August 19, 2019

THE BRINK: Standard-Issue High Seas Gangsters
THE BRINK (2017)
Starring Zhang Jin, Shawn Yue, Janice Man, Wu Yue, Tai Po, Cecilia So, Yasuaki Kurata, Gordon Lam, Derek Tsang. Directed by Jonathan Li. (100 min)

Review by Tiger the Terrible😸

Sai Gau (Zhang Jin) is your standard-issue renegade cop, a seething ball of intensity and contemptuous of his bumbling commander. At the beginning of The Brink, he’s being released from prison, having done 18 months because his recklessness caused the death of another cop. To show his sensitive side, he acts as guardian to the daughter of the gangster he once threw out a building window.

Shing (Shawn Yue) is your standard-issue bad guy, a ruthless, sadistic former henchman who kills his way to power, his weapon-of-choice being a handheld harpoon gun. To show his sensitive side, he pays a prostitute for her services before instructing his right-hand woman, Suet (Janice Man), get rid of her. But least he doesn't kill her.

For the most part, Tak (Wu Yue) is your standard-issue partner who just announced his retirement after winning big at a casino. But before the viewer can say “dead man walking,” he actually serves a different narrative purpose (which I won’t spoil here).

"You shouldn't o' made fun of my shirt."
Though not particularly original, The Brink is an entertainingly brutal action-fest that puts a few interesting spins on a familiar story. For one, Shing is both a gangster and a pirate, his territory being the sea. In this case, he’s planning to rob his rival’s luxurious cruise ship of $500 million in gold, which is actually stashed on the seabed beneath. While we’ve seen the ol’ cop-on-the-edge before and Gau punches his way through the movie with one facial expression, Zhang Jin is a great physical performer. I also appreciated Suet’s knack for creative demolition by using bombs made from dry ice.

But it's the two great set-pieces highlighting the second half that sets The Brink apart from your standard crime fare. First, there’s a terrifically-choreographed underwater fight scene, usually not the most cinematic of locations, but director Jonathan Li pulls it off. Second is the climactic close-quarters martial-arts melee onboard a fishing trawler during a typhoon, a masterful combination of practical action and convincing special effects.

Both sequences are patently ludicrous, but at-least they’re memorable enough to make it worth enduring a few of the mundane or pointless aspects of the story (such as the relationship between Gau and the gangster’s daughter). Elsewhere, The Brink is briskly paced, suitably violent and amusingly over-the-top. That last point could even describe the performances, as well. The overall story strictly standard-issue, but that doesn’t always matter, does it?


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