"We're still at war, Plissken. We need him alive."

"I don't give a fuck about your war... or your president."

The Brink

I first paid attention to Max Zhang (aka Zhang Jin) because of the modern classic KILL ZONE 2 (SPL 2). He played the villain’s #1 henchman, a daintily dressed psycho with a fighting style like whirling scalpels. But I’ve come to know him more as a dreamy long-haired brooder like his character in IP MAN 3, who was spun off into the hero of MASTER Z: IP MAN LEGACY. And that’s closer to Sai Gau, the rule-breaking cop character he plays in the, uh, aquatic police thriller THE BRINK (2017).

He’s introduced just going fuckin berserk in a one-man raid on a… penthouse crackhouse? It’s some sort of trashed drug den with broken windows high enough for him to throw people out of and have them destroy the police cars they land on. Psychedelically lit with primary colored lights and with a questionable amount of electric guitars on the soundtrack, he spins and kicks and chops through crowds of criminals. Not all of them survive.

And I think they say somebody he killed was a cop? At any rate he’s charged with manslaughter and stays in prison for six months before he gets acquitted. When he’s released he heads back to work with bleached hair, loud polyester shirts and red pants, lookin like that dude in ICHI THE KILLER, and making his supervisor (Gordon Lam, EXILED, IP MAN, DRUG WAR, FIRESTORM) ask if he’s a gangster now. His experiences have not taught him to fuckin cool it, in fact quite the opposite. He now believes the only way to redeem himself for the deaths he caused is to eliminate all of the criminals who he was trying to eliminate before when he killed a bunch of people.

I assumed at first it was a drug ring, but actually he’s after a stoic gold smuggler called Shing (Shawn Yue, LEGEND OF THE FIST: THE RETURN OF CHEN ZHEN), who says he worships The Sea Goddess, and I kept going back and forth as to whether to take that literally. The story diverts from Sai Gau to show us a power struggle on Shing’s boat when his boss’s spoiled prick of a son Sheng (Derek Tsang) tries to eliminate him. Though he’s clearly the villain and doing bad things, Shing’s struggle with less honorable people gives him an anti-hero appeal.

Sai Gau is the other side of the coin, a good guy who’s not always easy to root for. Though the movie certainly indulges in glorifying the Cop Pushed Too Far Who Plays By His Own Rules, there seems to be some interest in subverting that as well, particularly with his painful incompetence at human interaction. Early in the movie he meets with his adopted daughter Ke-Yan (Cecilia So, THE MONKEY KING 3) to tell her that since she has just turned 18 he is no longer her guardian, her allowance will be deposited into her account automatically and she doesn’t have to meet with him anymore. He doesn’t even turn to face her, and not because he’s choked up or anything. Somehow she’s attached to him, even though this is the first time they discuss the fact that he adopted her because he killed her dad. And then he shows zero remorse.

Later, when Ke-Yan tells him she’s pregnant, he gives her what seems like his most compassionate advice ever, telling her that whatever she decides to do if she believes in it she should stick with it. But later, when she tells him she’s getting an abortion, he puts his hands on her shoulders, looks into her eyes, and talks her out of it. I think the movie agrees with him, and maybe they’re right, but talk about a dude who doesn’t mean it when he pretends to respect a woman’s choices! And he assumes (apparently correctly?) that she made her decision based on worrying what other people would think. And tells her that it’s easy to raise a kid, apparently unaware that it only seems that way to him because he didn’t evern remotely do that for her. It’s pretty corny to see this bleach-blonde Cop On the Edge deciding he’s the dad on 7th Heaven, but maybe more irony is intended than I’m detecting.

Sai Gau has a partner named A-de (Wu Yue, PARADOX) who he basically harasses into helping him on his last day as a cop (and after he becomes a civlian). It’s a funny spin on the “X days before retirement” cop cliche because in this case he’s resigned specifically to avoid being partners with this crazy asshole who just got out of prison for throwing dudes out of a building. And Sai Gau getting him involved in this case has a major effect on his destiny above and beyond being abducted and held hostage hanging upside down for most of the last act.

To me the most intriguing supporting character is Suet (Janice Man, COLD WAR 2), Sheng’s sidekick who I think he saved in Thailand or something (?) and whose specialty is causing chaos mixing and tossing exploding water bottles. Though less innocent, she seems to be a parallel to Ke-Yan, someone who maybe shows too much loyalty to a person who helped her once but doesn’t treat her well.

