Future X-Cops (Mei loi ging chaat, 2010) is a paint-by-numbers, sci-fi action flick that's doing gangbusters in China but is unlikely to make it past the bargain bin here in the US. The reason for its success abroad is simple: Andy Lau is one of the world’s biggest superstars. They used to call him the "Chinese Tom Cruise," but I think Lau's publicists would prefer to steer clear of that comparison these days. Still, it's hard not to compare the relative slump the two stars find themselves experiencing in 2010, with Cruise's Knight and Day pulling in the smallest opening weekend in 15 years for the one-time sure thing, and Lau slumming it in Future X-Cops. A possible thread regarding Lau's intentions here leads to his relationship with director Jing Wong, who coincidentally directed a film called Future Cops with Lau back in 1993. That film was a Street Fighter parody with no relation to Future X-Cops, but the possibility remains that this is a case of old friends scratching backs. It better be because, contrary to what X-Cops would indicate, Lau is not usually this bad an actor.
Here are the numbers Lau and Wong paint in Future X-Cops: In the year 2080 the world has been saved from an energy crisis by a scientist who has invented a giant shield that envelopes the earth and soaks up solar rays. The loss is so devastating for the energy companies that they create a team of cyborgs to assassinate the scientist by going back in time to 2020 and stopping him from ever inventing the solar shield. Super-cop Kidd Zhao (Lau) travels back as well, to protect the young scientist and to seek revenge for the loss of his own wife.
It's a simple set-up and, although it bars the film from bringing anything terribly original to the plate, it could still be a good time. After all, I cannot count on ten hands the number of horror films that tread familiar ground and still emerge as pieces of relevant cinema. But X-Cops unfolds as you would expect, with some broad humor and a misty-eyed love story, hoping to cover all the bases. As a sci-fi fan, the film's worst insult is that it relies on visual effects and I've seen better CGI in pictures 10-years-old, including a few Asylum pictures(!). I considered enjoying X-Cops on the level of camp but found myself incapable of submitting to an experience that never decides whether it wants to be funny, thrilling or romantic. A somewhat novel scene at an amusement park did cause a smile, and bad guy Kalon is played seriously by Siu-Wong Fan of Ip Man (2008) and Riki-Oh (1993) but he's not really on screen enough to chew any of the cheap-looking scenery.
If you're a Lau or STV Chinese-action-flicks fan, you're likely steeled for a film like Future X-Cops already. Anyone else is looking for action in all the wrong places.
Cross-published on Ornery-Crosby and Twitch.