Counterattack Review: A Squeaky Rubber Toy Steals The Spotlight In Vincent Zhao’s Risible Rambo-Inspired Nationalist Action Movie

Did they make a comedy by mistake?

Counterattack (NC16)

Starring Vincent Zhao, Isaac Fernandez, Lu Peng, Diego Dati

Directed by Vincent Zhao

There are funny momentous lines. And then there are even funnier momentous lines.

“Son of a b***h, I will find you,” vows Vincent Zhao as Lu Ziming, an elite anti-terrorist expert from China who's dubbed the “Flying Sniper” in this so-nuts-it's-entertaining action flick. Or actually, is this supposed to be a comedy?

Lu is the “Flying Sniper” because in the opening sequence, he swoops down from the sky to unleash hell upon a bunch of ang moh nasties in speedboats at sea while wearing a crazy winged backpack. Kinda like the Falcon from The Avengers but way cheaper looking. Later on in the movie when Lu is fighting numerous baddies, I kept wondering, “Why the heck doesn't this guy use that incredible flying thingy, like, all the time?”

Now, the said line above is momentous because Zhao — aka the chap who replaced Jet Li as Wong Fei Hung in those Once Upon a Time In China movies circa the 1990s — making his directing debut here, speaks it in English.

It’s also very funny because his language coach must have taught him to say that ultimate payback statement as though he’s Rambo. Which is hilarious since this B-flick-going-directly-to-C really looks and feels like Rambo in terms of setting, story, scenes, stern stare and especially the date.

I swear, until I saw drones and night-vision equipment being used here, I actually thought that this movie was made in the 1980s. No kidding. It really looks that old. Like we’re supposed to believe that people still buy the Rambo crap.

Very stoic, very serious Lu is hired to protect a tender award ceremony that’s choosing either a Chinese company or an American one for an oil project in Kunlang in Southeast Asia, a fictitious place which looks a lot like Thailand.

In case you still can’t guess which country plays dirty, you only need to know this — the folks picking up this film’s tab are from China and Vincent Zhao ain't no Tom Cruise. In fact, I believe there’s actually a nodding Huawei reference made here with the virtuous Chinese oil company portrayed as being maligned most unfairly.

To balance out the nationalistic bias in case Joe Biden turns out to be China’s best friend, Lu’s own best pal is his former security-badass comrade, a Chinese-speaking American named Leon Miller (Italian actor Diego Dati from Vanguard, The Eight Hundred). He’s a bearded bruiser looking like a terrorist but is apparently his beloved brother in arms. Well, more or less since bromances with bullets flying and bombs exploding can have their problems too.

Anyway, Kunlang is run by a sleazy, greedy SEA SOB named Captain Dee (Lu Peng) who surrounds himself with girls wearing decades-old a-go-go miniskirts and somehow forgets to promote himself to at least being a higher-ranked tyrant like Colonel Gaddafi of Libya.

You know, it stumps me as to why almost every Asian person in this fake land strangely speaks woefully halting English instead of their own mother tongue. Perhaps it’s due to having a zero budget for interpreters. Or maybe lingua franca isn’t a big deal when you can turn it into comical lingua fracas.

To be fair though, Lu does chide an English-speaking female reporter, Mo Bai (newbie Jiang Yiyi), who sticks to him like a cheap suit, for her lack of cultural identity. “You look Chinese, talk in your own language is better,” he advises.

The solemn man isn’t joking because he, carrying the flag dutifully for his mainland motherland in a foreign land, scours the ceremony for a potential attack while the clearly dubious local guards ogle at the women and tell him to relax since it’s not a war.

“For me, every job is a war,” heroic Lu counter-quips with disapproving disdain. Before throwing in his patriotic nationality card for added special effect — “As a Chinese, I can’t let them get away with this.”

Wah, okay man, chill.

Which means that, when the surefire attack happens, it turns out to be a retro 1980s-style corrupt Third World set-up in which Lu is framed for the murder of an official. He’s forced to go on the run deep into the Southeast Asian jungle to first flee and then turn the tables around by hunting his over-armed but outmatched pursuers as a one-man army before graduating to launching a counterattack — geddit? the movie title? — on his enemy's turf.

Exactly like, yep, you got it, Rambo in First Blood. I mean, do these people pray to Sylvester Stallone as a god here or what?

Meanwhile, reporter Bai, initially the helpless damsel wilting in the woods, will eventually be turned into a nifty sniper herself when the plot, rushing on the urgency to clear Lu's innocence, somehow manages to eke out loony time for Lu to give her some pretty handy, very laughable shooting lessons.

Just so you know how truly invincible this Lone Wolf Warrior is, the dude is shot right in the shoulder but he still pulverises bad guy after bad guy as though it’s only an annoying ant bite.

By the way, watching Counterattack here made me realise how good that actual Wolf Warrior actioner starring Wu Jing, which this similar Chinese-superman tale imitates, was. But I digress.

For the biggest giggles, there’s also a white female mercenary summoning her inner Gina Carano and outer Gigi Hadid here. The gal is so ludicrously tough an assassin she looks very glum in speaking little and very glam in donning a fab sniper’s headwear with coordinated eye shadow playing what I call the “Fashion Sniper”, Gucci's answer to the “Flying Sniper”.

It's so hysterical I couldn’t stop laughing even though my mask was dripping wet. Although I must say that Ms Grumpy's close-quarters battle with Mr Lu — with kungfu kicks, punches, body slams and Muay-Thai knee thrown in — surely ranks as the highlight of this movie.

Unlike the Asian reporter chick who merrily asks Lu what kind of girl he likes while she’s aiming her deadly rifle, the ang moh girl seems totally immune to his everlasting charm here.

Zhao looks seriously well-maintained for a guy pushing 50 despite being described as “a Chinese man in his thirties”. In close-ups, his face looks unlined good, probably due to it not having moved much since, I don’t know, maybe 1995.

There is, however, one priceless momentous point when his stone face exerts some twitching.

To remove the bullet stuck in his shoulder the uncivilised Rambo way while hiding in an abandoned hut in the middle of the wretched jungle, the dude needs to bite on something to quell the pain.

He reaches out and puts a — hey presto —  squeaky chicken toy hanging conveniently on the wall right into his mouth. Just like that, from out of nowhere, in a deserted hut in the middle of the godforsaken jungle hangs a child’s squeaky toy ready for his use.

The scene actually gives Counterattack its loudest laugh as Zhao’s cries of pain echo out comically as a squeaky chicken’s squeals.

By which time I'd laughed so much, my mask had turned into a really wet face towel. (*1/2)

Photo: Golden Village 



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