Though it’s not strictly a martial arts film – there’s lots of car crashes, explosions, chases and what not – it will occasionally flare out into flurries of fists and knife slashes, which Zhang is very good at. (Stunt coordinator: Chi Li Chung, GEN-X COPS 2, VENGEANCE, IP MAN: THE FINAL FIGHT.) It’s not sticking to realism, but it goes for a little closer up, a little shakier, a little less agile, and more bound by gravity than the fights in KILL ZONE 2, which some people seem to appreciate, but in my opinion they are fucking crazy. This stuff is cool but I’m not sure the best fight in this (the one in the parking garage) gives me as much joy as whatever the worst one in KILL ZONE 2 is.

The central setpiece is the underwater heist of the gold cache under a casino boat run by Boss Kui (Kurata Yasuaki, MANHUNT), which involves a pretty long and brutal underwater fight in scuba gear, with Sai Gau and A-de passing the breathing apparatus back and forth. It’s a cool scene and obviously incredibly difficult work, so I feel like an asshole admitting that it’s not as exciting as it sounds. Faster paced than the one in THUNDERBALL, but I seem to remember being more thrilled by the one in Jackie Chan’s FIRST STRIKE, and even the short one at the beginning of WOLF WARRIOR 2.

But I was more impressed by the atmospheric final showdown. Sai Gau waits in international waters knowing a typhoon will cause the “water police” to leave and Sheng’s gang to make a play for the abandoned gold. Setting the fight on the deck of a shaky, slippery fishing boat during a vicious rain storm makes it both intimate and extravagant.

THE BRINK is the directorial debut of Jonathan Li, who was an assistant director on INITIAL D, THE LOST BLADESMAN, BLIND DETECTIVE and many others. It’s also the first writing credit for Paco Wong, whose resume as a producer includes SPL, FATAL CONTACT and LEGENDARY ASSASSIN. Cheang Pou-Soi, director of the excellent MOTORWAY and KILL ZONE 2, is one of the executive producers. I don’t think this is on the level of either of those – I’d categorize it as good-not-great. But that’s still a recommendation, and I look forward to more Max Zhang movies.

This entry was posted on Thursday, September 19th, 2019 at 1:03 pm and is filed under Action, Martial Arts, Reviews. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

28 Responses to “The Brink”

  1. I need to give Kill Zone 2 another shot.

  2. By the way, IP MAN 4 has been given a Dec release date.

  3. Well, everyone wish me a happy 40th birthday. Especially since I don’t think anyone is coming to the bar I hang out at every night, even tho I followed them down here from Arkansas. Yeah, I’m sad. Sorry.

  4. Happy 40th Jerome. Fuck those guys.

  5. Thanks, fellas. I’ll keep an eye out for this one. Sounds like an interesting diversion from the usual fare, which is usually the kind of thing I enjoy most.

  6. I feel you, Jerome. I just turned 42 last week. Birthdays are always tough on me. Not because it bothers me that I’m getting older (I hope I do not come off as boastful when I say that thus far I have largely been spared the effects of the ravages of time; I am a grizzled old coot on the inside but my outsides look between 10 and 15 years younger, depending on my haircut) but because it creates all these fuckin’ expectations. I am the type of person who takes care of his own needs on a daily basis, which works out because my needs are pretty basic: sustenance, weed, media, creative outlets. I don’t require nor desire much else, and that tends to include the company of others. So when a special day arises, I can never think of anything particular I want to do that I wouldn’t do on any random Tuesday should the whim strike me. And that bums me out. Shouldn’t I want more out of life than to go out and buy myself a Blu-ray that I will then sit and watch alone? It makes the things that make me happy seem so paltry and small. So I’m usually fairly depressed in the days leading up to my birthday. Luckily, my family has no interest in my bullshit existential dillemas so they tend to barge in and give me a birthday party whether I want one or not, and that usually jars me out of my funk. I do sympathize with the friend situation, though. I don’t really have much use for friends these days but in past years I have attempted both the “I’ll be at the bar so just stop by if you feel like it” approach and the “I am specifically having a party at this time at this place so please come I would appreciate it” approach and neither yielded much success. And I understand. I don’t really like parties, so I probably wouldn’t want to go to it either if I wasn’t the one throwing it. What I learned is you can’t really rely on others to make your day special for you. You have to do what makes you happy, even if it’s just going out and buying DOUBLE IMPACT on Blu-ray. Then if somebody does feel like showing up and celebrating the day with you, that’s just a bonus. It won’t make or break it for you. Perhaps this is the cranky old hermit in me talking, but those who rely on others for their good time are setting themselves up for disappointment.

