Gen-X Cops (1999) Movie Review

At one dangerous point in Benny Chan’s Gen-X Cops, the movie’s 3 protagonists, all undercover cops, find themselves surrounded by men with guns aimed at their heads. One of the cops, thinking fast, grabs the gangsters’ boss who is standing nearby and uses him as a human shield. The cops then proceed to leave the warehouse, but the cop with the hostage doesn’t have his gun aimed at the hostage! Why the criminal’s henchmen, about two dozen of them and all standing just two feet away, doesn’t just start shooting the cops I don’t know. Then again, I don’t know why the characters in Gen-X Cops do any of things that they do.

Gen-X Cops is the original in the “Gen Cops” franchise, which has spawn a sequel called, oddly enough, Gen-Y Cops (I guess the term “Generation X” has lost all meaning in favor of chronological sequelization). As was the case with its sequel (which I saw before the original) the franchise’s main selling point is that 3 undisciplined 20-somethings (Generation X for those of you keeping track of your superfluous generational categories) are turned into undercover cops ala TV’s “21 Jump Street.”

Our heroes, Jack, Match, and Alien, are recruited out of the academy by Inspector Chan, a cop who has less respect in the department than that copying machine that keeps breaking down. The Gen-X cops are assigned to go after a Japanese gangster who has come to Hong Kong and gotten his hands on some rockets and is turning them into powerful bombs, all in the service of revenge for a past deed. Can our corp. of young cops stop the crazed Japanese gangster in time? How many people will die? And just how big of an explosion can Benny Chan give us in the movie’s big finale?

To say that Gen-X Cops is just as ridiculously unsophisticated as its sequel, Gen-Y Cops is like saying Benny Chan is no Steven Spielberg — it goes without saying. The most fascinating thing about Gen-X Cops is trying to see if it’s as bad as its sequel, or if the sequel has somehow gone off the reservation by meandering into the realm of the absurd.

Unfortunately, the original proves to be just as lacking when it comes to brains — which is to say there isn’t anything smart about this franchise to speak off. In a couple of obviously silly scenes, explosives appear with digital clock readouts to mark their point of detonation, but somehow the package that the explosive arrives in, or the warehouse that the explosives are hidden in, always manages to reach the “0:01” time when the package (or the warehouse door) is opened. The one-second time, of course, is just long enough to establish that there’s an explosion counting down and that there’s no time to run. Man, those bad guys sure know how to time their explosives!

Movies like Gen-X Cops require that you unconditionally accept the notion that the Hong Kong police department is so poor in its screening process that it would voluntarily admit 3 undisciplined youngsters like Alien, Match, and Jack to enter its police academy. Even if you could swallow this premise, you wonder how 3 people so lacking in maturity would ever consider becoming police officers in the first place.

To add insult to injury, as if having 3 20-somethings prance around in the name of law enforcement wasn’t bad enough, the adults in the movie acts just as childish and immature — and sometimes even more so — than our Gen-Xers. Inspector Chan constantly butts heads with Superintendent To, and the two men’s rivalry stopped being mildly interesting after the 100th time we’re forced to endure their mindless bickering. The word “redundant” comes to mind. In fact, seeing the two supposedly “grown men” belittle and squabble with each other reminds me of infants fighting for territory in a sandlot at recess. (No wonder the Hong Kong police force thought it was a good idea to hire Match, Alien, and Jack. Look at the “quality” of cops they’ve had before the trio’s arrival!)

Acting in Gen-X Cops belongs in the category of: The less you speak about it, the less it’ll hurt you to remember. So I won’t speak all that much about the acting, only to say that the villains were actually the better actors, since they didn’t annoy me to the nth degree, with lead villain Toru Nakamura (Akatora) showing a larger range of “cool” and thespian ability than our 3 heroes combined. Our heroes, on the other hand, have as much acting talent as the skateboarders on TV who keeps smashing their teeth into staircase guardrails while trying to grind their skateboards. The 3 young men are trying so hard to be “silly” (and in turn, “cool”) that they look completely foolish when they attempt to be “serious.” Even the kids from “21 Jump Street” knew there was a time to be punkish and a time to be cops. These 3 fellows have no idea.

Direction by Benny Chan, who is also the film’s co-writer, is sufficient, although I could have done without the Big Explosion in the film’s finale. The entire sequence smacks of overkill, with its only purpose for existence being so director Chan can say: Golly Gee, look, I blew up a building real good! The movie’s actions are not spectacular, although the final fight between Akatora and the 3 Gen-Xers was the movie’s highlight. Unfortunately there are many moments in Gen-X Cops that showcases Director Chan’s inability to tell a coherent story.

After a string of pratfalls and mugging for the camera, one of the Gen-X cops suddenly stops to query of Akatora, “Doesn’t life mean anything to you?” when the latter is threatening to blow up a building full of people. While the question is relevant, I fail to see how it would have any impact on the proceedings when one of the X-Cops has just gotten his head stuck in an assembly belt a couple of seconds ago.

Perhaps as an indication of just how much I didn’t enjoy Gen-X Cops is this line of dialogue, delivered by Akatora towards the end of the movie that had me rolling with laughter: Confronted by one of the Gen X cops, the villain state matter-of-factly, “You have a big mouth, but a small gun.”

It’s probably the best line in the entire movie, but unfortunately it’s the only good line.

Benny Chan (director) / Benny Chan (screenplay)
CAST: Nicholas Tse …. Jack
Stephen Fung …. Match
Sam Lee …. Alien
Grace Yip …. Y2K
Eric Tsang …. Inspector Chan
Daniel Wu …. Daniel

Buy Gen-X Cops on DVD