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Purple Storm (1999)
Director: Teddy Chen

review by Ian Shutter

First class production values, comparable to the best that many a Hollywood thriller has to offer, raise expectations for this hi-tech actioner, made in Hong Kong and backed by Jackie Chan. It features Joan Chen among a cast of relative unknowns.
   Ostensibly, the plot is about a stolen bio-weapon, conflict between the terrorist cell responsible for its theft and the top-flight crime-fighters out to catch them... But there's a predictability to the human story of an amnesiac killer brainwashed into spying for the authorities, while political messages espoused by a Cambodian revolutionary gang leader (who's still fiercely loyal to Pol Pot), and the numerous flashbacks to life in Khmer Rouge are inserted into the patched together narrative with little regard for their effect on pace or dramatic tension.
   Still, there's plenty to enjoy here if you liked such US films as The Groundstar Conspiracy and The Rock, as the killers strike directly at the HQ of Hong Kong's Anti-Terrorist Force, the central character struggles with his doubts, fears, and conscience while slowly regaining his memory, identity and purpose, and there's a battle of wills and wits that develops between heavily armed cop teams and the highly trained kung fu villains. One dynamic shootout at the docks is absolutely terrific, being staged with the sort of vigour and ingenuity usually reserved for John Woo and Ringo Lam movies.
   Overall, then, Purple Storm is worth catching if you enjoy Hong Kong styled thrillers.
   DVD extras: restored and digitally re-mastered anamorphic Special Collector's edition, AC3 5.1 sound, choice of subtitled (English, Dutch) or dubbed (English) versions, a making-of featurette (19 minutes, partly subtitled). There's an interview with leading lady Josie Ho (14 minutes), but it suffers from poor sound recording and the distraction of irritating background music. The packaging says there's an "animated biography showcase" but this appears to be incorrect. You do get two trailers and a music promo, scene selection in 30 chapters, audio commentary by genre expert Bey Logan and Daniel Wu (the film's star), plus info and trailers for five other HK Legends titles.
previously published online, VideoVista #27
Purple Storm

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