REVIEW: Red Pirate (1997)

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Goonies star Jonathan Ke Quan makes his Asian action film debut with this action-packed thriller full of both firepower and kickboxing action.

In a joint mission between Hong Kong and Vietnam, Hong Kong inspector Kwai Chia-Chiang goes to Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam and meets with Special Forces captain Min Shan. Together, their mission is to take down Chiang Kwan, also known as White Wolf, a notorious criminal wanted by Interpol, who is brokering a deal with Chen San, a Thai gangster, involving money laundering and forgery. On the day of the bust, the duo receives help from Mr. Chin, a local fisherman, and his daughter Yonnie.

After Kwai returns to Hong Kong, Mr. Chin and Yonnie suddenly become the targets of a criminal organization only to have a deadly pirate brigade, the Red Pirates, arrive to hijack the boat from the criminals. In the midst of the hijacking, Mr. Chan is seriously injured and Yonnie finds herself kidnapped alongside two British women who are part of the Royal Family. When Yonnie escapes, she is found in Hong Kong, prompting Kwai to return to Vietnam to hatch a plan to once again join forces with Min Shan and his team to stop the pirates once and for all.

From director Chen Chi-Hwa, who directed some of Jackie Chan’s earlier films for Lo Wei in the seventies, comes this modern-day action film that plays out like a typical action film of the Hong Kong era, meshing firepower with kickboxing style fight scenes. However, the notoriety here is that the film’s star is former child actor Jonathan Ke Quan, who is best known for his roles in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom and The Goonies.

Seven years after making his martial arts action film debut in the Hollywood B-movie Breathing Fire, Quan gets to showcase his skills in this Taiwanese production as a Hong Kong cop who joins forces with Vietnamese cops first to bust a money laundering ring then a pirate brigade. Quan is actually good as Inspector Kwai Chia-Chiang, who joins forces with Vietnamese Special Forces captain Min Shan, who offers to show Kwai how much Vietnam has changed.

The villains of the film, notably the pirate leader, are a typical group of heathens who get their kicks off kidnapping unsuspecting women for either ransom or to make them their slaves. Perhaps It should be noted that the title doesn’t just refer to the name of the brigade, but the mere fact that the leader sports long red locks with his beard and goes wild at every chance possible while his number one man is a bald, tattooed sporting pirate who is the no-nonsense type and will kill to make sure the gang are well off.

The action, directed by Chan Wang-Yam, meshes firepower and martial arts action in the vein of the era’s waning days of modern day kickboxing-gun flicks. Quan, a skilled veteran in Taekwondo, gets to show some nifty kicking once again but mixed with the Hong Kong-style of action. While his fights here may not be at a level of Breathing Fire, they still are quite fun to watch. The finale brings nearly everything but the kitchen sink with guns blazing, explosions blasting, and some nice kickboxing action from Quan and his team.

Red Pirate may be a run of the mill 90’s modern day Hong Kong action film, but those who are fans of Jonathan Ke Quan may want to check him out in his Asian film debut. He still gets to show off some nifty fighting while blowing away villains despite a hokey lead villain in the pirate leader.

WFG RATING: B-

A Main Yang Film Production Company Film. Director: Chen Chi-Hwa. Producer: Chen Chi-Hwa. Writers: Chang Chien-Chi, Yue Wu, Wong Chik-Chi, and Yuen Cheung-Lee. Cinematography: Chan Chung-Yuen.

Cast: Jonathan Ke Quan, Cheung Yuk-Ying, Lee Hung, Yan Yeung, Wu Ma.

 

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