FOX HUNTING (aka THE FOX) (2020) review

65274e84e5ca770369252b6186c192a21341564.png@464w_644h_1e_1cAdapted from a series of novels by Wang Jianxing, and originally set to be Vincent Zhao’s directing debut – he would have played the lead as well – with Yu Nan as the female co-lead and Sammo Hung in charge of the action, Fox Hunting was then somewhat downgraded, amid rumors of shady practices by its financiers: TV veteran Sun Shupei (of Zhao Wei’s immensely popular nineties TV series Princess Pearl) stepped in as both director and action director, Huang Shengyi replaced Yu Nan (who retreated to a small cameo), and TV mainstay Xu Jia took the lead. Much ado about nothing: Fox Hunting is a mediocre little actioner; shot in Thailand and unfolding mostly in an embassy office, a police station, a warehouse, and some nondescript patches of countryside and industrial zones, it is the equivalent of a lower-tier Philip Ko film of the early nineties, with a bit more budget but much less reckless action.

There’s a ‘girls-with-guns’ vibe that’s not unpleasant: it’s not difficult to imagine Cynthia Khan in Huang Shengyi’s steely madam role, Zina Blahusova plays a blonde henchwoman that would have been earmarked for Sophia Crawford thirty years ago, and Yu Nan’s insignificant yet classy cameo could have gone to Carrie Ng – not to mention Lindsay Xie’s secondary policewoman is a Fujimi Nadeki kind of role. Yet in the end, this simile only serves to underline how limp Fox Hunting‘s execution is, compared to what it would have been in the heyday of this subgenre.

The generic plot follows a police officer (Xu Jia) wrongly accused of being an accomplice in the kidnapping for ransom by a terrorist group of the daughter of a wealthy businessman (Waise Lee). He’s hunted by the police and none other than his ex (Huang Shengyi), who also happens to be the kidnapped girl’s bodyguard, and can only rely on his superior officer (Eric Tsang), who believes he is innocent. All this unfolds with no surprises and at a plodding pace; action scenes are either repetitive shootouts full of glaringly fake-looking CGI explosions, or close combat edited to shreds (apart maybe from a final fight between Xu Jia and the villain). Xu Jia is sturdy but lacks star presence, and the underrated Huang Shengyi deserves much better, though old pros Eric Tsang and Waise Lee bring a bit of gravitas with minimal effort. A sequel is confidently set up, though the film’s tiny take at the box office makes it seem unlikely.

Long Story Short: A plodding little action thriller, barely enlivened by a solid cast.**

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