Gen-X Cops (特警新人類)

gen x cops

This movie has the neon gloss of the late 1990s and might feel a little dated. The Gen-Xers of yore are hardly dying their shaggy locks purple or giving the finger to their bosses. In fact, they probably are the bosses. Nevertheless, it remains a good introduction to Hong Kong cinema, a movie that delivers everything it promises – action, comedy, youthful rebellion, international flair – and all this mayhem breezily but firmly rooted in Hong Kong.

“Gen-X” is used here not so much as a sociological definition as it is to suggest a class of punkish misfits and underdogs. This gang can’t conform to rules, has problems with authority, is searching for meaning in life, and has miserable taste in fashion; that is to say, they are young. And that apparently lends them varying shades of criminality.

At the darkest end of the spectrum is Daniel (Daniel Wu), the younger brother of gangster Dinosaur (Gordon Lam). He’s a bit of a lost soul and, despite his overseas education, has opted for a high-stakes criminal life to that of a high-stakes banker [insert joke about these being the same career path]. His closest companions are Tooth (Terence Yin) and girlfriend Haze (Jaymee Ong) who willfully aid and abet his crimes. The fearsome Akatora (Nakamura Toru) takes on Daniel and uses him to secure a shipment of Deadliest Weapons Ever but faces some trouble from Dinosaur’s pal, Lok (Francis Ng).

The Hong Kong police get wind of the whole deal and set to tackle it like adults. Inspector Chan (Eric Tsang) wants in on the case. He has a personal interest but is taunted by the sneering Superintendent To (Moses Chan) and laughed off because of his epileptic twitches. In a very Gen-X sort of way, Chan carries on his own investigation anyway, recruiting some recently dismissed police academy trainees as undercover agents. Jack (Nicholas Tse), Match (Stephen Fung), and Alien (Sam Lee) look and act in ways that are more likely to get them stopped by police. They show they are pretty tough dudes by disrespecting anyone over the age of 30, getting into bar fights, and having really bad posture. The same goes for Y2K (Grace Ip), the group’s techie who also rolls her eyes with aplomb.

It’s hard to imagine a similar film being made today. There seems to be little room for fun action flicks. Movies with explosions and gunfights tend to skew towards dark and heavy, laden with overtones about the direction of Hong Kong society. Gen-X Cops delivers the firepower but also supplies an arsenal of irreverent shenanigans to lighten the mood. It benefits from the fresh energy of its stars, eager beavers at the time. These young turks’ penchant for hard work and desire to please come through. They give their otherwise simple characters a little bit of life and the audience someone to sympathize with. Maybe it was the actors’ international backgrounds converging all at once in Hong Kong or perhaps the newness of the Handover or, conversely, the apocalyptic buzz of the coming millenium. Maybe it was just the thrill of blowing up the Hong Kong Convention Centre. Something makes this drawn out plot, long on betrayal and misplaced loyalties, an arousing adventure.

Released: 1999
Prod: John Chong 莊澄; Solon So 蘇志鴻; Benny Chan 陳木勝
Dir: Benny Chan 陳木勝
Writer: Benny Chan 陳木勝
Cast: Nicholas Tse 謝霆鋒; Stephen Fung 馮德倫; Sam Lee 李燦森; Daniel Wu 吳彥祖; Grace Ip 葉佩雯; Nakamura Toru 仲村 トオル; Francis Ng 吳鎮宇; Gordon Lam 林家棟; Terence Yin 尹子維; Jaymee Ong 王淑美; Moses Chan 陳豪; Eric Tsang 曾志偉; Wayne Lai 黎耀祥; Ken Lo 盧惠光; Bey Logan 龍比意; Jackie Chan 成龍
Time: 113 min
Lang: Cantonese, some English
Country: Hong Kong
Reviewed: 2014