Boom! Fifteen production logos grace the screen before… Bang! Bang! Bang! Words hit the screen like bullets until we see a man wake up in a crate with a time bomb ready to blow! He gets out, but we cut to a heavyset smoking drugs while superimposed and highly saturated images of drugs woozily cover his face, but wait! There’s a mole among them and it’s suspected that it’s the man he dressed like a cop during a costume party. Oh no, here come the mercenaries seen through the scope of a female sniper. No, a sniper rifle is not good enough. She brings out a huge alien gun that shoots high pitched waves at all the mercs and drug dealers. They all fall and when they get up, the fat man crime boss is shot and killed. You better believe there is hell to pay. If you think you are having a stroke or just casually losing your mind, you are not. You’re just watching the first five minutes of Frankie Tam and Lui Koon-Nam’s 2019 debut film, Undercover Punch & Gun, a modern wonder of “excuse me? cinema” that pulls no punch except for the blows that cover a decent story.
King Wu (Philip Ng Wan-Lung) is an undercover cop that turns one opportunity to catch a drug lord (see above) to catch an even bigger fish, except this fish is on a boat. A really big cargo boat. Ha (not a reaction to the antics of the film (Andy On)) is the new baddie on the block who is ready to corner the Chinese market on all things relating to meth. The thing is, everyone wants him dead and it is Wu and company’s job to take him down without breaking any major laws. Naturally this means gun fights, insane martial arts, and an Ursula look alike meth cook. What is not to love?
Well, it turns out a lot of things if and only if you can’t turn your brain off for 90 minutes. For one, if you turned your eyes away to text your mom that you are not indeed hungry for chinese food, you miss about five plot points. The story is not hard to follow, but describing the twists and turns is nearly impossible without going into every single action. The actors either seem way too bored or way too into it (in any case, yikes). Yes, this sounds like a terrible movie on paper, but it feels like listening to your toddler nephew tell a story. It is weird, unfocused, but charming that he at least wanted to tell it. Tam and Koon-Nam give us a treat that can only really be enjoyed if you have the will to just go for it. Of course, it would be hard to argue with someone who spat at its mention, but I found it to be a lot of fun that we don’t get here in America.
Verdict: 2 out of 5 Stars
Now, I am a stranger to most Asian cinema, but I am aware of Wong Kar-Wai and Akira Kurosawa’s existence; those two names are certainly not Frankie Tam and Lui Koon-Nam. Neither of those masters could ever have an intro quite like this (though an ex-boyfriend once talked about Takashi Miike and I think he could) and still be remembered for their work. No, Undercover Punch & Gun is not a masterpiece either, but it is dumb fun that will constantly challenge your belief of what is possible with an action film and by the time it ends, you reconsider your mom’s offer for chinese food that you had declined because you were witnessing something like this.