Wild Search – Blu-Ray Review

Wild Search was directed Ringo Lam during his most popular period, which was the late 80s and early ’90s. He is probably best known in the West for making City on Fire, which was an influence on Quentin Tarantino’s debut film Reservoir Dogs. Some have tried to make out that Tarantino full-blown plagiarised it, but they very different films in so many regards. Lam also made Full Contact, which was one of the most popular Chow Yun-Fat vehicles back when he was the coolest cat in world cinema.

It’s amusing that Tarantino is accused of ripping off Lam, because Wild Search is a fairly blatant pseudo-remake of Peter Weir’s film Witness. Obviously the Amish angle is removed, but the whole plotline of a young child witnessing a brutal murder and a detective being assigned to the case is the same. The boy in Witness is changed to an adorable little Chinese girl, Ka-Ka (Chan Cheuk-Yan). It’s changed significantly enough to be its own entity. It has many of the same story beats, but with a more Hong Kong action flavour and a romantic subplot for the ladies.

Chow Yun-Fat is what makes the film, however—he just has so much charisma as an actor, almost to a Cary Grant-like level. This makes the totally unnecessary romantic subplot of his romance with the little girl’s aunt somewhat sufferable. The kid’s cranky grandfather even threatens to sell her multiple times, which is equal parts terrifying and hilarious.

Lam directs it with his usual flare, even if the action is dialled down a notch for the majority of its running time. Still, it has an impressive literal fire fight scene, which marks the film’s climax. The romance takes up too much of the running time, but when the action set pieces hit, they hit hard. It’s not as good as City on Fire, nevermind the John Woo films that made Yun-Fat an international star, but it shows Yun-Fat’s knack for action, drama and comedy, which was sadly all but lost when he tried to make it in the States during the ’90s.

The disc from Eureka includes an option of both the original Cantonese audio or the English dub, new feature-length audio commentary by Asian film expert Frank Djen, and an interview with voiceover artist Simon Broad (who was the dub voice for Chow Yun-Fat), and an archival interview with actor Roy Cheung. The booklet includes a essay from David West (NEO magazine).

★★★½

Ian Schultz

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