How great of a film is DIE HARD? DIE HARD left such an indelible mark in cinema that movie producers all over the world have been rehashing its film premise ever since. MELTDOWN (aka SHU DAN LONG WEI, aka HIGH RISK), released in 1995, is only one film of many which blatantly [...] Bruce Willis's action opus. On its own merit, MELTDOWN isn't bad but isn't near the top of Jet Li's best flicks in terms of acting, storyline, or kung fu throwdowns. What it's got going for it is its infusion of mayhem and graphic violence, so if you're into that (and what dude isn't?), then it's good times for the viewer.
The far-fetched plot: A deadly early encounter with a terrorist mastermind simply known as the Doctor leaves military Lieutenant Kit Li (Jet Li) a widowed man feeling guilt and in search of revenge. Two years later, Li is now toiling away as a bodyguard to crass, world-renowned kung fu movie star Frankie Lone (Jackie Cheung), who much like Jackie Chan, insists on performing his own stunts. But, unbeknownst to the public, Li actually also serves as Frankie's stunt double on occasions when Frankie has had his drink on. Frankie used to be a heralded martial artist but has "forgotten" the wushu way and is now basically a craven womanizer.
When the posh Grandeur Hotel hosts an invaluable set of Russian jewels, it becomes the point of convergence for Kit, Frankie, and the Doctor and his gang of terrorists. Kit, at last, has a chance to atone for his blunder two years ago. Can he find a way to overcome the mastermind's cunning and ruthlessness? And can Frankie find his long-missing kung fu? Will the plucky girl reporter find love with Kit? Will the dubious film director be defenestrated? Can Jackie Chan forgive MELTDOWN for making a caricature of his persona?
I don't recall the ratio but it seems to me that Jet Li wields a gun here more than he resorts to chop socky. The action sequences are still dang tootin' nifty, but I guess the producers really were going for that DIE HARD sensibility, ergo more firearms. Jet Li remains a very likable persona and his performance is pretty good here as he plays up the stoic, heroic role. As for Jackie Cheung - you either like his performance or you want to slap him silly. I got very annoyed with his incessant mugging and I personally didn't think he was funny, but I know friends who did. His character was meant to be a spoof of Jackie Chan and Bruce Lee, but I didn't much care for it.
Too, the editing staff should've been canned for the inconsistencies left in. There's a scene in which Frankie uses a shoe as a decoy, but the very next moment reveals Frankie shod on both feet. How Kit and the cop got the car out of the elevator to pull out a surprise on the terrorists is a mystery to me. There are several "people" falling out of the skyscraper who are too obviously fake dummies. See what I mean?
Now, I saw MELTDOWN on dvd, dubbed in typically over-the-top English. I just wished I'd screened it in the original Chinese or Cantonese. As I've said elsewhere, more often than not, foreign movies lose something in translation. There's a chance Cheung wouldn't be as grating if he was presented in his native lingo. But, overall, despite its annoyances, MELTDOWN is worth watching for its crazy stunts and fierce violence. And for Jet Li, of course.