Time really changes things. When Red Wolf first came out in 1995, it was pretty wince inducing. Action maestro Yuen Woo Ping had just come off some of his best films, Iron Monkey, Wing Chun and Tai Chi Master, and in comparison Red Wolf seemed like a pretty cheap throwaway film. Now, with the HK action film industry so slick and glossy, Red Wolf stands as a last breath of the HK martial arts b-film. No CGI, no real story, just pure unadulterated cheap thrills.
Essentially Red Wolf takes its cues from Under Seige, which took from Die Hard, making it sort of a rip-off of a rip-off. Needless to say, its hostage crisis on a luxury liner with a sole hero on the run from the robbers doesn't exactly open itself up to originality, but it is an unapologetic action film.
Alan (Kenny Ho- Project A Part 2) is a former cop now working with his brother as the chief of security on a cruise liner. He has his hands full when the worst thing to hit an ocean liner since Kathie Lee or the intestinal flu rears its ugly head, that is, a bunch of robbers who want to steal uranium that is on board.- That is right, uranium... on a cruise ship. Time to say, " Damn you logic! Get out of my brain and let me enjoy a senseless action movie!"- Two members of the crew are part of the terrorist thieves, the first mate (Collin Chou) and a vicious bad girl lounge singer (Elaine Lui- The Bride with White Hair). Alan finds himself pretty much on his own, though he does get help from a plucky pickpocket, Linda (Christy Chung- Tai Chi 2, Conman in Tokyo).
It is a pretty witless man-in-peril exercise. They don't quite get the same milage out of the ship as they did with the office building in Die Hard. They do try with some sequences in the ships gym and a memorable scene where Alan gets locked in the ships freezer and must McGuyver his way out. The plot is threadbare and has that HK action lunacy where it strains for seriousness with the longue singer harassing a couple on their anniversary, eventually giving the man a heart attack. Yet, later, in the lounge singers face off with Linda, the scene is played for all its comic goofiness. So, it goes form all tension and terror one moment, then the tone is completely forgotten and replaced with some of the most obvious comic mugging since the silent era.
As I said, this film is very beneath Yuen Woo Ping, but it isn't like HK directors won't slum every now and then. Hell, Tiger on Beat was beneath Liu Chia Liang, but it was still a serviceable action/comedy. So, although the premise is ridiculous, and Kenny Ho is a wooden lead, and it is cheap, there is still a certain charm in Red Wolf's mediocrity. In this age of so many HK action flicks aiming so high to be precise and utterly cool looking, Red Wolf actually pleases because it aims so low and accurately hits its mark.
The DVD: Media Blasters... This appears to be an import of the UK Hong Kong Legends transfer. Pic/audio/and extras look to be the same.
Picture: Anamorphic Widescreen. Well, not every film can look that great. I mean, I'm not saying Red Wolf couldn't look better, but with this kind of low budget action flick, you also cannot expect miracles. So, its low budget is achingly apparent in every single frame. First and foremost is in the grain. This print is swimming in grain. There are some short shots, probably second unit stuff, that really looks worse for wear, again, probably due to the low budget. Contrast and color details are also pretty washed out, but fans of this kind of film probably won't begrudge it very much for its less than stellar presentation.
Sound: 5.1 English dub, or 5.1 or 2.0 Cantonese language tracks. Optional English subtitles. Really, I don't have to get too technical. The single fragment I wrote in my notes regarding the sound is, "dress on a pig is still a pig." Pretty plain and simple. Though it may look more attractive on the back of a DVD cover, when you've got a rough sound source, like, say, a HK b-film with largely overdubbed voices, shrill sound fx, and synthetic action score, you can do all the remastering you want, it's still going to be pretty weak. It's the nature of the beast, you waste your time trying to tame it.
Extras: Main disc- Trailers for various Media Blasters releases.— Audio Commentary by writer Bey Logan and Red Wolf star Christy Chung. Well, Logan can talk a blue streak all by himself (which is good for commentary) but pair him up with someone else and you can be sure that there won't be many quiet spots. The two are very casual, poking good natured fun at the film, occasionally going off topic, but at least it is light and fun. — Disc Two extras include- Stuntman/actor Interview with Bobby Samuel (14:22). Notable as one of the only black men working in the HK stunt industry, Samuel is a recognizable face for HK fans. Here, he tells his interesting background story of getting into the biz as well as the near tragic turn of events when he decided to leave and return to the states.— Ngai Sing Stunt Class featurette (37:55). Just as it says, video footage of a stunt workshop with the performer, teaching a class on the ins and outs of HK film stunt work. It is long and a bit of a yawn but insightful for stunt fanatics. — Trailers for Red Wolf— Photo gallery, includes lots of model shots of Elaine Lui.
Conclusion: We're not talking great art here. We're not even talking great action film. But, if you are looking for the cheap, the more classic styled b-picture, before all the polished techno scored action spectacles that dominate cinema these days, Red Wolf delivers. The DVD presentation is fair enough image and soundwise and definitely gives the film far more than it deserves in terms of extras. Therefore I'll give a very "rental" film a "recommended."