The mysterious smile murders begin with three men doing three very different things at the time, an actor, a dancer, and a diver, all drop dead when it's least expected and the only similarity between the three murders is that they all died with a creepy smile on their face. The two police officers put on the case are an unlikely duo that has everyone questioning why in heaven's name would anyone put them on a case like this? Wang Bu Er (Wen Zhang) is the young firecracker of the pair who is extremely headstrong, overzealous, and brash while Huang Fei Hong (Jet Li) is more of the obnoxious seasoned veteran on the verge of retirement who talks way too much and only wants to rush home from work every day. Their superior Angela (Michelle Chen) is driven to her wits end when Wang believes that an actress named Liu Jin Shui (Liu Shishi) is the prime suspect. Or is it her voluptuous sister Dai Yiyi (Ada Liu)?
"Badges of Fury" kicks off 2014 with one of the most awkward film openings any particular year could ever ask for. After three men die with smiles on their faces, the opening credits jump to Wang and Huang with their backs to each other on a rooftop. A shot is fired from the gun Wang is holding and the rest of the cast appears as flying horizontal bullets. The absurdity only grows from there as the opening sequence of the film involves Wang being undercover at a Scottish party while wearing a kilt who is then mocked by homosexual men for butchering fashion. Huang is shown dressed as a chef and playing cards in the kitchen. The film has this very loose storyline it is barely able to follow in its short 98-minute duration, but the Hong Kong action film mostly seems extremely spontaneous and impulsive not unlike the behavior of Wang Bu Er in the film.
The action in the film is all over the place. Grown men jump several stories into the air, walk on walls, and even run on the shoulders of innocent people. Fists punch through cement blocks, missed kicks crack the ground the fighters stand on, and individuals are thrown through cars and windows only to get up without a scratch on them. The perspective, specifically in the opening sequence when Huang battles the wanted criminal Chen Hu (Collin Chou), is quite impressive. Taking place on a staircase, Huang jumps down several flights of stairs as the camera follows him; seemingly allowing the viewer to fly down flights of stairs right along with Jet Li.
The comedy of the film is just as chaotic as the action of the film as it seems to jump back and forth between pop culture references to well-known martial arts films. The Interpol officers that appear, led by Huang Xiaoming, are an obvious reference to "Men in Black," while Xiaoming proceeds to name off some of the films Jet Li has starred in to Li's face before saying Li looks familiar. Later on, the film takes a few stabs at Jackie Chan's "Police Story" franchise. References to the Jax arm pull from "Mortal Kombat" and a wallet being covered in "Hello Kitty" are also thrown in for good measure.
There's an emphasis on women being in charge, but the way the film portrays them it's as if the women are smart enough to climb their way up the corporate ladder yet are incapable of handling the pressure and don't possess the skills to do said job correctly. Angela is a complete mess because of Wang and Huang and basically does nothing but gripe. Even the commissioner, played by Ma Yili in a cameo role, is the same way. The Liu Jin Shui and Dai Yiyi characters are drastically different in comparison, but Dai Yiyi is basically nothing more than a sexual object while Liu Jin Shui is rather boring as the conflicted woman that no man can seem to love.
One of the most interesting aspects of "Badges of Fury" is how similar to "Kung Fu Hustle" it is. The comedy is right in line with something Stephen Chow would cook up, so it already has that in common. But needles play a big factor in the film's conclusion as well; a common trait both films share. If that wasn't enough, Hong Kong martial artist Leung Siu-lung is featured quite prominently in both films. So it becomes increasingly difficult to shake the comparisons between the two films.
If you enjoyed the wild antics in "Kung Fu Hustle," then you'll more than likely have a good time with "Badges of Fury." It's a very goofy and extremely silly action film that never takes itself seriously. It's something different from Jet Li, who seems to make a point to showcase his acting more in the film rather than his fighting and takes a backseat to the younger actors. Over the top and ridiculous, "Badges of Fury" pushes extreme to its limits and takes the utmost pride in doing just that.
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