Gordon Chan’s 2000 A.D. doesn’t represent your average Hong Kong film production. For one, one of its writers is a fellow name Stu Zicherman, a non-Chinese name as you’ll ever find. Zicherman shares screenplay credit with Chan, who adopted Zicherman’s English screenplay into Chinese. Perhaps it’s because of this western influence that 2000 A.D. rarely looks like your standard Hong Kong action film. And maybe it’s because of this influence that 2000 A.D. is such a good film.
The movie’s star is top-billed Aaron Kwok, who plays Peter Li, a 20-something computer programmer who, along with his best friend Benny (Daniel Wu) and Benny’s sister, Janet (Gigi Choi) runs a start-up computer gaming company. The trio has seen little profit and is under the threat of going under when Peter’s brother Greg (Ray Lui) appears out of the blue to bail his little brother out. Greg is an American computer programmer with a secret — although what that secret is isn’t exactly clear. Before anyone knows it, the CIA, the Hong Kong Police, and even a Singapore secret agent have all converged on Hong Kong to find Greg and a computer program that can destroy any computer database on the planet.
2000 A.D. is a slow-mover for its first 30 minutes. The movie is content to provide background information on its characters, thereby ensuring that the audience will care and empathize with its hero and his plight. Trouble rears its ugly head when Greg, while in Hong Kong police custody, is gunned down by a rogue faction of the CIA, led by the manipulative and country-and-western fan Kelvin (Hoi Lin).
Having witnessed the brutal slaughter of his brother and a half dozen Hong Kong cops, Peter is determined to not only clear his brother’s name for the theft of the computer program, but also get the bad guys. Not everything is clear, and Peter doesn’t know whom to trust besides Benny and Janet. Adding to the mix is Salina (Phyllis Quek), Greg’s fianc’e, who is also more than she seems.
The strength of 2000 A.D. is director Gordon Chan’s excellent direction. The movie starts off with a bang — quite literally, as a plane is blown out of the sky — but quickly slows down. Chan’s deliberate direction allows the actors to show some acting chops, and unlike many Hong Kong productions, every actor within 2000 A.D. seems to have adopted Western-style acting — re: no stylized theatrical overacting. The credit for the naturalistic acting goes to Chan, who has shown similar directorial command in past films such as Jet Li’s Fist of Legend and other works.
The script by Zicherman and Chan weaves an elaborate and complicated plot, and until the halfway mark, we, along with Peter and his friends, are completely in the dark as to what the hell is going on and who is on whose side.
Another plus for 2000 A.D. is its many gunfights. As directed by Chan, the gunfights are hellish and bloody and completely realistic. Cars are spider webbed and bullets chop into bodies and it all looks like it hurts — a lot. Chan and his SFX team have created some of the best gunfights I’ve seen in a long time. Machineguns rattle off and bodies fall, windshield glass explodes and cars overturn. It’s all incredibly filmed and choreographed, and you can’t help but be at the edge of your seat during the length of the violence.
Another of 2000 A.D.’s strength is its seriousness. While the whole concept of a computer program that can destroy every computer in the world is ludicrous at best, the movie takes itself and its subject very seriously. This means characters aren’t goofing off and making fart jokes hours after a bloody gunfight where dozens of men are killed. (I make this comment simply because I am still amazed at the complete lack of common sense that permeates many Hong Kong films, especially after my viewing of the ridiculously stupid Gen-Y Cops.)
This isn’t to say 2000 A.D. is a perfect movie. It has its share of flaws, one of which is Gigi Choi as Janet. The actress is the weakest thespian of the group and is the only actor who runs the risk of overacting, but thankfully Chan reins her in before she goes completely over the edge.
So ignore the ridiculous “computer program” plot and enjoy the film for its terrific acting, action scenes, and some of the most hellish gunfights captured on film since Michael Mann’s thriller Heat.
Gordon Chan (director) / Gordon Chan, Stu Zicherman (screenplay)
CAST: Aaron Kwok …. Peter Li
Phyllis Quek …. Salina
James Lye …. Eric Ong
Daniel Wu …. Benny
Gigi Choi …. Janet
Hoi Lin …. Kelvin Wong
Ray Lui …. Greg Li
Francis Ng …. Ronald Ng