When you see Jet Li on the cover of a Blu-ray these days, don’t let it fool you into thinking he’s the star. As is the case in the new action-comedy Badges of Fury, he may be playing one of the main characters, but he’s never given much to do. And unfortunately, first-time director Wong Tsz Ming relies too much on CGI-laden wirework when Li and the rest of the cast are more than capable of fight scenes far better than what we’re given here. The trailers also never give any indication that the film’s tone is more like Stephen Chow-lite, making Badges of Fury heavy on the comedy, including lots of camera mugging, slapstick, and cartoon sound effects. Not the first thing one expects when they pop in a new Jet Li film.
Li plays second fiddle as Huang Fei Hong to Wen Zhang’s Wang Bu Er, both detectives on the Hong Kong police force. A series of deaths called the “smile murders” puts them on the case hunting down a serial killer. Angela (Michelle Chen) is their superior who wants the murderer found, leading them to Liu Jin Shui (Liu Shishi), who was engaged to all of the men before they died. Turns out, all of the men signed her over as their insurance beneficiary before being killed; policies pushed upon them by Liu’s sister Dai Yiyi (Ada Liu). Now, Wang and Huang must track down the real killer before a few more of Liu’s love interests bite the bullet.
As with all Well Go USA titles, Badges of Fury kicks its way onto Blu-ray on a 25GB disc. The expected transfer shines through with the film presented in its 2.39:1 aspect ratio. Detail is high and colors are natural. No noise is found with blacks nice and inky, never giving way to crush either. The faintest aliasing could be seen in very few and quick instances, something only a reviewer would ever notice. All things said, it’s another top-notch transfer. The audio is lively and active as well, something to be expected in an action movie. The Mandarin 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio delivers all the dialogue cleanly, never drowning it out when the surrounds kick in with music and sound effects. An English dub track is also available in 5.1 DTS-HD, with optional English, Spanish, and French subtitles.
The special features are sparse with a “Making Of” consisting of behind the scenes footage and on set antics. The featurette is broken up into four parts: “The Guys,” “The Girls,” “Wen Zhang Action Film,” and “Funny Stuff.” They play as one feature if you select “Making Of.” A 13-minute “Behind the Scenes” is more of the same. Cast and crew talk about how much fun they’re having; something that could have been used to make the film more infectious to viewers. A trailer rounds things out.
The film flies fast and furious with zany antics, including referencing Infernal Affairs, and a group of Men in Black-types discuss a case of Jet Li film piracy before saying that Huang looks awfully familiar. The cast is game for the jokes, it’s just too bad director Wong doesn’t have the hilarious eye Stephen Chow has to nail a joke. It’s even more upsetting how much wirework is used considering the cast. Even Collin Chou is wasted in what winds up being a single scene cameo. Relying on cartoonish effects both visually and audibly, Wong drowns the viewer in a wacky hodgepodge that’s never as funny as it thinks it is. The whole endeavor just made me want to pop in the classic Kung Fu Hustle instead. However, as silly as it all is, at least you’re never bored. A rental isn’t discouraged, but purchase at your own risk. Check your expectations at the door and remember that Badges of Fury is a wacky comedy, not a brutal fight-to-the-finish.