China Strike Force

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Review by Morbus Iff

Imagine you’re a famous actor named Matt. You’ve played your Toms, your Harrys, your Dicks, and occasionally you’ve even played a Matt too. But since Matt is such a common name, no film-goer breaks out of their reverie to say “Oh, man, that’s his actual name!” when another character says it. Now imagine you’re rapper Coolio, playing alongside actors whose English is probably not their first language. You’re a drug dealer bringing the ‘hood to a drug-free Chinese town schemed over by father-defying Mark Dacascos. You kill henchmen for the fun of it. Your character’s name? Coolio. This... is China Strike Force, a typical action movie that delivers one helluva finale.

Using Coolio’s “real name” is a hilarious choice: during scenes in which all seriousness abounds, hearing “Maybe Lau’s friend Coolio doesn’t understand the Chinese?” or “Coolio! How about a drink before you go?” sent us into uncontrolled giggles. Alternatively, maybe that’s what Rumble in the Bronx director Stanley Tong intended, as there’s a number of other verbal and visual gags throughout the plot-filled but event-less middle.

The endcaps, as in most action movies, are where the big thrills lie. For China Strike Force, it’s mostly Jackie Chan-style fast fighting with your requisite flourishes (impromptu props, sleeves ripping off, partner-based super-moves, etc.), some decent moving vehicle stunts, and a chase scene between a Lamborghini and an F1 racer. Incidentally, I note “death by blunt force trauma” but what I really mean is “Death by being slammed into an ancient Chinese temple while on top of a Lakers-colored Rolls Royce being carried around by a helicopter.”

The finale earns the film additional stars. Coolio and the male lead (Aaron Kwok) are suspended hundreds of stories in the air on a teetering glass platform about 10 feet by 20 feet. The camera zooms around and over them, showing no apparent safety nets. Every move sends the platform tilting in one direction, causing frantic hands-on-glass sounds as they’re sent sprawling precariously over the edge. Down falls the female lead, now three on the glass, fighting space at a premium, metal whining, always tilting, always scrambling. I believed this scene, and it only became more amazing when I remembered that Coolio (Coolio!) was front-and-center fighting for his life too.

One of my tougher criteria for whether a movie is “good” or not is if I’d happily watch it again, and China Strike Force falls into that category. The ending is so strong that it rewards the wait, overriding any of the perceived downtime throughout the rest of the film. Well... ok, that and the scene where a naked Dacascos and Coolio watch Norika Fujiwara striptease and then Dacascos makes a Well-Endowed Black Man joke. ooOOo eEEee, Coolio likes girls indeed.

Death and sleaze index

Death by: 1, 2, 3, 4: gun; 5: spike, neck punctured; 6: gun; 7: sword; 8: spear; 9, 10: gun; 11: blunt force trauma; 12, 13: explosion; 14: fall from great height. Sleaze by: 1: thongs, breasts, see-through; 2: breasts, see-through; 3: striptease (unfulfilled).

Image gallery

Automatically generated and alphabetized; expect disorder, but automation preferred.