Chin Kar-Lok’s Action-Packed Heist Thriller GOLDEN JOB Thrills, Steals Away At Nostalgia And Falls Just Shy Of Enriching
Fans of the Young And Dangerous roster may surely get a kick out of the purposeful reunion now seen in Chin Kar-Lok’s long-awaited return at the helm, Golden Job. It’s very much a heartfelt heist drama from start to finish, peppered with just a few of slight-of-hand whodunit-isms to bookend the essential action sequences that makes films like these so entertaining.
At the crux of it all lies a message about family, brotherhood and the consequences of one’s actions, though its culmination bodes more consequential than one might expect or prefer. Actors Ekin Cheng, Jordan Chan, Michael Tse and Jerry Lamb, all joined by Chin himself, headline in the respective roles of Lion, Crater, Bill, Mouse and Calm – a quintet of mercenaries-for-hire (whose tactical training isn’t exactly made clear as to how it came to be) who find themselves in a bind following a botched rescue assignment. Several years later, we see Lion (Cheng), serving a refugee camp caring for sick children in Africa with girlfriend, Charmaine Sheh’s Dr. Chow.
Upon discovering the medicine to be nearly-expired and with Lion having been reliant on Bill (Tse) for the connection, the two rejoin their crew in Budapest along with a surprise visit from their mentor, Papa (Eric Tsang), for a plan to hijack a truckload of meds. The mission suddenly turns on its head as the truck itself is revealed to be full of millions of dollars in gold bricks, proceded by a bullet-ridden two-way double-cross and leaving Lion to foot the bill after a riproaring car chase and spending five years in the slammer.
Fresh out of jail, the remaining group reconvenes in Japan and in the course of recovering from the long-endured fracturing of the group by one of their own who has taken the gold largely for himself, ultimately land a respite chance to start over. Learning their former brother has arrived for a car show, their attempt to corner their target results in a kidnapping of Papa’s daughter, Lulu (Zhang Yamei), ensuing in even more tragedy, and ultimately, an explosive showdown in Montenegro that pits brothers against brother-turned-traitor and his small fortress army of henchman….and Billy Chow!
Don’t get too hyped over the name as there’s not a whole lot of fight action featuring the legendary villain of such films as Dragons Forever, Dr. Wai And The Scriptures With No Words and Fist Of Legend. That said, there are definitely some gems to look forward to in the action as Chow does get to throw down a little with fellow Fist Of Legend thesp Kurata Yasuaki in a respite and worthy cameo. Chin choreographs and directs the brunt of the action which doles out a great deal of neatly shot bullet-fare with shortwall-scaling and physical movement and stunt work one could harken to Time And Tide to a certain extent, and Chan himself especially shines among our cadre of stars.
Golden Job does get a little distracted a few times and especially when we meet Lion’s girlfriend just after we learn about the catalystic arrival of expired medicine, as the shift in tone from grave to romantic and hopefull almost feels abrupt. Beyond that, Sheh and Yamei do what they can with the script they’re given with the latter boiled down to a the typically jolly and huggy eye candy that everyone treats like a semi-annoying sister as I expected more from a female supporting character playing Tsang’s daughter in this particular film. I guess that’s where Golden Job makes use of its plot to up the stakes. Granted, it works, but it’s also not every creative in terms of storytelling.
The same goes for I’ve kept much of this review vague for anyone reading lest I give essential plot details away, though going into Golden Job in its first act, you can already tell the ruse that’s already in play and it starts to makes sense as the minutes pass. It makes for appealing intrigue in the midst of all the excitement, globetrotting, fast cars and explosive action that deals a good share of the red stuff a time or two.
Dramatically, the film delivers the desired affect through and through befitting the narrative at hand until you’re left daunted by the end after all said and done; Our film’s traitor is largely driven on impulse decisions that directly affect the crew. The final confrontation following earlier, more grim events seems invocative of our protagonists’ intentions to set the record straight as the lines are drawn, only they’re not. By the end, you’re left wondering if the move was more political with respect to industrial motivations or if Chin was just being cheeky to audiences when frankly, the recapitulation of our tale in Golden Job should have felt more concrete and solemn instead of vague and semantical.
On its face, Golden Job is a vibrant piece of work for wistful cinephiles of 90s Hong Kong filmfare with a great cast, and awesome gems therein. The action is as entertaining as you would hope in passing the time, as is the drama in its mostly palpable performances with some truly moving moments that compel and grip you, allowing sympathy to set in for our principal cast.
It does, however, fall short on story elements in terms of expectations and innovation, along with the use of European actors etched in as overwrought, expendable cookie-cutter villains – short, and for that matter, a bit exasperating. The opening and closing theme – performed by our cast, is totally worth listening to if you love good songs and acoustics to go with your star-studded action moviegoing.
Native New Yorker. Lover of all things pizza, chocolate, pets, and good friends. Karaoke hero. Left of center. Survivor. Fond supporter of cult, obscure and independent cinema - especially fond of Asian movies and global action cinema. Author of the bi-weekly Hit List. Founder and editor of Film Combat Syndicate. Still, very much, only human.
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