Theft Under the Sun | Chicago Reader

Theft Under the Sun

Another John Woo wannabe misses the target in this 1997 Hong Kong action thriller directed by Cha Chuen-lee. An undercover cop (Julian Cheung) befriends an arms dealer (Michael Wong) who?s driving a truck full of contraband missiles from Mongolia to Hong Kong harbor (an implausible venture to begin with, given China's tight security). The film starts off promisingly with verite shots of the cop at work, but it soon devolves into a parade of explosions and high-speed chases. Cha tries to sustain dramatic tension through the protocols of male bonding: the cop begins to empathize with his quarry, while his defenders in the department spew psychobabble about the “Stockholm syndrome,” in which a hostage begins to identify with his captor. But the wooden performances make it all seem pretty hokey; the only concern I felt was for the stuntmen who had to dive under a runaway semi, slug it out in a burning factory, or plunge a flaming truck into the sea. Woo?s fiery climaxes are often metaphors for emotional denouements; Cha?s are just cheesy special effects.

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