[box cover]

Meltdown

There's a long-standing debate between those who prefer their foreign films dubbed ("I don't like reading films") and subtitling aficionados ("I want to hear the original soundtrack"), but the main problem with dubbing is that the dialogue tries match the characters' speaking patterns, which adds strange, nonsensical pauses (not mentioning the bad acting of said vocal "talent"). Somehow though — through years of conditioning — American audiences have come to expect and love this incongruity from kung fu films. And if you like bad kung fu dubbing, you'll appreciate Meltdown, the Americanized release of High Risk (1995) starring Jet Li and co-directed by Wong Jing and Corey Yuen. The movie, an acknowledged riff on Die Hard, has Jet Li playing Kit Li, the bodyguard for Jackie (Jackie Cheung), a famous actor known for doing his own stunts, but who is more interested in drinking and women than living up to his reputation (and yes, it is meant to be a Jackie Chan dig). Kit, of course, has a complicated past as his wife was killed by a terrorist known only as "The Doctor," and when Jackie is invited to the opening of a jewel exhibit in a high-rise building, both are put in the thick of it by The Doctor (Kelvin Wong), who has come to steal the jewels. Like a lot of Hong Kong knock-offs, Meltdown's story is familiar, and we would be better served by watching the original. But if our awareness of Die Hard has made watching such films too laborious, then this effort is a reasonable variation, with the addition of several chop-sockey set-pieces more than making up for a cheap budget. Director Wong Jing is the Hong Kong Renny Harlin — he specializes in large and unsubtle filmmaking that is hopelessly shallow (the comedy is here very broad) but still entertaining, as he keeps the movie at an agreeable length (100 minutes) and allows Li to show off his awe-inspiring skill. Unfortunately, the dubbing is atrocious — one might find it better to listen to the French track with the English subtitles on, as it only makes the film seem more "foreign" with its stilted, over-caffineated deliveries. Jet Li's dubbing-double speaks strangely and haltingly on this track, making Li sound like Jean Claude Van Damme (which might be postmodern irony, but still sounds shitty). The soundtrack has been recast with rap music and a techno score, which is not as bad as the dubbing, but only by degrees. Meltdown represents a regrettable step backwards for Columbia TriStar, who have released the Once Upon a Time in China series on DVD with the original tracks, but in this instance it may have something to do with the subtitled release of this film still being widely available in America under its original title. Though the picture and sound quality (anamorphic 1.85:1, Dolby Digital 5.1 or Dolby 2.0 Surround) on Meltdown may be superior to Tai Seng's DVD edition of High Risk, the film has enough merits to be recommendable. Trailer gallery, still gallery with trivia. Keep-case.
—DSH



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