  7. Mr M, from one younger looking guy to another, doesn’t it sometimes weird you out too when you see someone who is your age and looks much more like it? I’m 37 and look like late 20s. Mid 20s if I shave my beard and hide my grey hair. Real 37 year olds don’t look like me.

  8. I celebrated my 40th birthday by seeing John Wick Chapter Three. Since a ticket cost almost twenty dollars over here, it was a luxerous treat I gave myself. Twenty bucks is pretty much for an unemployed bum like myself. Luckily, it was actually worth it.

  9. It’s especially surreal when you look at what previous generations looked like when they reached their forties. I am currently a year older than Ed Asner was on the first season of The Mary Tyler Moore Show yet you could cast that guy as my father and not think twice about it. I think my seeming immunity to the aging process is a big factor in why I never seem to fully grow up. I feel like if you look in the mirror and see an old guy, that’s what you’re more likely to act like. I look in the mirror and see the same young punk I’ve always been, only slightly better looking, so that’s what I act like. Is it any wonder I briefly talked myself into dating a 19-year-old this summer? I felt closer to her age than I did to the suburban moms in my own age bracket I see all around me. It was only when we got to know each other better that we realized how vastly incompatible the age deficit made us.

  10. Peter Graves was my age when he first played Jim Phelps on Mission Impossible. Jesus, look how grizzled his face was at forty.add that h7s silvergrey hair. I guess thats what happens to you being a war veteran and a chain smoker. It adds twenty years on you. We never experienced that, so we kept our good….errr..looks

  11. Being in your 40s, navigating adult friendships and interpersonal needs, feeling fulfilled as an individual doing battle with your need for human connection – you guys need to get out of my head! I am also in my mid-40s and look quite a bit younger. It’s been a few years since I’ve gotten a serious surprise reaction when someone learns my age, so maybe I’m catching up. I was always paranoid that the surprise reaction was more about the fact that I’ve not met society’s standard for what a woman my age should be – i.e. wife, mother and if not those, then a successful career woman. This week a woman I knew from high school sent me a friend request on Facebook and when I saw her profile she was discussing her grandchildren. Grandchildren! She got married right out of high school, so it’s feasible that she’d have a child who was almost 30. That was a real punch in the junk. Every so often I think about trying to get back into the dating scene so I’ll go online and look to see what’s out there. Like you guys, I’m always surprised at how old other people my age look. I usually end up immediately regretting my decision and get offline as fast I can. That’s not because of them looking old. It’s because dating and dating apps are the worst. And thanks for the update on your dating life, Mr. M. I was wondering the other day if that worked out for you. I couldn’t remember what thread it was discussed on, to check to see if you’d updated us. I’m sorry it didn’t work out, but I think you’re brave for putting yourself out there and taking a chance.

    Oh and happy birthday, Jerome.

  12. I never expected it to “work out,” per se, but I’d hoped it would stay fun for longer than it did. There were some very high highs and some VERY low lows, but it’s all good now. We’ve gone back to the lives we had before this madness overtook us and managed to stay, if not friends, friendly. I’d never do it again, but I wouldn’t take it back. Like you said, we gotta take some chances in this life or what the fuck are we here for?

  13. My friends convinced me to join the dating apps. I used to like meeting random people in real life and was successful getting dates that way but around 2010 everyone got addicted to their phones and stopped responding to real people. So my friends basically convinced me if you can’t beat em, join em.

    I’ve more than once received the complaint I ask too many questions when I match with someone. I thought that was the point. It turns out when you match with someone you’re just supposed to say “hey.” I’m sorry if a few photos and “hey” aren’t enough for me to decide I want to meet you.

    So yeah I’m still single.

  14. I’m with you, Fred. I hate the “hey” message. No. If you can’t at least say one additional thing, like, “I saw you like movies. I, too, enjoy movies.” Then it’s an immediate no. Maybe that’s supposed to be the followup message? I dunno. I’m so bad at dating.

