recent years. The script makes more sense than most HK action films, even if there are some hard-to-swallow plot contrivances. The film also has to survive a horrible turn by a puffy looking Michael Wong, whose character is supposed to able to inspire people in three languages, yet he sounds wooden no matter what language he's speaking. There are also some awful special effects, notably the helicopter at the end of the film that is played by a cheap model in some shots, and a cardboard cutout in another! But the film does such a good job of building suspense about where Ka-Ho's loyalties lie that I can forgive it all of this.

The transfer on Media Asia's disc looks quite a bit sharper than most of their films, possibly because this was a much more recent film than most of the ones they've been putting out. Even so, the disc could have been mastered more carefully, as there is a lot of line structure evident. The sound is a hard to judge. Unlike most HK movies, Theft was shot with synch sound, though on the disc some of the sound effects sound jarringly artificial, either because the Foley isn't very good, or because the sound has been subjected to one of Media Asia's infamous remasterings.

The subtitles are large and easy to read, but they are haphazardly translated. No matter how many times Wong says, "Hang in there" (in English), the subtitles manage to translate it differently every time. Some of the more involved conversations between Ka-Ho's superiors (a lot of which seem to involve the Stockholm syndrome for some reason) are practically incoherent.

You get the film's trailer and Media Asia's coming attraction amalgamation trailer. There are also bios and filmographies for Michael Wong, Cheung Chi Lam, and director Cha Chuen-Yee.

Scott Hamilton, 6/8/00