China Heat gives us Girls with Guns, lots of people getting shot, kung fu battles, and an big injection of 80s-90s American cop movie, complete with the cop who doesn’t play by the rules. There are a lot of Western actors in this movie, but they don’t really ruin the movie, the ones depicted as smart let the women take the lead, while the ones depicted as dumb try to get in their way or are working for the other side. It all results in a weird hybrid movie, but also gives China Heat a nice, unique flavor that doesn’t get in the way of the action enjoyment.
Madam Wu (Sibelle Hu Hui-Chung) is a tough as nails leader of an anti-drug task force that not only engages in major firefights across Asia, but she pilots a fighter jet between countries (!!!) Someone got permission to shoot on an airbase in Asia and took full advantage of the situation! Her squad is massive, which is good because so are the resources available to the drug cartels and smugglers they are chasing. Madam Wu’s biggest assistants are Mandy, Yolanda, and Geoffrey. They are after a squad of drug smugglers lead by Henry Hung, Henry has the amazing powers to be able to escape from gigantic shootouts as the only person from his side left alive. He uses one of those escapes to go to America, where the local mob bosses praise him and give him a special mob ring right before the police arrest him.
Madam Wu sends Mandy, Yolanda, and Geoffrey to go escort him for extradition, and the American police Chief assigns the cop who doesn’t play by the rules named Michael to help guard the prisoner. We all know Henry is going to escape, lots of people are going to get shot, Madam Wu is going to have to arrive to help sort things out, and Michael is going to get thrown off the case. The joy isn’t in the story, but in the action sequences. There are large shootouts, long fight sequences in an airliner, warehouses, construction zones, and a giant shipping crane over the water. The villains even stoop to sending a squad of guys in dresses to attack the women in the ladies restroom! China Heat is not afraid to have obvious dummies with exploding heads used in some of the fight scenes, and I salute them for it.
The ladies all put in good shows, Yolanda is the tough girl cop while Mandy is the more dutiful cop (Geoffrey is the cannon fodder, lol!) At this point Sibelle Hu was either in demand enough or expensive enough that they built a lot of the final showdown without her, then have her swoop in and do cleanup against the goons who were too tough to be taken down by the other main characters. This is noticeably weird because they all arrive together and then she vanishes. I do wonder how the press would have reacted if in the early 90s a bunch of Chinese cops gunned down dozens of criminals in America. At one point in the fight scenes Micheal fights a David Caruso looking dude and gives the goon the “come here” taunt while doing kung fu stuff, but using his middle finger to do it. Hilarious and predates The Matrix popularizing stance taunts.
The version I watched had most of the scenes with Western actors filmed with them obviously speaking English that was then dubbed into Chinese. This means we lose some of the effectiveness of scenes like the Chief yelling at Michael every time he screws up, and also suspend disbelief enough to pretend that it is normal for everyone in America to speak Chinese all the time. I’m also betting some of the Western actors aren’t that up to par so we also miss out on that. Hopefully there is a full mixed language version floating around. During the whole film the score from Arnold Schwarzenegger’s The Running Man is constantly playing, along with at least one other theme I didn’t catch. As an astute watcher of films with hijacked soundtracks, I highly doubt Harold Faltermeyer got paychecks for this one!
China Heat is a pretty good low budget actioner that has plenty of girls with guns scenes and the American cop movie that collides into it gives it a unique flavor that broadens the appeal among action movie fans. It’s interesting and certainly fulfilling for those who love these genres, but isn’t going to convert people to the cause.
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