  15. Bad at dating? I don’t even know how

  16. Mr. M, could it be that you have somehow stolen Wilford Brimley’s youthfulness?

    I am older than Wilford Brimley was when he made COCCOON, and yet somehow I am still younger than Brad Pitt and Keanu Reeves are now.

    In any case, party on, Jerome! Make a weekend of it.

  17. COCOON dammit!

  18. When I turned 36 last month I did a clean shave. When I checked that howolddoilook websight it stated I looked 12 years younger. I tried it again when I regrew some stubble it now says I look 28. It’s really strange being in that Benjamin Button group of folks. I actually feel more vigarous at 36 than I ever did at 26. But I have come a long way from being that guy and he has been dead as disco for years now.

    I dated this 34 yr old this past summer. Had a good time but I made her feel insecure. People kept asking her how she got a younger guy when in reality I’m older than her. It was pretty awkard. She is in great shape too. She’s a fitness coach I met at the gym. Very beautiful but she does look like she is in her 30s. By the same token she did have a much harsher life than I did and I’ve been through and have seen some seriously fucked up shit.

    I saw a buddy of mine who is only a year older. He was a lanky kid. Looked like Chris Tucker in MONEY TALKS back when we were in junior high and high school. He was all grey and sporting a dad gut while I still looked not much different than how he remembered me in our early 20s. That’s when it hit me that this is what highlanders must feel like.

    I was talking with a friend over coffee. She told she notices that most of the girls I date are early to.mid 20s. I just told her that’s genuinely what I attract. It does feel weird that I date girls who tell me their favorite childhood show was CatDog or something like that considering I was in my mid to late teens when that was still fresh. At the same time a lot of the girls in my age group are either taken, intimidated by dating me for whatever reason or single moms and I do not date single mothers as a rule.

    So yeah guys don’t fret. There are more of us on that boat than you think. It’s kinda refreshing actually to be amongst others who are also biologically behind their chronological age. But hey there are some advantages. We don’t look much older but have a shitload more wisdom. That’s a fair exchange.

  19. Thanks, Maggie, Borg9!

    (Robert Stack voice) UPDATE! Some of my Arkansas friends who have followed the exodus to Austin did unexpectedly show up at the bar, joined by a new regular that I have befriended recently, and a good time was had by all.

    But yeah, continuing the conversation, I don’t look anywhere near my age, so I can’t attract anyone close to it, but I don’t really want to be close to the age I APPEAR to be coz I doubt I’ll get anything out of it. I did finally grow a mustache, tho, just to prove I can do it. So I got that going for me.

    I doubt that’s going to help me with the ladies, tho, even if it’s a pretty sweet ‘stache. Got the hipster-y curlies at the end and everything.

  20. Great to hear Jerome. Always great when your new year starts with a successful night with friends.

  21. A few years ago I dated a guy who was 10 years younger than myself. To be fair, I didn’t know he was younger when I met him. I thought we were about the same age. And he knew my age before ever asking me out. It came up in conversation. We only went out a few times. There was too much of a disconnect in life outlook. He’d say something and I’d think, “oh, honey, you still think life works that way?”

  22. As George Orwell once said “At 50 you get the face you deserve”

    So yeah, usually one enters their 40s hearing “have you’ve been drinking legally for even ten years?” only to hear “You look like you’ve been drinking for 40 years straight!” in just a few short ones.

  23. We will see. My mother is 72 and looks like early 50s. In terms of youthful looks, my family is doing well.

  24. During a hospital visit 2 years back the surgeon wrote “The patient looks his age” in his report. My family and friends have had quite a few laughs over that comment.

  25. That could have been a Lee Marvin story, pegsman.

  26. I’ve never seen myself as the type of man who looks older than he is, you know, like Lee Marvin, John Thaw and James Arness. When those guys were my age they looked 70.

  27. jojo, after 20 years of drinking like I do and still getting carded from time to time, I am nevertheless gonna take that under advisement.

    Jerkweed.

    (That’s a DIE HARD reference, not an insult. Just wanna be explicit about that.)

    But I AM starting to think that drinking a hundred ounces of beer every night to combat my insomnia is maybe not tenable in the long run, even if I have an overwhelming fear of old age/dementia. And maybe my newfound resolution to write the Great American Superhero Novel (I just turned 40, remember.) will be an asset when I’m up until 4am every single night.

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