Director Gao Qunshu follows up his breakout hit The Message with the action-packed martial arts western Wind Blast. Wind Blast was, for me, one of the more intelligent Asian films of 2010. The narrative does requires you to think and keep alert. While the action guarantees that you do. The desert environment adds a western feel and the sand storm winds of the title paint a monochromatic almost alien backdrop to this Coen brother influenced film. I can see where those more comfortable with a straight forward linear narrative would have problems with this film. I am sorry others didn’t get what this film offers but I did. It challenged me, entertained me and left me feeling rewarded for the time spent watching it. I enjoyed letting this movie and its narrative, slowly open my mind to its characters situations and the morale questions they raise. The acting was very good and succeeded in making the characters become important to me.
Four proficient detectives are assigned to track down a murder suspect who has fled the city with his girlfriend. The trail leads them to a desert where they soon find themselves in hot water as the suspect has hired two top drawer professional assassins with far deadlier skills than their own. But the real sparks come from Francis Ng and Yu Nan as the bounty hunters. Yu Nan takes a very thinly written role and makes it a force to be reckoned with her almost reptilian menace offset by a sullen demeanor. The film makes excellent use of the rugged and spectacular rocky desert scenery. However, the best scene is a nighttime attack on the hero’s camp, which uses the dark, the open space, a torch and a nifty gun that shoots metal arrows to create a scene that is tense, breathless and kicks off a whole host of relentless action. Good Chinese action and high octane modern western with expertly staged chases, shootouts, and fights. Environments are nice with lots of rocky hills, sand, and even snow. Pacing is about as blistering fast as humanly imaginable, with the entire film basically consisting of one gigantic action sequence. Characters are thin, but this is a rip-roaring shoot ’em up with tons of quality action to enjoy.
Not that Gao Qunshu is trying, but Wind Blast certainly isn’t Chungking Express, as this film is an exercise in action choreography, and as the film is a western movie homage it seems more concerned with replacing horses with cars, the Grand Canyon with the Gobi desert and John Wayne with Francis Ng than with telling a story. The climax takes place at a provincial police station with a stampede of horses and a snowstorm. It is all very choatic and we do lose a bit of steam as far as caring about the actual characters. Then again, that would be like caring abotu character progression in a film like The Expendables 2. The plot is reduced to resolving in an exhausting struggle against hunting prey, without any additional frills or special processing. The highlight is a brute confrontation of the counterparties, contract killers and Supercops, some in a dump truck, the rest distributed among horses and SUVs. Indiana Jones meets Mad Max.
Should you watch this film? Hell yeah! Wind Blast definitely has its moments. But while Wind Blast’s direction and performances are up to par, the film is badly let down by Gao’s script. The action is just so overwhelming there isn’t much else to compete with. Making a mockery of any suspension of disbelief, Wind Blast continues its unstoppable run in the territories of accumulation hyperbolic and surreal, so brazenly iconoclastic playing with stereotypes of westerns. Would Gao would have been better off spending more time on making his narrative coherent? Sure, but action is the name of the game here and we’re so used to seeing Chinese action thrillers set among the teeming skyscrapers of Hong Kong that it was refreshing to see a new setting. This film is definitely a winner and can now be picked up thanks to Well Go USA. Recommeded.