Naturally, I loved it.
The film is so desperate to be a Woo picture that it's set in Hong Kong itself, and some scenes are even shot there. That's right, Albert Pyun--one of the worst cheapo directors working today--was so determined to make his own version of A Better Tomorrow that he actually got some poor production company to fund location shooting in Hong Kong. Well, exteriors at least. Every time we go inside a building, you can bet we're now in the Philippines, because there it's much cheaper to hire guys to clutch their chests and fall over.
The film opens on a tuxedo-clad T-1000 in a godawful hairdo on the eve of Hong Kong's handover to the fuckin' ugly reds while vaguely "Chinese" music plays. I assumed he was in the tux because it's the night before the handover, but nobody else is dressed up, so I think he's dressed like that just because it looks cool. He's also wearing a duster, since, you know, Chow Yun-fat wore a duster when he shot up the gangsters in A Better Tomorrow. He takes a boat to a Hong Kong restaurant I've been to, though when I had dinner there, I don't recall there being a topless hottie gyrating just inside the front door. That's probably because, as noted, he didn't actually go into the restaurant, instead magically teleporting inside a completely different building somewhere in the Philippines.
The T-1000 acquires his target, a military honcho in full uniform(!), and draws his pistol on the naked gyrating lady(?). She rather graciously moves out of his way so he can shoot the honcho. Good thing she didn't panic and freeze so that he couldn't get a clear shot! He takes out the honcho's two bodyguards (I guess?) in slow-mo with exaggerated blood bursts, and man, Hard Boiled this ain't. He then draws a bead on the honcho's blond female companion, and...leaves. Okay, so he doesn't want to shoot her because she isn't armed? Or because he knows her? Or he doesn't shoot ladies? Or...what? Later dialogue will establish he's a super bad-ass assassin who kills strictly for money and has no compassion. So why didn't he cap the bitch, especially since she was the only one in the place who unquestionably got a clear look at his face? I'm absolutely sure this was unintentional on Pyun's part, but it really comes across as he doesn't want to shoot a fellow member of the Master Race.
Back in Hong Kong, the T-1000 "exits" the restaurant, again making it perfectly clear that what we just saw didn't actually take place therein. (We can see through its windows that the dominant color inside the restaurant is red, while the previous scene was conspicuously blue/green.) He jumps into a boat piloted by (we'll soon see) his lover, and they speed away. Then we see a guy in an office somewhere speaking German while a reporter from Blank Gray Wall News tells us about the murder in the most stilted and robotic fashion possible.
Cut to our second set of breasts in 90 seconds. Being a shitty B movie before the widespread availability of Internet pornography, there's a lot of tits in Hong Kong 97, which is just about the only aspect of the movie not cribbed from John Woo. The T-1000 is railing his girlfriend, who I have to say is a good bit hotter than Ming Na, though I may be a bit biased since the actress playing her is pretty enthusiastic in her simulated sex with the humanoid robot Robert Patrick. (Ha! It is a funny, because Robert Patrick was the T-1000 in Terminator 2!) Anyway, I guess Patrick's a-murderin' got their juices flowing, eh? Eh? Now, Ming Na hasn't appeared yet, but she's 3rd-billed in this stinker and the only actress in the opening credits I've heard of, so she will be Patrick's love interest. That's just how these things work.
Girlfriend notices a group of ninjas(!) about to attack them, so we get another slow-mo John Woo ripoff shoot-out. And this time, yes, Patrick has two guns, though he can't fly through the air since the set isn't big enough and we might see the little Patrick.
So for those keeping track, in less than 3 minutes, we've already had two naked Asian ladies and two John Faux gun battles. (Yes, the ninjas have guns, though they apparently skipped the part where they learned to aim them.) You can't say Pyun didn't give his audience what they wanted. If only his audience wanted a good movie.
The shoot-out ends when Girlfriend kills the last ninja to enter the room, whereupon both she and Patrick seem to realize the scene is over and walk over to the broken window the ninjas came through (by a total coincidence giving us another look at their bare asses). Hey guys, how do you know there aren't more ninjas coming? Do ninjas always travel in groups of six, so you knew once you got all six, the scene was over? And really, having just been shot at by assassins, should you be parading around naked in front of a window? Having successfully fought off this *cough* deadly attack, the happy couple exchange some truly inspired terrible dialogue.
