THE CHINESE SOLDIERS (2019) short review

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Whatever happened to Huang Yi? Not so long ago, she was well on her way to the A-list, with classy supporting roles in upscale productions like Alan Mak and Felix Chong’s Overheard 2 and 3, Derek Chiu’s The Road Less Traveled and Johnnie To’s Romancing in Thin Air and Drug War, not to mention a very promising lead in Herman Yau’s The Woman Knight of Mirror Lake. Now here she is, headlining one of the many straight-to-VOD knock-offs of Operation Mekong and Operation Red Sea, that have been flooding Chinese streaming services for a few years. Xu Mingwen’s The Chinese Soldiers follows Shengnan (Huang Yi), an officer of the Border Defense Corps, who loses part of her leg in an explosion during a hostage situation. Now fitted with a prosthetic leg and back to civilian life, she starts working as a head of security for a Taiwanese contractor (Wong Yat Fei) in Thailand, and soon runs afoul of gun traffickers. The Chinese Soldiers bounces around genres: a drama about disabled soldiers, a silly Wong Yat Fei comedy, a piece of clenched-jaw propaganda (the sentence “Mao Zedong and Xi Jinping, they’re the nicest people in the world” is uttered in all seriousness), and an action thriller (a la Mekong, which a final infiltration and eradication scene that’s of course a very pale copy of that film’s finale). It does none of these genres well, and it’s a sad sight seeing Huang Yi stranded in such mediocrity. Gweilo actor Karl Eiselen, however, amuses to no end with one of the most head-scratching and tone-deaf portrayals of a white devil in a while. *