There are a lot of differences between a Heist film and a Caper film. A Caper film concerns itself with looking “cool” as its protagonists steal from or break into high-tech security systems, buildings, etc. using gadgets that won’t be invented for another 50 years or so. Heist films are more low-tech and down-to-Earth in its thievery. Sometimes the heists are elaborately plotted and staged, but never out of the realm of reason; when a Heist film’s “ultimate job” is pulled off, we don’t shake our heads and go, “That’s impossible”, but rather, “Hey, why didn’t I think of that?” Caper films, on the other hand, doesn’t concern itself with plausibility, and instead goes for the “Wow” factor with its many high-tech gimmicks, gadgets, and inventions.
Wilson Yip’s Skyline Cruisers is a Caper film that concerns a foursome who specializes in high-tech capers that involves — what else? — high-tech facilities. The team is led by the stoic Mac (Leon Lai), who is still pining over the love of his life who died during one of the team’s capers 3 years earlier. Mac’s present team consists of Bird (Jordan Chan), the team’s gadget man; Sam (Sam Lee), the team’s all-purpose man; and Michelle (Michelle Saram), the team’s, well, girl. When the foursome are hired to steal a cancer drug from a mad scientist type who had stolen the drug away from its rightful owner, Mac readily accepts, hoping to do good for once in his life. Things get complicated when it turns out there is a second group — and eventually a third — also plotting to get their hands on the cancer drug. Just who is stealing from whom here?
Skyline Cruisers is directed by Wilson Yip (2002), and the film is essentially a rehash of the Mission Impossible franchise and a dozen other Caper films of the past decade. As a result there’s nothing here that hasn’t been done, and done a dozen times better. As odd as it may seem, despite the movie’s many inventions and stunts, there isn’t all that much excitement going on. The movie features hand-to-hand combat as well as gunplay, but like Yip’s 2002, everything is so elaborately staged and executed for the “cool” effect that they seem too obviously fake and unreal. Stated another way: I was not convinced. Besides that, the film is sorely lacking in humor — both the usual Hong Kong “awkward humor” kind and the “Hey, it’s really funny!” variety.
Like a lot of recent Hong Kong movies, Skyline Cruisers features a group of familiar faces as well as pop singers in starring roles. Leon Lai takes over the lead in this one, and along for the ride is Jordan Chan (Young and Dangerous 6), who looks like a more focused and less insane version of Sam Lee (Gen-X Cops). Qi Shu shows up as June, a member of a second group of thieves bent on stealing the cancer drug. Shu was excruciatingly annoying in Young and Dangerous 6, but for whatever reason she is light years better in this one.
As all Caper films are want to do, Skyline Cruisers has a series of double-crosses that gets to be a little ridiculous after a while. The quest for the cancer drug takes a back seat to elaborate caper sequences that involves everything from fake contact lens to thermal tunnels to backpacks that turns into skateboards and parachutes and a variety of other things. Despite all that, I couldn’t shake this indifferent feeling as I watched the movie play out. Everything is geared for the Mission Impossible crowd, but I just couldn’t bring myself to become interested. The movie is borderline, lost somewhere between dull and okay, which is rather hard to accomplish when there’s plenty of gears and high-tech gadgets flying around. And I’m a man who likes his gears and high-tech gadgets in my movies, so there you have it.
Sam Lee and Michelle Saram proves once again that Hong Kong filmmakers just don’t like to bother with creating fictional names for their characters, and Jordan Chan shows what Sam Lee could be if he toned down the “goofball” persona just a little bit. Leon Lai is appropriately somber through much of the film, and Qi Shu didn’t make me conjure up images of nails going down a blackboard.
So why didn’t I like Skyline Cruisers more? It’s hard to put into words, but I suppose the most accurate description of my feelings toward the film can best be summed up with the word: “Blah.”
Chi Ying Chan (director)
CAST: Leon Lai …. Mac
Jordan Chan …. Bird
Qi Shu …. June
Sam Lee …. Sam
Michelle Saram …. Michelle