Saturday, November 6, 2010

Dangerous Encounter: 1st Kind (1980) Review:

Dangerous Encounter: 1st Kind

Tsui Hark’s second feature film is the 1980 film Dangerous Encounter: 1st Kind (aka Don't Play With Fire). Leagues away from his later fantasies, it’s the work of an angry but sophisticated man, more early Elvis Costello than spunk of the Sex Pistols. It’s directed nihilism rather than an outpouring of Hulk like rage.

The flick follows a rather rambling narrative that sees four troubled Hong Kong misfits wander through various social disorders from slight pranks to public bombings. Three of them are school boys from seemingly prim and proper families, the other is the mental young sister of a Hong Kong policeman. We know she’s fucking mental because we see her hammering nails through mice and tossing a cat off a high rise building to be impaled on barbed wire fencing below. No special effects here, for me it’s a pointless aspect but there’s really nothing to gain from weeping for mice and a cat twenty nine years dead.

Hopefully Hark treats Jet Li better in their upcoming project.

Back to the film, it is a crafted world of grey rather than the black and white of good and bad. You can end up rooting for the four youths but at the end of the day they are dicks. The film’s hero of sorts is the policeman played by Lo Leih, the only real face of the movie. Even then he’s a bit of an arsehole, vomiting on his sister when he crawls in from a bender and later giving her a hiding just after saving her from a triad beating. These triads hang out in a camp nightclub that seems beamed in from 90s rave culture.

About the half way mark, the film shuffles into a thriller coat with the arrival of some white gun runners, a repellent bunch that resemble the sort of crew Chuck Norris might have assembled if he had ever made a biker movie. After an encounter on a hillside road, the four youths get away with some money orders and documents the gun runners need and this is the narrative that snakes its way to the movie’s bloody conclusion.

The ending is a tense action set piece set in a graveyard, maybe a more wide screen, out door, type of violent ending that resembles perhaps Sam Peckinpah’s The Getaway. Hark directs the action with tension and release, miles away from his later frenetic work like Time And Tide.

Tsui Hark pulls no punches with this movie and at this time, a lot of Hong Kong film makers didn’t. They had fire in their belly and some lean, mean thrillers came out of this era of the Hong Kong New Wave, Cops And Robbers and The Club by Kirk Wong to name but a few. Alas time has not been kind to this era of film, many New Wave movies exist in only bootlegs fashioned from laser discs or out of print vcds.

Hark’s film might be blunt, lacking his later elegance but there’s something in its stark truth about what he thought about the society surrounding him and its alienating effect on its inhabitants.

Badlands via Hong Kong action cinema?

MVT: Tsui Hark without a doubt. With such a steady hand on the direction, it rises about its exploitation element to be close to a great movie.

Make or Break: Could be broken to some by the animal cruelty, its something that seems out of place compared to the rest of the film. I wanted to pick the triad disco for its camp hilarity but instead Dangerous Encounters is made by that superb ending, a great action set piece that pointed the way forward for Ringo Lam and John Woo.

Score 7.5/10 Would score higher but for the animal violence. There are better Hark movies but this one has a raw honesty to it that makes it just as memorable.

1 comment:

  1. Discovered one of the gunrunners is Bruce Baron who featured in Raiders From Atlantis, so a wee ggtmc link. Also realised you guys covered this way back. Oh well!