How can a movie starring Jet Li with cameos and fight scenes from Wu Jing, Colin Chou and Bruce Leung, and with action choreography by the great Cory Yuen (Righting Wrongs, Kiss of the Dragon) go so wrong? By wasting all the aforementioned greatness and instead focusing on laboured comedy and awful CGI: that’s how. Badge of Fury is, unfortunately, a disappointment. What should have been a throwback to the fun action packed Hong Kong Films of the 90s is instead a loud and brash mess that so desperately wants to be a live action Loony Tunes action comedy (a la Kung Fu Hustle) but is instead just a thunderous mess.
I say stars Jet Li but he is more a supporting character who pops up now and again to act grizzled and kick someone’s ass. Instead, most of the screen time goes to Zhang Wen who mugs, shrieks and hams his way through a series of pratfalls while on the hunt for a serial killer. While he is supposed to be Jet Li’s partner he spends most of his time mugging it up with Michelle Chen, his superior officer and potential love interest. These two, while giving it their all, are just two very annoying characters to spend time with and it’s often a relief when Li pops up and fights someone like Wu Jing (Killzone) or Colin Chou (Flash Point). In fact, the fight scenes Li shares with these two renowned screen fighters are the only real highlights and while hampered by overbearing wirework and obvious CGI, do provide a couple of decent action beats. Unfortunately, the rest of the action is laden with weak CGI in an effort to inject zany comedy and physics bending insanity.
The comedy is broad with a capital B and often involves a lot of references and digs at other Hong Kong movies, mainly Jet Li’s. This just comes across as lazy (and often makes you wish you were watching one of those other movies instead!) and all the slapstick shenanigans and comedy mugging, while raising a smile now and again, is more likely to cause headache than make you laugh out loud. It’s not all a waste as some of the action bits are decent, Jet Li is kinda fun when grumpy and there is the lovely Yan Liu to look at to pass the time until the inevitable big showdown.
A film that had a lot of potential to be a fun action ride is instead a brash and annoying disappointment with the occasion decent bout of action. When the new Jet Li film opens with a skydiver plummeting to his death without a parachute (for comedy laughs), a man being squashed to death by a “fat” woman and the credits feature the cast being fired out of a gun in a ridiculous display of CGI nonsense you know things aren’t going to go well!
Review by Andrew Skeates