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The Adventurers

Wai Lok-yan Andy Lau

Wai Lok-yan Andy Lau

Mona Rosamund Kwan

Crystal Wu Chien-lien

Ray Lui Paul Chiang

Shang John Chiang

Uncle Nine Victor Wong

With: Ng Choi-nam, Philip Ko, Nam Yin.

Ringo Lam’s final hurrah before venturing Stateside for “Maximum Risk,” “The Adventurers” is an ambitious, Southeast Asian-set mob pic that amply demonstrates the H.K. helmer’s trademark of dishing up the gunplay and action without forgetting character development along the way. Pic has a breadth and scale that neatly sums up Lam’s forays in the genre, and is worth checking out by those who know the director only from “City on Fire.”

Aficionados will recognize it as a return, after the highly entertaining but uncharacteristic swordplay item “Burning Paradise,” to territory in which Lam has staked out his ground of far more interior-driven action-dramas than the heroic sagas of compatriot John Woo. In its mix of moods, this is on a level with his esteemed 1989 Chow Yun-fat starrer, “Wild Search,” though painted on a much larger canvas.

Opening, in 1975 Cambodia, has a young boy and his sister see their parents blown away by Communists after being betrayed by family friend Ray Lui (Paul Chiang). Twenty years later, in Thailand, the grown Wai (Andy Lau) tries to ventilate Lui, now a rich businessman, but ends up shot himself.

Nursed back to health by Lui’s floozy, Mona (Rosamund Kwan), Wai is told the CIA wants Lui, once an agency spy, terminated. The CIA arranges for him to take over a Chinatown triad in San Francisco and get to Lui through his disenchanted daughter, Crystal (Wu Chien-lien), whom Wai first kidnaps and then marries. Wai’s mission is then changed: to go back into Cambodia and wipe out Pol Pot, to whom Lui is supplying arms.

The plot is as far-fetched as any H.K. actioner, but in between the genre elements Lam stitches in some quieter material that fills out Wai’s mental conflict, caught between two women (Crystal, Mona) and personal revenge that’s now only part of a much broader scenario. All actors are aided by use of direct sound, which adds a grittier feel than the usual dubbing, and when the action starts Lam more than delivers the goods, especially in the impressively mounted finale in Pol Pot’s hideout.

Boyish matinee idol Lau shows surprising range within his limits, and Taiwanese actress Wu, one of the most interesting young thesps on the scene, is tougher here than usual. Film shot in Hong Kong, the U.S. and Philippines, and clocked up a moderate HK$ 14.8 million ($ 2 million) at home in August ’95.

The Adventurers

(DAI MOUHIMGA)

Production: (HONG KONG) A Win's Entertainment/Cameron Entertainment Co. production. (International sales: Win's Entertainment, H.K.) Produced by Charles Heung, Tsai Mu-ho. Directed by Ringo Lam. Screenplay, Lam, Sandy Shaw, Ip Kwong-yam.

Crew: Camera (color), Arthur Wong, ArdyLam; editor, Wong Wing-ming; music, Teddy Robin; art direction, Luk Tze-fung; costume design, Shirley Chan; sound, Leung Lek-chee; special effects, Ting Yuen-tai, Tang Wai-yuk. Reviewed on videocassette, London, June 29, 1996. (In Shots in the Dark Festival, Nottingham, England.) Running time: 114 MIN.

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