Heat Team (2004) Movie Review

You certainly wouldn’t mistake Dante Lam’s “Heat Team” to be anything of substance. It’s basically too much style-over-everything, with a number of choice scenes just screaming, “Pay attention, this is a real cool camera shot here!” As a result, you’ll never take “Heat Team” seriously, especially in light of the very lightweight script everyone’s working from.

“Heat Team” is a Buddy Cop Movie in the vein of, well, all Buddy Cop Movies since the dawn of cinema. Meaning, of course, that when straight-laced cop YT (Aaron Kwok) meets loose cannon KC (Eason Chan) they immediately develop a dislike for one another. But by a quirk of Movie Coincidence, they also happen to be the two best cops on the force, thus they’re assigned to work together on a big case. And, as you might have already guessed, by movie’s end the two have developed enough trust and admiration for one another that they’re willing to trust each other with their lives, et cetera.

Folks, it’s a simple Buddy Cop Movie. It follows all the standard formulas. And it also leads me to my favorite line when critiquing formulaic films like this: “It is what it is.”

Directed by Dante Lam, a man who has had, to put it mildly, a rather strange career filled with highs (“Beast Cops” and “Option Zero”) and lows (“The Twins Effect”), “Heat Team” would probably fit somewhere between “Twins” for its inability to be more than cheap flash and “Zero” based on the strength of one — count’em, one — action sequence. This action sequence comes near the beginning, with KC and YT converging on an (apparently) abandoned strip of freeway where they engage in a firefight with heavily armed jewel thieves. The rest of the film has gunfights, but they’re of much smaller scale than the freeway scene. Also, the ending is strangely anti-climactic and uninteresting.

“Heat Team” works best when its script is pulling out unsuspecting gags out of its bag. One of the film’s more successful jokes involve Aaron Kwok’s hardboiled cop, who is revealed to be painfully clueless around women. His ex-girlfriend keeps coming back to him so he can call up her recent lover and threaten him with police violence because he (the lover) was mean to her. And later, a female thief gets in some choice shots at our hero, drawing at least one pint of blood when all is said and done. Romeo this guy ain’t.

On the flip side is Eason Chan, a womanizing playboy who women nevertheless finds inexplicably irresistible. While Chan himself is not the most handsome man in the world, as he confides to YT, it’s his lips that draw the chicks in. Heck, even men can’t resist his lips! Predictably, when the boys are forced to work under the authority of a third top cop played by Yumiko Cheng, one of them ends up in a love-hate relationship with her. Not that it really matters, because like the jewel thieves, Cheng’s character seems to show up whenever the script loses interest in YT and KC’s confrontations.

Speaking of which, “Heat Team” executes its police angle quite poorly, which may be the result of three-fourths of the film being spent on something other than the jewel thief case. Needless to say, important plot points sort of just shows up whenever something needs to happen. This is doubly irritating because the jewel thief’s female accomplice figures very prominently into the storyline toward the end. And again, it’s all so poorly carried out that it makes you wonder why they bothered putting it into the script in the first place. How bad is it? I couldn’t even tell you the female accomplice’s name.

“Heat Team” works mostly as a comedy because things never devolve into a series of bathroom humor slapstick. For the most part the comedy seems mature, at least by Hong Kong comedy standards. As an action film, the freeway scene is probably the movie’s only successful action sequence, with the rest being either mediocre or just too impossibly silly to count. In any case, director Dante Lam seems more concern with getting in as many creative camera shots as possible. He certainly achieves that, if not much else.

When all is said and done, I suppose “Heat Team” is a breezy enough way to lose 95 minutes of free time. It’s not the worst of the bunch, but you can’t help but think that it could have been much better if the comedy was jettisoned completely and the whole thing was played with a straight face. Dante Lam is no Johnnie To, of course, but there seems to be an inkling of a serious, gritty crime film in “Heat Team” that was never taken, well, seriously.

Dante Lam (director)
CAST: Aaron Kwok …. Y.T. Lee
Eason Chan …. K.C. Wong
Yumiko Cheng …. Bobo
Dave Wong …. Ken Ma
Danny Lee …. Cheung

Buy Heat Team on DVD