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September 23, 2017

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'Black & White Episode I: The Dawn of Assault' (痞子英雄首部曲:全面開戰)

From the opening moment when a bomb explodes and annihilates everything in sight, "Black & White Episode I: The Dawn of Assault" (痞子英雄首部曲:全面開戰) makes clear its intention to claim all the tropes of Hollywood action films.

There are explosions, car chases, gunfights, fistfights, the dead body in the trunk of the car, the vertical rappel down along a high rise building, parking lot sieges, gory killings, cellphone espionage, computer hacking, paper-thin translucent monitors, advanced rocket science, black market diamonds, claustrophobic entrapments, aircraft hijacking, the reticent leading man, the capricious sidekick, the criminal mastermind, and the everyman hero.

Tying together this tapestry of tropes and stereotypes with a decent plot, convincing visual effects, an incisive music score, and a clear, inspiring core message, then we have an entertaining contrivance that leaves one some food for thought and the afterglow of an adrenaline rush.

Minor blunders, however, include some details that defy common sense, a few overly jovial extras amid large crowd scenes, and some overly blatant telltale dialogues between the hero and the villain.

The Cast

Hero Wu (吳英雄) is a righteous but reckless police officer newly assigned to the South District Crime Unit (南區重案組). After wrecking undue havoc during a mission — such as setting a truckload of U.S. cash ablaze — Hero is restrained from further missions. He nevertheless goes after a mysterious transaction involving a suitcase that ostensibly holds diamonds. Gangster Xu Da-fu (徐達夫) sets out to broker the diamonds but was attacked by a heavily armed squad. Before long, SIS Captain Vince Au (歐文斯) starts hunting for the suitcase, revealing involvement by officials higher up as well as a shady international organization called Pandawa.

Hero and Xu Da-fu are now entangled in a crisis that threatens to reduce Harbor City (海港城) to rubbles.

Hero is basically a boy scout. He is dependable, analytical and agile. The perfect Hero even has one cute flaw that makes him more human. The portrayal by Mark Chao (趙又廷) is believable. As Hero develops unlikely rapport with those on the run with him, boyish smiles emerge more often from his matter-of-fact poker face.

Xu Da-fu, or Brother Da (達哥) as his friends fondly call him, is a member of the ruthless Sanlian Gang (三聯會). As Hero's sidekick-by-circumstance, Xu is given some redeeming qualities right from the start. While Hero is busy steering the car or dragging him to safety, Xu keeps us informed with interjections like "Ouch! Watch out! Slow down! Oh no!" He might be the character with the most lines to deliver.

Much fun derives from the cop-arrestee relationship. One homoerotic joke was cracked. Check. Though, what if the sidekick was as handsome as the hero? Would the audience buy into such a setup? But I digress.

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