The Rookies

***

Reviewed by: Jane Fae

The Rookies
"Like a mosquito that has od'd on psychedelics, the film buzzes its way to a predictable, but nonetheless explosive, climax."

Confused, chaotic, and with a sense of humour that might just tickle the average 13-year-old lad: Chinese action-film Rookies delivers a shameless dollop of comic book humour and action in one politically incorrect, anarchic and seriously violent package.

It is the ordinary everyday story of extreme sport thrill seeker and net celeb Zhao Feng (Wang Talu), who finds himself involved in organised crime by accident. That is: he just happens to paraglide into an illicit trade, as one does, at the very moment the deal is going down. Bad move. Cue slaughter of all concerned by international special agent and butch to-die-for Bruce (Milla Jovovich), who turns up in the nick of time to save and then recruit Zhao to Phantom.

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Wow! Just like James Bond, intones Zhao, as he mugs in front of a mirror, points his new Phantom credit card, and cites that immortal catchphrase: “The name's Feng: Zhao Feng!”

Then it's off to Budapest where the real bad guys are doing real bad guy stuff, and time for Zhao to team up with a bunch of oddballs: police officer with anger management issues Miao Yan (Sandrine Pinna), scientist Ding Shan (Xu Weizhou) and out of work doctor LV (Liu Meitong).

Think 'the kids from Scooby Doo' but without the Scoob! They even have a cute little Mystery Machine van of their own, which sadly gets blown up half way through the movie.

Never fear. This is replaced by a succession of vehicles, including a VW Beetle, cross between a psychopathic Love Bug and a batmobile with attitude.

There is much Budapest in this film, suggesting someone in the Hungarian Tourist Bureau did a good deal with Rookies' location unit. But what are they doing there?

The film's central McGuffin is DM85, a biochemical weapon that...mini-spoiler!...turns human beings into plants. Yes, you heard right. Not that it matters much. Just that for reasons – mostly to do with long ago personal tragedy, but also something, something about crashing the stock market and global domination – the villain, a billionaire known to all and sundry as Iron Fist (David Lee McInnis) just can't wait to unleash it on an unsuspecting world.

Clear? Look: you really need to pay attention! Before they can get to the DM85 there is an even more outlandish sub-plot about how they need to steal the Holy Grail. This just happens to be sat in a vault in a chateau on the outskirts of – you guessed it! - Budapest. Also, defeat an army of goons sent out to stop them, or maybe steal it, by Mr X.

Throw in Miao Yan's boss (Suet Lam), a time-serving Interpol bureaucrat whose main concern is that if Miao keeps solving crimes, they'll all be expected to, and the stage is set. For what, exactly, is not altogether clear, at least for the first half hour or so. Gradually, though, the dust settles. Everyone is chasing the kids. If they are chasing the kids, they are either baddies or misguided goodies. Loads of dispensable villains get dispensed with, with varying degrees of blood and violence.

The film crackles with scintillating dialogue, such as “After them! Let's kill them!” (Perhaps this sounded better in the original non-dubbed version).

Bruce is one of the good guys: a useful plot device to save the kids' skins whenever there is no way out.

Meanwhile, like a mosquito that has od'd on psychedelics, the film buzzes its way to a predictable, but nonetheless explosive, climax. Look, if Bond can do it, so can Zhao Feng.

There's a little bit of self-reflection. Not much, though. Instead, there are loads of puerile jokes of the sort you really ought not to laugh at. Like the meeting where Zhao mistakes a pritt stick for lip balm. Or the time he is visited by his mum (?) and is desperately trying to hide a blow-up sex doll under his bed covers.

Quite, quite dreadful. The sort of thing you ought not to be laughing at. Yet, dear reader, I cannot lie: there were occasions when I did snigger. I am not proud!

This film will not be to everyone's taste. Still: if you like good rollicking action and aren't too bothered by plot detail, character or motivation, you'll cope.

It's not the greatest of films in this genre, nor even my sort of film; but it ticks the right boxes. So, chalk up another success to seasoned director Alan Yuen.

Reviewed on: 15 Apr 2021
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The Rookies packshot
An extreme sports fan is drawn into a secret crime fighting organisation.

Director: Alan Yuen

Writer: Yun Cheung Kong, Xu Lei

Starring: Wang Talu, Sandrine Pinna, Milla Jovovich, Timmy Xu, David Lee McInnis, Lui Meitong

Year: 2019

Runtime: 113 minutes

Country: China, Hungary

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