Director: Wong Jing
Producer: Wallace Cheung Kwok Chung, Eric Tsang Chi Wai
Cast: Alan Tam Wing Lun, Andy Lau Tak Wah, Eric Tsang Chi Wai, Leung Kar Yan, May Lo Mei Wei, Jackson Lau Hok Yin, Nat Chan Pak Cheung, Chui Sau Lai, Chin Ho, Law Shu Kei
Running Time: 89 min.
When I told Mighty Peking Man I’d watched this film, he recalled how back in the early 90′s “The Last Blood” was frequently marketed as “Hard Boiled II” by shady video distributors. Considering that “The Last Blood” was directed by Wong Jing, the notorious shlockmaster of Hong Kong who never saw a trend he couldn’t exploit, I’m not surprised. The ending does unfold in a hospital so I suppose there is at least some basis for a company to try to cash-in on the popularity of “Hard Boiled,” but this movie wrapped filming a full two years before John Woo’s classic hit theaters. The funny thing is, “The Last Blood” is actually pretty damn good. Hey, if you make as many bad movies as Wong Jing, you’re bound to accidentally direct a decent one along the way.
The premise is thus: a Japanese terrorist group known as The Red Army want Buddhist leader Daki Lama dead at any cost. The Lama is currently on his way to Singapore to speak to world leaders about the suffering in his home country and the only one who can keep him safe is the top cop on the case, played by Alan Tam. He is aided by his partner, Shaw Brothers and Golden Harvest veteran Leung Kar-Yan. Since this is a Wong Jing film, you can expect plenty of out-of-place humor and general poor taste crammed into what is a decent thriller plot. Be prepared to cringe at jokes about AIDs, an extended scene devoted to Andy Lau going to the bathroom, and children and the handicap serving as cannon fodder for our evil Japanese bad guys.
Even with questionable talent behind the camera, the film has a solid lead in Alan Tam (“Armour of God”), who delivers a charismatic performance. He plays the kind of unflappable detective who can get himself out of any situation based solely on his wits and his skill with a gun. Tam looks pretty dapper too, dressed in a suit coat with thick glasses and his hair slicked back. He handles himself well during the film’s many bloody shootouts, enough so that I wish this guy had a wider filmography. He was made for the heroic bloodshed genre.
Also starring in “The Last Blood” are Andy Lau and Eric Tsang. This is not their finest hour. Andy Lau plays a low-level Triad member whose girlfriend is caught in the crossfire during an assassination attempt on the Daki Lama’s life. If she doesn’t get a blood transfusion within eleven hours, she’s history. Only problem is, the Lama has the same blood type – and there aren’t many donors to go around. Andy Lau decides to take matters into his own hands by grabbing a cop’s gun and hitting the road to look for Eric Tsang, one of the available donors. Still early in his career, it feels like Andy Lau is acting out in front of the camera rather than acting. His character constantly intrudes into police affairs when his girlfriend would be much safer if he minded his own business. He’s a difficult protagonist to root for.
Eric Tsang is playing almost the same exact role he did a year before in 1990′s “Curry and Pepper”: a street peddler who spouts off the occasional line of English dialogue. He’s not too keen on giving up his precious fluids but he’ll do it if the price is right. Unfortunately, the bad guys are willing to kill anybody as long as it means the Lama perishes too. Andy Lau’s gonna have one hell of a night trying to get Tsang back to the hospital in one piece. The two of them spend the next 11 hours hunted by Chin Ho (Sammo Hung’s “Ghost Punting”) and Jackson Lau (“Police Story 4: First Strike“), two ferocious villains with an almost Terminator-like resistance to being killed.
The secret to this film’s success is action director Blackie Ko. Ko was a Taiwense actor, director, and action choreographer who tragically died of blood poisoning, way too young at the age of 49. Before his untimely passing, he directed the action and stunts on many Hong Kong classics such as “In the Line of Duty,” “Yes, Madam,” and “The Legend of Wisely.” “The Last Blood” features some of his finest work, even if he was merely trying to out-Woo John Woo: motorcycle drivers soar through the air; Alan Tam crashes through three windows in a row; the bad guys blow up hospital corridors with a grenade launcher.
During one sequence, our heroes are careening around street corners in a car while being chased by at least twenty motorbikers who are all armed with submachine guns. Their vehicle goes underneath a semi-truck and the entire roof is ripped off. The top of their car now gone, Andy Lau tries to drive while Alan Tam shoots at the cyclists, some of whom go flying off the road and into a nearby body of water. The kind of mayhem Blackie Ko managed to dream up was truly spectacular.
“The Last Blood” is not a ‘great’ film in the traditional sense but for anyone who looks back fondly at the late 80′s, early 90′s heyday of Hong Kong action cinema, it is definitely one to watch. Wong Jing’s ill-advised humor gets in the way, the supporting characters grate at times, and there may be a slow patch or two, but when Jing shuts up and lets Blackie Ko take the reigns, the movie kicks into overdrive and delivers in a big way. This is action movie junkfood of the highest caliber.
HKFanatic’s Rating: 7/10