2000 AD DVD Review
2000 AD is a 1999 Hong Kong release from director Gordon Chan, starring pop star Aaron Kwok. Though the plot is essentially an instrument for getting from one action sequence to another, the action is sufficiently well-planned, performed, and photographed to make this a worthwhile popcorn flick.
As the title of the film might suggest, the plot is loosely centered around some notion of the Y2K bug, though it is never particularly clear what the mechanics of the supposed computer risk really are. Considering that Y2K seemed a much bigger deal in 1999 than it does now, it is actually better for the film that the details of the "computer warfare" behind all of the intrigue are left ambiguous. Suffice it to say that this new breeding ground for international conflict involves multinational corporations, the governments of Hong Kong and Singapore, and of course, the CIA. Caught in the middle is Peter Li (Kwok).
It turns out Peter's brother, Greg (Ray Lui), is somehow mixed up in all of this. His visit to Hong Kong to see his brother is not just a pleasure trip, and it is no coincidence that a computer security company's corporate aircraft is shot down shortly after his arrival. Further levels of intrigue are added with the arrival of Greg's fiancee from America (Phyllis Quek) and a special forces commando sent undercover by the government of Singapore (James Lye).
Though the true motives of many of the characters is not immediately apparent, it is at least clear that Kwok is our protagonist and that CIA agent Kelvin Wong (Andrew Lin) is the bad guy. Putting aside for a moment the "big bad CIA" cliche at the heart of this character, Lin is at least somewhat creepy without making it totally unbelievable that he could actually hold such a pivotal government job (unlike, say, Gary Oldman in Leon; I mean, I love that movie and Oldman's performance in particular, but is it really possible that such a nutcase could retain a supervisory position in the DEA? I hope not). Lin does well enough with the material he is given, and is an adequate villain for us to root against.
When Greg makes copies of some mysterious secret files while staying at Peter's apartment, Peter and his comedy sidekick Benny (Daniel Wu) become embroiled in this murky web of intrigue. To be honest, the plot is much more murky than it is intriguing. The effort to keep the audience guessing about various character's motives and loyalties is excessive and merely results in depriving most of them of any coherent motive or loyalty at all. The same is true of the vague computer warfare element, which is essentially a cobbled together version of the most superficial elements needed for a technothriller: incomprehensible computer babble, several international locations, and close-ups of Zip disks.
So the plot is nothing to get excited about, but at least the actors do well with what they were given. Special praise goes to Francis Ng, whose Hong Kong police officer is absolutely believable in his professionalism and empathy.
What truly saves this film from mere mediocrity is its action sequences. They are spaced throughout the film, which does raise some pacing issues (particularly at the end, which feels rushed and anticlimactic compared to early scenes). But they are worth the ride, as Chan and action director Yuen Tak have put together several very exciting action pieces. With a good surround system, this is just a fun way to spend an hour and a half.
Style: 4 (out ot 5)
Substance: 2 (out ot 5)
Overall: 3 (out ot 5)
As I have come to expect, the Region 2 PAL release by Hong Kong Legends is quite good. The video is presented in a 1.78:1 anamorphic transfer, and it is sharp and clean, as ought to be expected from such a recent film.
There are two language tracks: the original Cantonese and a dubbed English track. Both are presented in DD 5.1 channel surround sound. I never listen to dubs, so I can't comment on the quality of that track. The Cantonese track is adequate throughout, though it only shines in the all-important action sequences. In particular, the first battle sequence, with the rooftop sniper, is a lot of fun with a good surround system.
The main extra is a HKL staple, the audio commentary with film expert Bey Logan. He is always interesting, and here he is joined by the director, Gordon Chan. They have a good rapport, and though Logan is usually capable of handling a commentary himself, putting him in more of an interviewer role works quite well in this case, where Chan obviously knows even more about the film. Other extras include a featurette with pretty interesting behind-the-scenes footage and interviews with Kwok (20 min), as well as interviews with the director (14 min) and with Andrew Lin (17 min).
Video: 4 (out ot 5)
Audio: 3.5 (out ot 5)
Extras: 4 (out ot 5)
Overall: 4 (out ot 5)