Generation Excess

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It used to be that the big dogs of Hong Kong cinema got to do the bums-on-seats films with fat budgets while the little runts did their weeny stuff, wagging their tails and barking as hard as they could. Then came director Benny Chan's Gen-X Cops last year with three young pups—Nicholas Tse, Stephen Fung and Sam Lee—that snarled and growled and had the bite to blow up Hong Kong's Convention Center for its set-piece finale and, along the way, superheated the box office. The sequel, Gen-Y Cops, opening now across Asia, takes an inch from its predecessor and runs 10 miles. Owing a debt to U.S. action series Lethal Weapon, The Terminator and Die Hard, Gen-Y Cops plays shamelessly to the lowest common denominator, with rampaging robots, missiled shopping malls, smashed boats and totaled cars. A Ferrari blows up before it has even had a chance to purr. Chan, who directed Jackie Chan's Who Am I?, cuts and pastes from fist-ploitation flicks and pours Chan-esque humor into the mix, serving up a cinematic fusion—call it Hongkonglomeration.The plot driver is a rocket-launching robot called RSI, designed from plans stolen from a Hong Kong techno-junkie (Richard Sun). The Americans behind the theft want to exhibit the gizmo under the watchful eyes of the FBI at a weapons trade show in Hong Kong and then sell it to the Arabs. Kurt, our techno-junkie, wants to reclaim RSI and sell it to the highest bidder by enlisting the help of undercover agent and new kid on the Gen-Y team, the unwitting Edison (Edison Chen). He hypnotizes Edison to be able to program RSI, which then has the FBI trying to locate Edison as a prime suspect ... Oh, who cares. The plot's not really the thing here. As Alien (Sam Lee) says toward the end, There are pieces of blood and bone and brain bursting out everywhere.And that's where too many plots in Hong Kong cinema try to go—everywhere. Take a simple idea and make an octopus of subplots from it. Why stop at eight limbs when you can give it 80? Hong Kong actioneers emulate their American peers in terms of explosions, car chases and shoot-outs, but they miss a basic point: Keep it simple. Hollywood would recognize saturation five minutes into a Hong Kong action flick and get the hell out, whereas the latter views Gordian complication as just the beginning.What does distinguish Gen-Y from its predecessor is the script. Most of the dialogue is delivered in English, half of it techno-action clichE. Somebody is constantly tacking into the mainframe, and there are endless refrains of abort the program, man. Aficionados of Hong Kong and U.S. slam-bangs should have no problem with the large fries, small Coke lines: Roseanne Barr Arnold will be President of the U.S.A. before you two guys see the light again. But where characters were flat as a pancake in Gen-X, Gen-Y helps lift them. Fung & Lee make a great double act sparking physical comedy. Lee is quickly developing into Hong Kong's Steve Buscemi. And as an FBI agent who falls for Edison, Maggie Q is her inimitable self—fire and ice. Gen-Y Cops is by turns silly, complicated and, possibly, trash. But it sure is fast trash.