"Million Dollar Crocodile" Chinese Theatrical Poster
Director: Lin Li Sheng
Writer: Lin Li Sheng
Producer: Li Rui
Cast: Barbie Hsu Hsi Yuan, Guo Tao, Lam Suet, Shi Zhao Qi, Hung Yan Yan, Pu Ba Jia
Running Time: 87 min.
These days, the monster movie has a bad rap. A once fun and thriving subgenre of horror as been relegated to an endless string of ‘SyFy’ Channel movies in which mutated variations of animals and dinosaurs duke it out. Whatever happened to the sheer thrill of a classic like “Jaws” or even the guilty pleasure of an “Anaconda”? The genre has long grown dormant, although the 2009 Korean film “Chawz” tried to re-energize the formula with a healthy dose of comedy.
“Million Dollar Crocodile,” released Stateside as “Croczilla,” very much continues in this trend. Ostensibly a horror/comedy, “Croczilla” isn’t very funny but it’s clear that it wants to be. Upon returning home to China from an eight year sojourn making purses in Italy, Barbie Hsu has the misfortune of crossing paths with a giant, rampaging crocodile. The beast eats Barbie’s purse, which just so happens to contain her 8 year stockpile of a million Euros. Hence, the Million Dollar(?) Crocodile of the title.
While this set-up doesn’t exactly beg to be made into a movie, it’s a shame that the filmmakers force Barbie Hsu to play much of her role in hysterics, crying about her missing money and trying to convince other people of the giant croc’s existence, all while some Britney Spears-esque pop tune blares on the soundtrack.
Then again, nearly all the human characters in the film play second fiddle to the computer-animated croc. Actor Tao Guo is on hand as a provincial cop and struggling single father who must protect his mischievous young son from being eaten by the croc, while veteran Milkyway Image actor Lam Suet acts as the proprietor of a shady restaurant that traffics in crocodile meat. In fact, the only reason the titular croc is on the run and causing so much trouble in the Chinese countryside is because Lam Suet was planning to turn it into a dinner entree. The crocodile is actually portrayed in a more sympathetic light than most of the people around it.
The special effects in “Croczilla” show just how far the Chinese film industry has progressed on a technical level. Sure, the CG isn’t exactly photorealistic and never once are you fooled into believing you’re looking at a real crocodile, but the computer effects do the trick and you also never once feel like you’re watching one of those aforementioned SyFy movies. If nothing else, “Croczilla” sets the stage for another Chinese director to tell a worthwhile story using this same technology.
While there’s a certain amount of fun to be had in watching a monstrously sized crocodile creating panic in rural China, the relatively family friendly (read: PG-13) nature of the production means means that there are hardly any onscreen kills. It’s up to the cast to carry the film but their characters are such thinly drawn stereotypes and their acting so broad, it’s hard to register these people as more than caricatures. The viewer is forced to sit through a lot of fluffy, throwaway scenes of family bonding while they wait for the giant CG croc to rear its head and cause some property damage. You know, the kind of thing you’d like to see in a movie called “Croczilla.”
Although Amazon lists “Croczilla” as being dubbed in English, there is a 2.0 track available of the film’s original Chinese audio. The picture quality on the disc is subpar even for DVD but watchable. It’s great that Screen Media brought such a niche picture to North America but they could have put more effort into the visual transfer. Then again, the distributors may have watched the film themselves and thought ‘why bother?’ Your best bet is to save “Croczilla” for a night when you’re desperate for that modern monster movie fix.
HKFanatic’s Rating: 5.5/10
Cityonfire.com would like to thank Boulevard Movies for providing a copy of Croczilla for review purposes. Boulevard Movies has been keeping movie lovers stocked with their favorite cult classics and foreign films on Blu-ray and DVD since 2006.