ANT-MAN comes out today, with Paul Rudd (HALLOWEEN: THE CURSE OF MICHAEL MYERS) playing a Marvel super hero. He’s not a traditional square-jawed action guy, but a handsome dude who got his start playing pretty boy boyfriends (ROMEO + JULIET) isn’t a completely outside-the-box choice for such a character. Sure, he’s turned out to be best at comedy, but ANT-MAN seems to be a super hero story with a few more laffs than usual, so it makes sense. I’ve read that Rudd had to get in shape for the movie, but they didn’t make him turn into He-Man like Chrises Pratt, Evans and Hemsworth.
And I think I know why he got away with that. Paul Rudd happens to hold an Action Movie Legitimacy Card that none of those other Avengers do – one he shares with Chuck Norris, Scott Adkins, Steven Seagal, Darren Shahlavi, UFC’s Don “The Predator” Frye and Nathan “Rictus Erectus” Jones – he was the white dude in an Asian action picture. The film in question is the year 2000 sequel GEN-X COPS 2: METAL MAYHEM, which is the version I watched, though it’s available in a different cut with the Cantonese parts dubbed into English, under the title JACKIE CHAN PRESENTS GEN-Y COPS.
(Note: Jackie actually had nothing to do with the movie, it’s sort of like a QUENTIN TARANTINO PRESENTS HERO type situation. Man, I wish I could present movies. VERN PRESENTS BEST OF THE BEST 2, etc.)
I haven’t seen part 1 (from 1999), but it must be about these two somewhat comical undercover cops Match (Stephen Fung, THE AVENGING FIST, TAI CHI HERO) and Alien (Sam Lee, MAN OF TAI CHI), who are introduced driving a Ferrari that Match bought with money from founding a successful websight. They are supposed to be very modern and computer savvy, so Alien keeps talking about ICQ.
They’re on a mission to retrieve another undercover cop who they don’t know, Edison (Edison Chen, INFERNAL AFFAIRS, THE DARK KNIGHT), who blew his cover or something and is in trouble. The rescue involves hijinks, bickering, wire fu, guns, and accidentally blowing up the Ferrari. Us web guys can never catch a break.
The bad guy of the movie turns out to be Edison’s childhood friend, Kurt Lee (Richard Sun), an obnoxious, hyperactive dude who wears flashy/tacky clothes and loves to speak in American-English slang. He’s also a computer genius who designed a combat robot that American scientists have somehow stolen to use as a RoboCop. So he gets revenge by hacking into it during testing and making it shoot missiles at everybody.
Kurt is the kind of buddy who will ask you to meet up at a bar, then ambush you there with a paint gun. He’s also the kind of villain who wears an obtrusive headset to remind you he’s a hacker. Sun gives what can only be described as a Dante Basco-esque performance.
The robot is pretty cool. His look is pretty boxy and retro, which I like. His features include various guns, missiles and a projectile fist with an attached cable to draw it back in, like a toy robot might have. He limits his movements and seems very heavy and immovable. At one point he steps on Alien’s dick. His non-expressive face and glowing eyes make him intimidating because he can just stand there and you don’t know if he’s working properly or he’s about to go ED-209 on that ass.
Speaking of ED-209, yes, this movie deals with issues very similar to ROBOCOP (especially the remake) and CHAPPIE. I thought CHAPPIE had a good point that one danger of drones is that hackers could potentially learn how to break in and control them. But of course the story was more about the character of CHAPPIE and his consciousness. I think this one is accidentally more on target about the issues of this type of technology, even though at that time they saw it as a total fantasy and not an extrapolation of current trends. The question about drones is “what if some asshole controls them?” before “Do they have a soul?”
Anyway, there’s a deadly robot, and there’s other wacky robots competing with it in the expo, mostly used as comic relief. Anthony Wong guest stars as one of the inventors.
I’m not sure if this is supposed to be slightly in the future or what, but there’s a little bit more sci-fi than just robots. I guess it can’t be that far into the future, considering this cultural reference:
Kurt also gives Edison some kind of mind control drug that causes him to do bad things, causing him to get set up as a traitor and having to go on the run to clear his name. Fortunately he has blurry memories of those lost hours, and is smart enough to figure out that the part where he seems to be attacked by a monster is actually a dude in a lobster costume. I wouldn’t have gotten that one.
