Besides offering us a chance to see Jet Li pretend he knows how to smoke (which he really doesn’t, natch), “Enforcer” (or “My Father is a Hero”, which is the more appropriate title in my opinion) is a pretty standard Hong Kong action movie. Which is to say its plot is outlandish and has no reason to exist other to string together the film’s main draw, its action set pieces.
“Enforcer” stars Jet Li as a Communist Chinese undercover agent sent to Hong Kong to nab a big time criminal. Unfortunately Li’s Kung has never told his wife and son about his job, and as a result Kung’s (improbably named) 10-year old son Johnny goes to Hong Kong in search of his absent father after the passing of his mother. The untimely death of Li’s wife leaves room for Hong Kong supercop Anna (Anita Mui) to become the official love interest. And oh yes, the big shot criminal mastermind Po Kwong is buying bombs for some nefarious purpose involving yachts, an auction, and exploding bodies.
Immediately, the name Jing Wong in the credits should clue you in that “Enforcer” is an attempt at slapstick by way of action and plot contrivances. The last time Jet Li collaborated with Wong was in the lackluster and too silly for words “High Risk”, a movie that helped me coin the phrase Absurdist Hong Kong Cinema. The subgenre is most notable for its penchant of following a scene of mass slaughter on an epic scale with a scene involving toilet humor. “Enforcer” is marred by similar logic-defying plot points that can only be thought up by a writer uninterested in quality writing.
The above having been said, “Enforcer” is a better than average action picture, mostly due to the presence of young Miu Tse, who plays Johnny, Jet Li’s son. The youngster is a martial arts prodigy and comes dangerously close to topping Li as the film’s real star. Not only does Miu Tse’s character take on kids his size, but he also dares to battle adults 5 times his height and size! This is one tough kid, and “Enforcer” really takes off when the youngster is onscreen and kicking butt.
The rest of “Enforcer” is not worth mentioning. Anita Mui (“Dance of a Dream”) has some action scenes but she is clearly not a martial artist, and it shows. Lead villain Rongguang Yu has gone on to do superior work in the South Korean movie “Musa”, but his role here is a cartoon villain and nothing more. As to Jet Li’s soon-to-be-dead movie wife…well, the less said the better. When it comes to casting side characters with talented thespians, the Hong Kong film industry is, for the most part, just not all that interested.
There is a rather disturbing part of “Enforcer” that needs to be addressed. While 10-year old Miu Tse is considered an equal in martial arts skills, it’s still somewhat unsettling to see grown men beating, kicking, punching, and generally bruising the young boy to within an inch of his life. As a result, Miu Tse’s character is the subject of more than one sequence where an adult character nearly kills the boy. I could have done without them, and their inclusion reeks of exploitation for the sake of melodrama. (Then again, I don’t expect anything less than this type of mindless exploitation from a movie with Jing Wong’s name attached to it.)
“Enforcer” is certainly not the best Jet Li film. That honor belongs to the impressive “Fist of Legend.” “Enforcer” is quite a ways below “Legend”, but a shade better than “High Risk”, which is not saying a lot. Then again, there is the whole “Once Upon a Time in China” series to consider. (I shiver at the thought…)
Corey Yuen (director) / Sandy Shaw, Jing Wong (screenplay)
CAST: Jet Li …. Kung Wei
Anita Mui …. Anna Fong
Miu Tse …. Johnny Kung
Rongguang Yu …. Po Kwong