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Golden Job
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by Jay Seaver

"Whether a reunion or something new, it's good angsty action."
4 stars

A chunk of "Golden Job" takes place in Budapest, because despite this movie's Hong Kong roots, that's where they make this sort of movie these days, with all of its car chases, explosions, and tortured brotherhood. It may not be a perfect example of that genre, in that it's a little too obvious about what it skimps on, but it's a satisfying one, especially for fans of the 1990s Hong Kong cinema it recalls. Happily, it doesn't lean so hard on nostalgia that those just looking for an hour and a half of action will feel shut out.

It tells the story of a crew of mercenaries who have been brothers since growing up together in an orphanage: Field leader Bill (Michael Tse Tin-wah), charming Lion (Ekin Cheng Yee-kin), tech guy Mouse (Jerry Lamb Hiu-fung), driver Calm (Chin Ka-lok), and all-around-badass Crater (Jordan Chan Siu-chun). Five years ago, a screwed-up job for shadowy operative Rick Rice (Sergej Onopko) got them cut loose, and since then, they've freelanced. Lion is ready to quit - he's met Zoe Chow, a nice doctor (Charmaine Sheh See-man) doing relief work in Africa - but Bill has a line on some stolen medicine, which should be an easy-enough job that they can bring their mentor, gangster Papa Cho (Eric Tsang Chi-wai) and even his daughter Lulu (Zhang Yamei) in on it. It does seem a bit more complicated than just a van full of meds, though, and when they get a look at the haul, it makes an even bigger mess.

Those coming to Golden Job with little else on their mind than watching some people, places, and things get knocked around will be plenty satisfied; the film divides into four parts set in different locations, each with a well-done action sequence at the center, and on top of that, director Chin Ka-lok knows the rhythms of these things better than most: He came up as a stunt performer and driver (it wouldn't be surprising if he took the part of Calm so that he had to shoot around doubles a bit less), and he knows how to tell a story with action: After the opening tease, he makes the Budapest heist light-hearted until it needs to twist, stages a fun, free-wheeling Japan-set segment where a great big goofy car chase is intercut with an old man played by Yasuaki Kurata having some pretty darn good martial-arts skills, playing it wonderfully straight but still having fun, and then gets grim and focused with the final assault in Montenegro. The staging of all these showcases is slick and exciting, but they build smartly, both within a scene and as the movie goes on, both in scale and complexity, with the emotional stakes clearly highest by the time the team is hunting one of their own.

That's crucial, because this movie and this type of movie are more about camaraderie than mayhem. Hong Kong movies have never been afraid of wearing their hearts on their sleeves this way, and this one checks all the boxes, with multiple montages backed by Canto-pop ballads to highlight the emotion of the moment, flashbacks to formative moments, and scenes where characters slow down to eat, drink, or take in a festival with each other. It's frequently served up with a bit of corn, and while the writers are often clever - there is something subtly telling about the final act taking place on an island that was once a community but is now only home to one self-exiled man - they maybe gloss too quickly over some parts of the plot. Lulu being kidnapped and held hostage is inevitable, but maybe you want to show the villain actually crossing that line.

Though the story can be fuzzy and clouded with macho silliness, the cast certainly knows what to do with it. The film is built around Lion as the hero, and Ekin Cheng plays the part well; he's got the right kind of rakish confidence in the opener but also feels right as the guy who has been civilized by the love of a good woman. He's actually more a stable center than the guy who drives the audience's reaction; that job falls to the two guys at opposite ends of the emotional spectrum: Jordan Chan plays Crater as intense but not overly righteous, while Michael Tse's Bill initially seems laid-back and coolly amoral, but hits an interesting balance between raving and having the self-awareness to recognize what he's become without having to deliver a soliloquy about it. Eric Tsang, Charmaine Sheh, and Zhang Yamei give the main cast good foils to work with, but it's the way in which the team (including Chin and Jerry Lamb) seems at ease with each other that makes everything work. All part of the Young and Dangerous series of movies back in the late 1990s, they still seem like natural co-stars who know how to bring out the best in each other without overdoing it. This could be a movie with a lot of shouting, but instead one gets the sense that they feel conflicted, torn, and regretful, with even the fury at one brother's betrayal played cool, somewhere between understanding and anger.

Fans of the "Young and Dangerous" movies may get a kick out of this reunion, although I'm not sure how many of them there are in the U.S. (those movies are very difficult to find in legitimate fashion right now); most are probably older or expatriates of some sort. Those fans are probably why is getting a limited theatrical release here rather than going straight to video, so, thanks. It's a fun (if messy) action movie that requires no prior fandom, knows its job, and gets it done with some style.

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originally posted: 10/01/18 04:30:39
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Directed by
  Kar Lok Chin

Written by
  Kin-Lok Kwok
  Erica Li

  Michael Tse
  Jerry Lamb
  Eric Tsang
  Jordan Chan
  Ekin Cheng
  Kar Lok Chin

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