He: "Are you alright?"
She: "Yeah. But should [sic] get out of here, dis greatly [sic]."
"I'm sorry, I really wasn't expecting any of this."(!)
"Yeah, is it not strange for such a swift attempt at retribution?"
Well, I don't know, your murder was reported on Blank Gray Wall News before you even got home, so this retribution doesn't seem particularly swift for this universe.
Cut to the Hong Kong Club. (You know the one.) Inside is....oh lord. It's Brion James, doing a fucking terrible English accent. Now as anyone who's read my Blade Runner review knows, I love me some Brion James, but a posh Englishman? No. James is a heavy, and he's very good at it. He's not an upper-crust British gentleman. Even his accent agrees with me, since it occasionally abandons him. The German guy from earlier is also there, and apparently these three are former super-spies who are now super assassins. We know this because they openly discuss Patrick's recent murder in the locker room of the tennis club. Okay, I'm being unfair. Any time they notice someone nearby, they look at him suspiciously and stop talking, only resuming their fervent whispering once the person has gotten at least 3 feet away. Clearly these guys are pros.
A fourth man is also there, played by the Dollman himself, Tim Thomerson(!!), who is friends with James and Patrick (but not German guy, I guess, since Herr Walk-on disappears from the movie at the end of this scene). Despite his close friendship with the two, Thomerson apparently doesn't know they're professional assassins. Cut to the three men in the sauna talking about meaningless bullshit. Why is this scene in the movie? I'll give you three guesses, but here's a hint: Each of our three zeroes is supplied with a naked Asian lady to massage him.
The three then go to visit their friend? associate? business partner? acupuncturist? Whatever. They go visit Wong (how original), rolling up to the gate of his home in an SUV. Workmen outside the gate do workmen stuff in a way that absolutely doesn't look suspicious at all and I'm sure is perfectly legitimate and not going to lead to another shitty action sequence. The gate doesn't open, so Patrick gets out and shouts, "Wong! Wong" at the gate. Still no answer. All three guys clamber out of the SUV and discuss how weird it is that Wong doesn't answer. Patrick catches up to the audience (in this case, me) and realizes an ambush is imminent, so he opens the back of the SUV and starts handing everybody guns. Yes, including Thomerson, the guy who isn't an assassin and has never held a gun in his life. Once the three men are well armed (Patrick himself sports an Uzi), the workmen then reveal that, ah-ha! They're bad guys. Shootout ensues. I have to say, it was awfully nice of the bad guys to let Patrick finish distributing the guns right in front of them before they struck. Because otherwise it would've been really unfair.
Long story short (too late!), Patrick has to go on the run, so James takes him to the one place the bad guys--well, the badder guys, I guess--won't look for him: his old fiance's house. Yeah, they'll never suspect a guy on the run might turn to his Ex-Girlfriend Who Still Obviously (and I mean obviously--we're talking Ming Na here) Carries a Torch for Him. She isn't home when he breaks into her apartment, so when she comes home, she immediately starts kicking his ass. Ha! But the joke is, she didn't mistake him for a burglar but knew it was him all along and is kicking his ass because she's mad at him for leaving her. Har fucking har. Okay, she hasn't actually said any of that yet, so I might end up with a lot of egg on my face when I continue the movie...oh, I'm right. Get me a hotline, baby, I'm psychic! They angst a bit about their past relationship, during which Ming Na's quaint old Chinese granddad, sporting his best Charlie Chan "Oh, so solly" phoney-baloney accent, lets us know that he's totally okay with her boyfriend being an assassin-for-hire, because he treats her well.
It turns out granddad is an enemy of the Communists, so he and Ming Na are making sure to get out before the handover. After some endlessly tedious dialogue that I'll spare you, she asks Patrick to come with. He notes that "the tanks roll in a midnight", but she retorts that it's only 8:00, so he has plenty of time before their flight out of Hong Kong "in a few hours"(!!!). Uh, last time I checked, a few is "three or four", meaning she can't possibly mean a flight leaving earlier than 11:00. That's cutting it just a bit close, don't you think?
Shots ring out, to which Ming Na doesn't react so Patrick can tackle her to the floor. Gun drawn, he--um, genius, the slide's locked. That means no bang-bang. (This guy's a pro?) False alarm, though. It's just two revelers on the street randomly firing pistols in the air. Where do these guys think they are? Detroit?
