Purple Storm

Dir: Teddy Chan
Starring: Daniel Wu, Kwok-Leung Gan, Emil Chau, Josie Ho

Here's a Hong Kong movie with 'Hollywood remake in waiting' written large across it, a tense and pacey thriller with a neat Total Recall riff. Todd (Wu, of Gen-X Cops) is the son of Soong (Gan), a ruthless Khmer Rouge terrorist fighting the cause across Southeast Asia. In a gun battle to capture the secret cargo of a Korean ship, Todd takes a head wound that gives him amnesia and falls into the hands of the Hong Kong anti-terrorist force, lead by Ma Li (Chau). Unable to drag any secrets out of him, Li enlists the help of psychologist Shirley Kwan (a good role for Joan Chen) to help him remember. But Li's on borrowed time, because Soong is preparing to create a 'purple storm' with the Korean cargo, a container of deadly poison. Li decides to use Todd as an agent of his own, and with Kwan's help he convinces the former terrorist that the memory he has lost was as an undercover operative working for the good guys. When Todd is returned to the terrorist fold, his life starts to unravel as his 'new' identity begins to conflict with his old memories; soon he's falling apart and Soong's plan is drawing ever closer to fruition.

Director Chan (The Accidental Spy, Downtown Torpedoes) has a steady hand for action and character moments, letting Gan eat up his screen time as the insanely focussed Soong; in fact all the cast put in some good performances, but it is Wu the film orbits around, in the struggle with his uniquely split personality. There's a nice statement about the nature of a terrorist's beliefs when Todd confesses that he can't remember the cause he's fighting for as Soong makes his dark plans for some undefined 'revolution'. By the finale, it's the hope of Todd's last chance at redemption that carries the movie into the closing credits with verve and elan.

Jim Swallow


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