A helicopter shootout, street explosions and a hijacked airplane–these are common elements in Hollywood action films, but they are rarely, if ever, attempted by Taiwanese cinema.
That is, until now. Black & White Episode 1: The Dawn of Assault, an action blockbuster by Tsai Yueh-hsun, successfully turns up the heat with action sequences the like of which have never been seen in Taiwanese productions.
The fireworks are complemented by a star-studded cast led by Mark Chao and Huang Bo.
The film is the prequel to Tsai’s popular TV drama in 2009 Black & White. Set in a fictional city named Harbor City, the story follows a young detective Hero Wu (Chao) who needs help from a retired gangster Xu Dafu (Huang) to solve a murder. Meanwhile, Xu finds he needs the cop to retrieve priceless stolen goods.
Naturally, fingers are crossed that the unlikely duo will save the day.
Mostly shot in Kaohsiung with a hefty budget of $12 million (76 million yuan), the movie is an ambitious project.
Tsai and his team spent about $1 million to have an aircraft mock-up made in the US. Now based in Kaoshiung, the plane is Taiwan’s first to be built specially for movies.
Needless to say, the resulting movie is packed with adrenaline-pumping action, all undertaken without stuntmen.
Chao is definitely an action star in the making. He jumps from a bridge, spins a car at high speed and drives through explosions.
There is sparkling on-screen chemistry between Chao and Huang as the righteous cop and the smart-mouthed gangster. The two partners progress through finely choreographed set pieces that make good use of the diverse landscapes that the port city offers.
From industrial docks and ultra modern skyscrapers to a bustling urban center, Kaohsiung looks like an amusement park for filmmakers.
Though the action is top-notch, more often than not, the film prizes style over content. The story and the motives of the characters are not properly outlined, and plot lines appear and disappear without sufficient exposition.
As a result, the film gets a bit baffling toward the end as to what groups of characters are involved.
Nevertheless, Tsai and his team deserve a round of applause for producing a slick Hollywood-style production.