blogging by Andrew Wickliffe

Invincible Enforcer (1979, Cheng Gang)

A scene from INVINCIBLE ENFORCER, directed by Cheng Gang for Shaw Brothers.

Even with rats doing cute tricks–and maybe because of it–Invincible Enforcer is an unwatchable piece of… of something. I’m not even sure the correct noun. It’s my first or second attempt at a Shaw Brothers production and what’s really amazing about it is the editing. It’s got all the fast edits of a modern Hollywood crap-fest, except the director only has three kinds of shots–besides inserts, which I’ll get to in a second. Either Cheng pans and zooms, zooms and pans, or pans and zooms and pans again. Unless he’s doing some of those inserts, which don’t have the actors in the same position or expression. In fact, there’s one where the actor has grown a beard during a scene. I thought I was wrong, until he grew a five o’clock shadow in a subsequent one.

The music is intense and expressive and goofy, much like the writing. Oddly, for a movie featuring a super-intelligent Disney rat–smart enough to grab on to the bottom of a bucket when the villain is on to him–the subject matter isn’t at all funny. Invincible Enforcer is about prison abuses. The main character, played by Tony Liu (in an exceptionally indistinct performance, he practically fades into the background), is the only innocent man in a prison of scoundrels. He’s up against the cell block boss and a corrupt guard and every inmate, the only person on his side is the pretty young probation officer. The acting is uniformly awful, but not just because of the bad actors–the filmmakers seem to have casted for caricature.

The only possibly interesting element is the inclusion of foreign nationals as being complicit with the human rights violations going on in the prisons. I can understand the white dude–I mean, Hong Kong was a British protectorate and all–but the Sikh? Even the film’s attempt at being gritty–goofy, over-produced gross out violence (and not even bloody violence, just lots of spitting up)–is an abject misfire. All I could think, as the film started and I watched somewhat incredulous at the ardent incompetence in filmmaking–it’s like a live action “Looney Tunes”–was I understand why people rallied around John Woo back in the late 1980s. If these films were the examples of Hong Kong cinema, Woo would be some kind of an improvement.

As for the cute scenes with the rats… yep, the rats are cute, but… come on. A serious drama about prison abuses (the movie cops out, blaming it all on one guard–who was a collaborator with the Japanese during World War II no less) with a Disney rat. If the movie had any credibility at that point (it didn’t), it wouldn’t just be shot… it’d be flushed away.*

* That one was too much, wasn’t it?



Directed by Cheng Gang; written by Hsin Han Pai; director of photography, Peter Ao; edited by Chiang Hsing-lung and Fang Pao Hua; music by Eddie Wang; produced by Mona Fong; released by Shaw Brothers.

Starring Tony Liu (Jiang Chai), Fanny Fen-ni (Probation Officer Lin), Wang Lung (Brother Meng Tian Long), Chen Kuan Tai (Min) and Helen Poon (Xia Lin).


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