Patrick goes...somewhere, and there's moar tits (come on, now) and another shootout. A white hitman puts a pistol to Patrick's head and says there's a huge bounty on him. Then he lets him go because of the professional code of the assassin(!). Okay, whatever, dude. I guess "paid assassin" doesn't mean what I thought it meant. Again, it really just comes across as white people, who in this movie mow down Asian guys by the dozen, not wanting to kill each other. Patrick gets picked up by his buddies while Thomerson bitches about not being told that Patrick was a hitman. James finally shuts him up by revealing Patrick's Secret Pain while Patrick meanders around outside the car, getting back in at the precise moment James finishes the story. It's almost as if he read the script and knew when James would finish talking. James speculates on how the bad guys found out about Patrick, since he'd never left a trail before. Patrick gets indignant. "I didn't leave a trail this time."
Didn't leave a trail this time, you say? Now, I've only seen the movie once, so I might be wrong here, but I do believe he left something of a clue this time. What was it? Give me a second here to remember.....Oh, yeah. It was the blond woman you left alive after she got a clear look at your face, you asshat!
It turns out Patrick has agreed to run away with Ming Na and granddad. Um, what about the girl you were railing like 24 hours ago? The one who piloted your escape boat and saved your ass from the ninjas when you ran out of bullets? Nevermind that, we've got another shitty action sequence to get to. Cut to the three boarding the plane. Since the movie's only half over, we know he's not getting on that plane. Hmm, let's see...Thomerson and James are also there, and Thomerson can't fight, and this is a John Woo rip-off, so...can anyone not see where this is going? Do I need to draw a diagram for you?
Suddenly, just when we most expect it, the bad guys attack! Patrick, being the pro, immediately leads Ming Na and granddad away from the plane and over to James's car. Um, you were standing right outside the door of a fucking plane. Just get on the plane and leave, you asshole. Thomerson grabs two pistols and runs towards them. Gee, I hope the elderly untrained bureaucrat won't--oh, there he goes. Pathos, etc.
Moar bad guys attack as they flee to a boat. Girlfriend stays behind to cover their escape, because she "has another way out of the city". Oh noez, I really and truly hope she doesn't die tragically saving the others--oh, she does. Pathos, etc.
In an interlude, Ming Na asks Patrick to tell her about Girlfriend. Oh, you mean the one you just stole him away from? The one who just died to save your candy ass? You want him to tell you about her, as if you give a shit? Because you will end up with Patrick when this piece of shit is over, never mind that this woman who meant so much to him (he gets all emotional talking about her--well, as emotional as Robert Patrick can manage) just got kacked like an hour ago. The Plot-o-Matic 3000 will have it no other way.
Out for blood, Patrick and James go to take down the bad guys once and for all. (James got a hacker to figure out who they were earlier in the picture.) Ming Na is also there, even though she's also completely untrained. Blah blah shooting, blood bursts, Filipino guys clutching their chests and falling over, the blonde woman from the opening sequence appears.....and is immediately gunned down by Patrick. Pyun gives us a flashback we don't need so we'll remember who blondie is, a flashback that is longer than she's onscreen before Patrick kacks her. Well, that was some payoff.
But, there's a traitor! Can you guess who it is? Seriously, I want you to guess. Ha! You'll never get it. It's the German guy who had like four lines and disappeared 3 minutes into the--oh, you guessed that. Oh. Ohh. Ohhhhhhh--
This prompts James to turn on Patrick as well. I would like you to know that I totally believed this and in no way expected that James was faking and was in fact getting Herr Traitor to lower his guard so he and Patrick could shoot everybody. So I was completely stunned when that's exactly what happened, let me tell you.
The film ends with everybody shot in the arm. Seriously, Patrick, James, and Ming Na all take gunshots to the arm. Then they ride off into the sunrise on the boat, as Patrick and Ming Na kiss. Aw, they've reconciled, what must be hours after Girlfriend rather conveniently sacrificed herself for their True Love. Excuse me, I think I'm getting a bit misty....
Is Hong Kong 97 terrible? Well, I already said it's directed by Albert Pyun, so we know the answer to that question. But if you're like me--and God help you if you are--and love bottomlessly awful John Woo ripoffs, you'll enjoy. I give it the Official Carl Eusebius Shit Seal of Approval.