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Capsule Reviews

Don't Give A Damn !    (1995)
Two out of three is better than none! What we have here is the film that was set to reunite Hong Kong’s ‘Three Lucky Sons’ for the first time since Dragons Forever. But supposedly due to obligations on another project, Jackie Chan was forced to pull out, and Takeshi Kaneshiro was cast in his place alongside the two remaining ‘Dragons’, Sammo Hung and Yuen Biao. Don't Give A Damn ! is a reunification that received mixed reviews. But as a major fan of all those involved with the project, I was not disappointed!

The story follows a rough and irrational Hong Kong detective (Sammo Hung), constantly embarrassing his department and getting himself into trouble with his superiors due to his unethical methods. While investigating a Japanese drug smuggling circuit, he soon discovers he is not alone on the case, and an irritating customs officer (Yuen Biao) is investigating the very same gang. Having already disagreed whenever they cross paths, both men are shocked when a new, by-the-books Superintendent (Kaneshiro Takeshi) teams them up for the case. What follows is plenty of fights and friction between the two, until they put aside their differences in order to bring down the drug dealers.

One point worth noting is that the film does not possess the same degree of energy or charisma of any previous films from this team. The absence of Jackie Chan undoubtedly contributed to this, however, there are many points where the film does work and demonstrates Sammo’s ability handling a different style of filmmaking to fit these different circumstances. Firstly, there is a clear emphasis on the crazy, larger-than-life characters rather than strictly martial arts action. Cameos by stars like Wu Ma, Richard Ng and Billy Lau add to this and give these elements of the story a style similar to those found in the ‘Lucky Stars’ series.

The overriding impression is that Sammo decided to alter his M.O. to accommodate circumstances different from earlier projects. As it happens, this is not necessarily a bad choice and in fact this allows a different formula to come together. All three main stars have their comedy moments, but the vast majority of action is given to Sammo Hung and Yuen Biao. Kaneshiro Takeshi plays the straight-laced superintendent very well and contrasts with the typically wacky behaviour of the other two. To show this contrast, the three lead characters are all given adequate screen time to interact and let their starkly different personalities create the laughs. Sammo also appears to use the romantic comedy theme in a more obvious way here, with his character playing a sort of lady killer who becomes involved with various women in the police department --but not to worry as both Biao and Kaneshiro also get their fair share of romance.

With these other themes and areas being explored, there may be slightly less action than some fans would expect - but when the action arrives it really does go into high gear. The final fight against the Japanese Yakuza boss (Kelvin Wong) and an African American gang certainly delivers the moves where expected and ends the film on a satisfying and bruising note.

It’s worth noting that the film has also received mixed reviews due to a controversial scene in which Yuen Biao and Kaneshiro Takeshi paint themselves with makeup in order to infiltrate the African American gang. Within this segment, some viewers may also be shocked by the subsequent dialogue that is exchanged, something worth bearing in mind prior to seeing the film.

In overview, Don't Give A Damn ! represents a different style of Sammo’s work, and while it may not stand up to undeniable classics and fan-favourites like Dragons Forever and Wheels on Meals, it is still worth seeing as an interesting and entertaining portion of the stars’ impressive careers. There are also a few things you’ll be hard pressed to find elsewhere --Sammo Hung sporting a bizarre ponytail, Yuen Biao with a goatee beard and Kaneshiro Takeshi proving a strong aptitude for deadpan comedy. There’s still a lot of fun to be had here!
Mike Fury 12/11/2006 - top

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 12/11/2006 Mike Fury

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