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Rescue, The
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by Jay Seaver

"Does entertaining bombast, but there's a lot of it."
3 stars

Dante Lam Chiu-Yin's latest patriotic blockbuster has everything it needs to be a crowd pleaser and then some, the "then some" coming from a tendency to pile things on a little too high when there's already plenty for the audience to worry about. It's one of those action movies that puts just enough fairly predictable material between spectacles to get by but can escape feeling completely rote thanks to its star's charisma.

It follows a unit of the Chinese Coast Guard based in Xiamen and co-captained by Gao Qian (Eddie Peng Yu-Yen), the "winchman" who is lowered into danger via helicopter, and kicks off with the evacuation of an offshore oil rig in danger of collapse after a fire, hairy enough that one helicopter pilot is injured and the other loses his nerve. Fang Yuling (Xin Zhilei) and Liu Bun (Mario Li Mingcheng) are assigned to replace them, and while she's as good as anyone in the service, she's naturally a bit more conservative than Gao, leading to a little friction between her, Gao, and winchmen Zhao Cheng (Wang Yang-Lin) & Bai Yang (Xu Yang). She's also pretty, and Gao's five-year-old son Congcong (Zhang Jingyi) thinks it's about time the widower found him a new mother.

Lam and the other producers seemed to have had box-office ambitions even beyond being one of the big releases for the Lunar New Year holidays in 2020 - an English-dubbed trailer played American theaters in the weeks leading up to its intended release, and not only do the big set-pieces have a lot of English, but the film goes easy on the flag-waving and nationalism in ways that Lam's last two most certainly did not. It's not likely the film would have had that sort of crossover success before 2020 went haywire, but it's polished, the themes have broad appeal, and the Xiamen location looks good on screen; it's the sort of thing I can see recommending to people who are going to find any opportunity to dismiss a foreign film as weird or a Chinese film as hostile.

And it's enjoyable if not exactly deep. Eddie Peng is a pretty easygoing center of the film, making Gao Qian believably cocky on the job but a big dork around his son, playing his bond with his team as tight but not exclusionary. He and Xin Zhilei play off each other as colleagues and possibly friends well, although the script never bothers to find any reason for them to be paired romantically other than being the male and female leads. The rest of the cast is fine, good enough to pass the time between adventures with, whether it's Wang Yang-Lin as Gao Qian's younger and brasher partner or Lyric Lan Ying-Ying as his finacée, or Zhang Jingyi as the maybe-just-slightly-too-cute kid. It's not his fault that the film puts Congcong in the middle of a late subplot that stretches the film too far because it means cutting away from the big tanker fire that's already got two or three threads going (but I guess a Chinese movie needs Gao Qian to serve the people even when he's got personal concerns).

There's not much arguing with the search-and-rescue action, at least. Thus must be a heck of a thing to see with every bell and whistle a theater can throw at it from the exciting opening gambit to a plane-crash centerpiece that would probably be the grand finale of other movies. Lam is credited with action choreography as well as "regular" direction, and it lets him combine the large-scale set pieces with the up-close-and-personal very well even though that can often seem like the work of two completely different filmmakers cut together (and often is). He's got a good enough handle on how this all fits together than even the sequences where the CGI budget being stretched work better than they look.

It is, at times, a bit too much movie for how simple it is at heart, especially when it gets to the end and it's hard not to feel like there's been too much too often. Nevertheless, when Lam just gets down to delivering the thrills promised, "The Rescue" is a blast and goes down a lot easier than the more militaristic adventures.

link directly to this review at https://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=34078&reviewer=371
originally posted: 02/10/21 14:41:06
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USA
  18-Dec-2020 (R)

UK
  N/A (15)

Australia
  18-Dec-2020 (MA)


Directed by
  Dante Lam

Written by
  Maria Wong
  Tan Yuli
  Yaqing Zhi

Cast
  Eddie Peng
  Zhilei Xin
  Yanlin Wang
  Zhang Jingyi
  Lyric Lan



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