Rudd plays Agent Curtis, part of an FBI team sent for security since the robot is being shown at an expo in Hong Kong and they know it’s vulnerable to hackers and will inevitably go on a cool rampage that they’ll have to stop. His boss is played by Mark Hicks, a stuntman who directed and starred in a movie I vaguely remember watching called AFRO NINJA: DESTINY. I guess there was a humiliating video of Hicks messing up a backflip at an audition for a Nike commercial with Jim Kelly that somebody thought was funny and put online and it turned him into one of those famous internet targets. I never know about these viral videos, I am more a bloopers, blunders and foul-ups as well as TV’s practical jokes type of guy. I never heard of it until I saw his movie about it. Anyway, I guess it was a big problem for him and soured the greatness of him being a guy that was in a Hong Kong movie with Paul Rudd, but today he can hold his head high again because he was in FAST FIVE.
Also with the FBI is Maggie Q (LIVE FREE OR DIE HARD, MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE 3, PRIEST) as Agent Quigley, the only one who believes Edison is innocent. As always, Q makes the movie more fun to watch. She’s just such an intersection of everything you want in a larger-than-life action character. She’s beautiful, she has a strong physical presence, she does some martial arts, but she’s completely capable of doing straight acting roles too. It’s kinda ridiculous that she hasn’t been snatched up for one of the super hero characters (I looked it up and the closest she’s come is doing Wonder Woman’s voice for a cartoon).
Curtis is supposed to be kind of the hard ass of the FBI. He’s always pissed off about the Hong Kong cops, the titleistical Gen-X Cops, fucking everything up. Their facilities are not good enough to deal with the robot, they’re getting in the way, they’re fucking up. But of course as the shit goes down they’re fighting on the same side so they start to gel and have respect for each other.
Especially looking back 15 years later it’s funny to see Rudd doing this serious role, with wavy blond-streaked hair, no less. But I give him total respect for being into doing this between a TV version of THE GREAT GATSBY and WET HOT AMERICAN SUMMER. He got to do all kinds of cool action shit that every actor (or civilian, for that matter) should want to do if ever afforded the opportunity. Let me give you some examples:
1. Get briefed by another agency.
2. Call out a “code red” to all units. (His scowl kinda breaks into a smile here, so he probly knew how cool it was that he got to do this one.)
3. Take charge during a tense hostage/standoff situation and try to reason with the guy.
4. Take cover behind a corner during a shootout. The reason he looks like Luke Perry in this still is because he always closes his eyes when he shoots.
5. Call a guy a son of a bitch.
6. Righteous indignation about the death of a colleague.
7. Ride on the front of a go-fast boat.
8. Underwater (with gun)!
9. Surface from water
10. Confront somebody with evidence.
11. Shame a traitor for his greed and betrayal.
12. Fight a guy on/around shipping containers.
13. Drive a motor vehicle inside a shopping mall.
14. Jump away from the vehicle just before it explodes.
I could be wrong, but I believe this is really Rudd in this shot. But then there were some shots on the speedboat that tricked me until I looked at them closely. His stunt double, Ron Smoorenburg, does alot of Thai movies now. Apparently he fights Kham in THE PROTECTOR/TOM YUM GOONG, and he doubled Ted Dibiase Jr. in THE MARINE 2. You hear that, Paul Rudd? Either of those roles coulda been yours. But you had to go back to Hollywood. You blew it, bud.
This is a silly movie, not a very good one, but director Benny Chan (WHO AM I?, ROBIN-B-HOOD, INVISIBLE TARGET) keeps it energetic and fun. The action scenes are fairly simple compared to what I hope for in Hong Kong action, but they have the right flavor. The robot sends people flying and smashing into walls, people do flips, even Rudd seems to do some choreographed moves. And they all treat this robot very seriously. Kurt calls it his “iron brother.” You gotta appreciate that.
But you know what, the fact that it’s just middle of the road and not a classic almost makes it a more legit credit. If it was INFERNAL AFFAIRS or something you would think “what a great honor for Rudd to be considered for that role,” but with this you can think “Paul Rudd’s been in the trenches. He even did a Hong Kong action movie one time.”
VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.