Review for Wild Search
To be honest, it was the “loosely based on Witness” that sold me on requesting a check disc for Wild Search. That whole undercover with the Amish thing made for one of the best Harrison Ford movies, and for a compelling story. There’s also the sheer lack of Ringo Lam and Chow Yun-fat movies in my collection; that’s an important part of Hong Kong cinema history that I just haven’t experienced. Hopefully Wild Search is the right place to start.
Meow is a Sergeant in the Hong Kong police, with a tragic past and a drink problem. But he gets the job done, and he’s on the case when he gets word of an arms deal from an informant. The bust goes bad, and in the crossfire, one of the arms dealers is killed, with everyone else escaping. But the dead woman’s infant daughter Ka-ka survived the shootout, and she’s the only one that can identify the other criminals. Meow will have to get close to the little girl’s aunt Cher if he has any chance of cracking the case, but he isn’t expecting to fall in love.
Wild Search gets a 1.85:1 widescreen 1080p transfer, with the choice between PCM 1.0 Mono Cantonese and English, with optional English subtitles. It’s an impressive transfer on this disc, clear and sharp, with nice detail and rich, consistent colour. The cinematography is notable, capturing a 1980s Hong Kong Christmas in vivid detail. The audio is as good as mono gets, with no distortion or dropouts. The ADR’d dialogue is clear, and the action comes across well, although the foley editor needs a talking to. Point blank gunshots shouldn’t ricochet like their bouncing around a canyon in a western. The music too is a little out of place, although given this film’s identity crisis, that shouldn’t be a surprise. The subtitles are accurately timed and are free of typos.
The first run release of Wild Search will also come with a booklet. It runs to 24 pages with a piece on Ringo Lam from writer David West. There are also plenty of stills from the film.
The disc boots to a static menu.
There is an audio commentary on the film from Asian Film Expert Frank Djeng.
Roy Cheung on Fire – Interview with the Actor from 2003, runs to 17:11.
The Doyen of Dubbers – Interview with Voice Over Artist Simon Broad is conducted by Frank Djeng, and plays over the movie for around 70 minutes. It’s internet quality audio, which isn’t always great, but the English voice of Chow Yun-fat among others is clear throughout.
I think I may have enjoyed Wild Search more if I hadn’t read about the loose link to Peter Weir’s Witness. Comparing Witness and Wild Search is like comparing apples to chromebooks. A kid witnesses a crime; the cop has to go to a farming community to pursue the case, but that’s as far as the comparison goes. Wild Search is entertaining, it has a brutal, visceral approach to its action sequences that is really effective, and it has a solid pace to it. But I’m not sure it knows what it wants to be. It’s a crime thriller most certainly, but it can be ridiculously childish at times (no doubt to cater for a three-year-old character, and the romance in the film seems to sit outside of the narrative, rather than be part of it. It’s a thriller, comedy, romance where none of the elements work together all that well, yet it’s still a movie that I would choose to watch.
Ringo Lam creates a world of antiheroes and villains for Wild Search, where the only real innocent is a three-year-old girl. When we meet Sgt Meow, his partner’s getting back from a visit with a prostitute, while he’s pulling from a hip flask. He’s the kind of cop that can drink and drive without any problem (the crashes are all everyone else’s fault). He gets a tip to an arms deal, but the criminals get wind of the raid and are ready. The cops unload through the door and the walls, with no idea of who they are aiming at, and when the dust settles, Ka-ka’s mother lies dead atop her terrified daughter. And we’re supposed to accept that she was killed by her partner, not the thousands of rounds the police sent her way!
This is where Wild Search is coming from, a place of bad writing and juvenile characters, something that would normally be the death knell for a film like this. But the film has a lot of heart, and sympathetic performances from the main cast really helps carry it past its many flaws. They’re looking for the dead woman’s hideouts when they raid the family home, and Meow pulls a gun on her sister, Ka-ka’s aunt Cher. Naturally it’s love at first sight. But Cher has an ex-husband who wants to get back with her, and so a teenage love triangle ensues that culminates in a meat cleaver battle, before the bad guys interrupt. And Ka-ka’s grandfather loathes the little girl, until the switch gets flicked and he starts to adore her instead, again making no sense. I had my head in my hands when they break the news to the little girl that her mother is actually dead, and then tell her to stop crying because it’s annoying.
It’s moments like these that have me thinking unfavourably of the writers of this film. But Wild Search still succeeds on its strengths, the aforementioned actor performances being one of them. The film has energy and pace, and the dynamic between the protagonists and antagonists more than holds the attention. And the action sequences in this film are brutal and visceral. Violence has consequences in this film, and most are the worse for wear when the end credits roll. Wild Search isn’t a great movie, but it is a very watchable one. Eureka Entertainment do their usual stellar job in bringing it to Blu-ray, and it’s well worth a watch, despite all my prior complaints.