Downtown Torpedoes by Teddy Chan (Review)

The sort of disposable cheese that gives disposable, cheesy films a good name.
Downtown Torpedoes - Teddy Chan

Do you hear that? That’s the sound of me enjoying a well-done piece of cinematic fluff as only Hong Kong can produce. This was just the sort of movie I needed to see after a somewhat arduous week of work, migraines, and other pressures. It’s the sort of disposable cheese that gives disposable, cheesy films a good name, the kind where you don’t have to worry about getting in over your head but rather, can just sit back and relish with a big grin.

Jackal (Takeshi Kaneshiro) and Cash (Jordan Chan) work for Available Tactical Mercenaries (ATM), a group of the world’s top industrial spies. With a mixture of James Bond-esque gadgets, Mission Impossible theme music, and dubious computer hacking skills, they’ve just finished their latest job and are ready to kick back in style. Unfortunately, their nights of zipping around Hong Kong in their silver sports cars and talking on their cellphones quickly come to an end when Hong Kong’s Secret Service (a.k.a. “The G-Team”) brings them in.

Stanley, who runs the G-Team, lays it out. British Intelligence has recently acquired a set of plates used to print money from Iranian counterfeiters. Fearing that the plates will be used to flood Hong Kong’s economy with fake money, the G-Team wants Tango, err, Jackal and Cash to break into British Intelligence’s headquarters and steal the plates. However, they won’t be doing it alone. The G-Team (I love saying that) has also brought in Titan, ATM’s tough mechanic, and Sam, their mysterious operations manager who (surprise!) turns out to be a gorgeous woman fond of wearing midriffs. And as added incentive, Stanley has frozen all of their bank accounts and threatens to throw the book at their nefarious deeds.

Grudgingly, our little band agrees (not like they had a choice, right?) and starts scoping out British Intelligence. But not before they recruit the 5th member of their team, a mute hacker named Phoenix who likes to break into NASA’s GPS system so she can track birds (only in Hong Kong movies, my friends). The team makes short work of British Intelligence’s fortress-like headquarters, stealing the plates and setting off the most Rube Goldberg-esque chase sequence I’ve seen in a long time, involving dirtbikes, speedboats, hang gliders, jetskis, and scuba gear.

Now, if you’re even a halfway attentive viewer, you know there’s a double-cross just waiting to happen. Stanley gives our team the slip and a bomb, which has the unfortunate side effect of killing off the cute, tomboy-ish Phoenix. Cash, who was a sort of father figure to Phoenix, swears vengeance, while Sam looks cute in her midriff and Jackal throws out bewildered looks as only Kaneshiro can.

Before you can say “suspension of disbelief,” our foursome soon find themselves in a complex web of lies and deceit. Well, it’s not so much complex as it is convenient. Could the skin cell they find in Stanley’s empty apartment possibly be his, or could it be part of some elaborate plastic surgery? Only one way to find out! Break out the portable mass spectrometer and analyze the DNA! Could the URL they find in a hitman’s jacket possibly provide clues as to Stanley’s whereabouts, and could those clues possibly be hidden in the Internet crossword puzzle they solve in 30 seconds? Thankfully, our team is capable of making even the farthest leaps in logic, pulling the right answers out of thin air almost instantly. And when that doesn’t work, the plot helps them out, giving them a break right when they need it.

Now, I realize it might seem like I’m being hard on this movie, but I really do mean it all in good fun. After all, I spent most of this movie chuckling and have a great time. Downtown Torpedoes is not a movie to take seriously, no matter how straight the actors try to play it. Actually, I’m glad that the actors played it straight, rather than yuck it up onscreen. The fact that they take it so seriously lets the viewer off the hook, meaning you don’t have to take it seriously one bit.

I’m not surprised that people like Teddy Chan and Jingle Ma were involved in this movie. Teddy Chan also directed Jackie Chan’s The Accidental Spy and Downtown Torpedoes has a similar vibe with its numerous locales and slick, commercial look. Jingle Ma wrote and directed Tokyo Raiders, which might just be Downtown Torpedoes’ fraternal twin. Both movies have the exact same look and feel, from the multitude of gadgets to the attractive cast (though in the end, Tokyo Raiders is the flashier and more polished of the two).

I’ve always been a fan of Takeshi Kaneshiro, who I first saw in Wong Kar-Wai’s movies playing some sort of quirky, lovelorn loner. However, here he does the action thing pretty well and still manages to look handsome and sensitive. I’d actually forgotten he was in this movie, so it was a pleasant surprise to see him pop up onscreen. Jordan Chan plays off of Kaneshiro pretty well as the loud, rambunctious Cash, making their partnership a pretty easy thing to buy.

As far as the other cast members go, they’re pretty generic. Then again, nothing in their roles requires any sort of stretch. Charlie Yeung (Sam) only has to look good in a midriff (which she does quite well), Ken Wong (Titan) just needs to look surly (and take the occasional swig from his flask), and Teresa Lee (Phoenix) just needs to look cute as a button to get our sympathy.

When you break Downtown Torpedoes down to its individual parts, it’s nothing special. But when you put them all together, throw in a decent budget, the obligatory fight scenes (which featured some of HK cinema’s first CGI usage), and a portable mass spectrometer or two, it makes for a pretty enjoyable, if lightweight movie. And that’s all I really wanted.