Jan 20, 2014

[Movies] Switch (2013)

The Hong Kong film industry is a factory that spews out movie after movie after movie. There will be the great ones, the good ones and the inevitably bad ones. And I honestly thought that this might be a good one when I loaded it into the plane's in-flight entertainment options, but sadly I was mistaken.

Andy Lau has made over a hundred movie over the course of his lengthy career and he's quite the superstar in this market. And to be fair, he does have some pretty great movies ranging from intense dramas to quirky comedies. I honestly enjoy watching his movies when I get the chance, and thus my optimism when it came to this particular movie.

But in the end it was a rather confused mess - a spy thriller of sorts that contained dated elements from 1960's movies of the same genre. And this wasn't some brilliant homage or something - it was just a tired and rather disappointing experience overall.

Synopsis: Switch is a 2013 Chinese-Hong Kong action movie written and directed by Jay Sun. To be fair, the movie's star Andy Lay has gone on record to say that the movie had a bad script and he apologized to his fans because of the production. How often do you see an actor do something like that?

Secret Agent X, otherwise known as Xiao Jinhan (Andy Lau) has been tasked to locate the missing half of the Yuan Dynasty era painting "Dwelling in the Fushun Mountains". The two parts of the painting are supposed to be brought together in a join exhibition between mainland China and Taiwan and thus getting the painting back as some significant political importance. While on the trail of blond Yakuza Yamamoto (Tong Dawei), Xiao encounters Lisa (Lin Chiling), a woman who has harbored feelings for X for some time now. She's somehow an agent in her own right but she's accidentally killed by Xiao due to one of Yamamoto's ploys.

Xiao survives that first encounter with Yamamoto, much to the relief of his wife Lin Yuyan (Zhang Jingchu). Lin is actually a security advisor for the joint police task force overseeing the security of the other half of the painting. When she learns of another ploy by Yamamoto to deal with Xiao once and for all, she goes in his place in order to protect him. At the same time, Xiao is surprised to see Lisa is somehow alive and well.

When I talk about the elements of 1960's spy movies present in this one, there are so many examples that I can cite. There's the fact that the movie repeatedly takes place in Yamamoto's lair for one reason or another, but he's never arrested throughout the whole ordeal. There's Yamamoto's weird harem of rollerskating femme fatales, each with a unique yet somewhat ridiculous weapon. X himself is a walking stereotype - the globe-trotting secret agent who is a blatant womanizer and yet hasn't been abandoned by his wife.

And the plot is a disjointed mess that jumps from scene to scene. One moment we're watching a demonstration of the high tech microwave firewall around the painting. The next moment we're back in the villain's lair. Oh wait, now we're in Dubai. Seriously, there are so many moments during this movie that has me asking how the heck the story got to this point. And then it happens again and again and again.

The Yamamoto character is a strange caricature with a bit of an Oedipus complex going on. And yes,we have to watch his bizarre sex practices with flashbacks to his rather traumatic past. It's a side plot that we didn't really need to get into and yet it's part of the movie's greater narrative somehow.

Andy Lau is Andy Lau. He certainly comes off as pretty classy despite his womanizing and he has the usual amount of interesting action sequences here and there. His various scenes are set against pretty amazing back drops from the ridiculous lair of Yamamoto to some of the more iconic locations in Dubai. But hey, that's the life of a super secret agent, although you never fully understand what agency he's supposedly working for.

Switch is a rather confused mess with a ridiculous "switch operation" mechanic at the heart of its little heist operation. But hey, it made for a less boring flight from Manila to Singapore so I guess I can't rage on it all that much. As it stands, the movie can only really get 1.5 last-minute saves out of a possible 5. I can only imagine how strange this movie was in full 3D.

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