Continuing the saga that was launched last year as part of MCA TV’s “Action Pack” series of telepix, “Vanishing Son” launches as a weekly syndie series, with an opening salvo that is stylishly shot but routinely plotted.
On the other hand, given the industry’s reluctance when it comes to casting Asian-Americans, the show is notable for featuring Russell Wong as the weekly action hero.
That exception aside, the premiere’s ragged storyline doesn’t leave much to recommend this series.
The virile, clean-cut Wong cuts a romantic figure and his kick-boxing skills are a visceral swoosh. His character is a fugitive in L.A. running from a pair of obsessed Feds (Jason Adams’ chauvinist agent and Stephanie Niznik’s feminist, unlikely sidekick).
Taking cover as an exploited worker in a sweat shop, Wong joins a courageous Guatemalan immigrant woman (Jacqueline Obradors) in a fight to unionize the frightened Latino and Chinese workers.
Meanwhile, the hero confronts a Chinese crime cartel (headed by the seriously miscast Haing S. Ngor, who looks miles away from his Oscar-winning turn in “The Killing Fields”).
Dovetailing action in the streets with the rights of the immigrant working class, the script (Robert Eisele) shakily segues from chase scenes to banal lovemaking (Wong and Obradors) to labor organizing (the latter being the plot’s only nominal surprise).
Director Norberto Barba, however, captures some dramatic illusion by looking into a kind of “Blade Runner” multicultural mirror enhanced by solid tech values. Prominent among the latter are Tim Boettcher’s tight editing and cinematographer Bradley Six’s Chinatown back-alley atmosphere.