Having made a name for himself as a prolific action filmmaker while attending Shih Hsin University, filmmaker Hung Tzu-Hsuan is finally making way with his feature debut, The Scoundrels, drawing a cast of award-winning talents to lead the charge.
Liao Wen-Jui (JC Lin) was once a star basketball player whose prospects and career promise are all but lost after getting physical with a fan. A few years later, life hasn’t really improved for Wen-jui given his teetering relationship with physiologist, Shin-jie (Nana Lee), and toiling away as a parking fee collector.
Vying for some extra cash, his secret employment with a gang behind a notorious crime spree involving the use of GPS gadgets to track and steal cars is whole ‘nother bag of worms. For this, the last thing he needs is to be held at gunpoint for no reason, which is exactly what happens after discovering a pool of blood next to a car from a woman inside lying unconcious.
What ensues for Liao is a desperate game of survival at the behest of his armed captor holding a miscellaneous bag of cash, “Biao”, after seeing the unconcious woman off to an ambulance pick-up while in hiding. The stakes raise even higher for Liao when “Biao” initiates a violent escape from a checkpoint with Liao’s face visible on camera.
To make matters worse, Liao finds himself further entangled when the cops, and the news media, proclaim him as a key suspect in the wake of a violent armored truck robbery. With Liao reluctantly in tow, Biao’s efforts to launder the money with help from Liao’s boss, Hsiao-hei (Frederick Lee), turn sour before a violent scuffle ensues.
Liao briefly manages to escape in a desperate attempt to clear his name, only to be pursued by overzealous cops eager for their next collar. With no choice but to reconvene with Biao, the two decide to plot another intricate heist/laundering scheme with Hsiao-hei, unraveling an imbroglio that sparks kidnapping, murder, and a last ditch effort for Liao to do, in essence, “get ahead of the game” before it’s too late.
That particular point in the story inducts Liao’s own “moment-of-truth”, highlit in the film’s opening prelude with a sequence involving a beaten and battered Liao falling from a second story window onto the roof of a car; the narration that follows serves as the hook for Liao’s development in the story opposite “Biao”, employing introspective questions and reflections on a society that judges you by your tainted past.
It draws some interesting moments between actors Lin and Wu in their portrayals of polar opposites – one influencing the other in the process. Shih Ming-Shuai adds a needed bit to the balance in the role of Tzu-Jie who, unlike his more impulsive partner, Chen Mu, played by Jack Kao.
Hung crafts an impressive debut in the action department with The Scoundrels, enjoined with stunt coordinator Scott Hung. The action is a more bent on the use of heymakers and kitchen sink maneuvers along with some hand-to-hand peppered throughout, and the appearance of Hsiao-hei’s unnamed bodyguard in black taking the mantle of full-fledged ass-kickery opposite our stars.
The action is competently shot and edited in large part with at least a few stunt sequences sitting you right in the middle of the action thanks to some nifty and creative cinematography. One scene in particular involves a security camera which is pretty cool for the moment it’s used in; it’s a method of first-person filming that doesn’t always work with every production.
With director Hung emerging, you get a worthwhile outing in The Scoundrels that counts as an amply entertaining and often thrilling piece of work out of Taiwan. The key art is a nice little embodiment of what to expect, but I recommend giving it a watch if you’re keen.