Wild Search [Blu-ray]
Blu-ray B - United Kingdom - Eureka
Review written by and copyright: Eric Cotenas (27th July 2021).
The Film

When a police bust on an illegal weapons deal in an empty apartment ends in heavy gunfire, the only body the police find when they break into the apartment is that of the realtor Ha (Gorgeous' Elaine Jin) and her now-orphaned four year old daughter Ka Ka (The Heroic Trio's Cheuk Yan Chan). Lead investigator Lau Chung Pong (The Replacement Killers' Chow Yun-Fat) does not realize at first when looks into Ha's private life that the woman was in deep in criminal activity until they find Ha's apartment ransacked. While Ha's embittered farmer father Lee (Peking Opera Blues' Feng Ku) frightens his granddaughter by ranting about her mother's city lifestyle, Ha's sister Cher (An Autumn's Tale's Cherie Chung) takes charge of her niece and settling her sister's business affairs which include an antique shop in the city that Lau observes takes in a lot of imported goods but does not seem to sell much. Cher enlists Lau to help her track down Ka Ka's biological father, but businessman Mr. Hung (Royal Tramp II's Paul Chun) has no interest in the girl and tries to buy Cher off with a hundred-thousand dollar check. As put off by the gesture as Hung's arrogance and threats of using his connections against him, Lau persists in embarrassing Hung by crashing a social event to reveal Hung's indiscretion and demand more money for Ka Ka's care. After the event, Lau is brutally assaulted by some thugs and in turn drags Hung out of his car and arrests him in spite of warnings from Hung's lawyer about police brutality charges and photographs taken by the press that make the papers. As Lau faces suspension and heals from his injuries, he keeps track of his team's investigations into the Ha case while forming a bond with Ka Ka and Cher whose husband Ah Leung (Last Hurrah for Chivalry's Kong Lau) has just returned from the city where he had a business and a mistress. While things seem to be settled between Lau and Hung, Lau has become the target of Hung's Vietnamese henchman Bullet (Fight Back to School's Roy Cheung) – who also murdered Ha and the Japanese weapons dealers to eliminate witnesses – when the latter executes a snitch in front of him as the gang prepare to move in on a shipment arriving at Ha's shop which is still in the possession of her family.

An acknowledged very loose adaptation of Peter Weir's Witness, Wild Search is something of a departure from director Ringo Lam's successful action "on fire" trilogy – City on Fire, School on Fire, and Prison on Fire – but it is otherwise a middling affair as a thriller or a melodrama. Not only is the "witness" aspect of the film dropped pretty early on – the child is spirited away to the countryside but never really seems to be in danger or even acknowledged by the villains – and any connection between Hung and the earlier killings seems to have been stumbled upon rather than intuited by the police, the thrust of the action is extremely contrived bullheaded behavior by everyone involved from Chow's detective who seems incapable of subtlety or manipulation, to Hung who not only does not seem to perceive his daughter could be a threat but immediately threatens Lau, and hitman Bullet who not only seems not to care about exposing his connection to his boss but also seems to be rubbish about ambushing police targets. The film drags in the middle with some poor comedy and shallow romance, digressing to a musical clip montage set to the film's theme song (actress/singer Anita Mui's cover of Teresa Teng's 1977 hit "The Moon Represents My Heart"). Chow and Chung have some good chemistry, but Lam not only proves that subtlety is not his strength so drama scenes are ridiculously overwrought, and he sadly seems equally uninspired here when it comes to the action scenes. Unlike his contemporaries John Woo and Tsui Hark, Lam proved more suited to the lighter Hong Kong and Hollywood fare that would make up his latter day career from the Jackie Chan vehicle Twin Dragons to the Van Damme duo Maximum Risk and Replicant.
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Video

Released theatrically in the United Kingdom in 1989 and on VHS the following year, Wild Search was not released on DVD in English-friendly form until Mei Ah's 1999 Hong Kong import and the identical U.S. DVD from Tai Seng while the U.K. would not get a digital release until M.I.A.'s 2002 DVD. Eureka's 1080p24 MPEG-4 AVC 1.85:1 widescreen Blu-ray is advertised as being derived from "a High Definition transfer from the original film elements" suggesting that it utilizes the master created for CN Entertainment's 2019 Hong Kong Blu-ray. Colors are bold without seeming revisionist and in general there is a nice crispness to the night exteriors and interiors that suit the chilly Christmas season atmosphere of the film. Some shadows in the location scenes evince more underexposed grain and there are one or two soft shots that may either be patched in from another source or indicative of some rushed shooting since the shots around it look normal.

Audio

Audio options include the original mono Cantonese LPCM 1.0 track and an English LPCM 1.0 mono dub from the same period. In terms of music and effects, the mixes are not particularly dynamic but not problematic. While the Cantonese track is recommended because some of the actors actually dub themselves here, the English dub should be entirely ignored. While the voice casting of Hong Kong English dubs is not always great, this one is particularly poor from the simpering adult vocal performance given to the little girl to the leads who are saddled with terrible dialogue (rewritten compared to the subtitle translation of the Cantonese audio but even that was not great to start with). The optional English subtitles reveal Lau's bizarre feline nickname and the reasoning behind it (both of which are left out of the English dub entirely).
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Extras

The film is accompanied by an audio commentary by Asian film expert Frank Djeng, NY Asian Film Festival who makes a case for the film's significance in Lam's career following his early for-hire films and the creative freedom he won after directing the successful Aces Go Places 4, Chow's move from TV to film and the poor reception of his early cinema roles before A Better Tomorrow, and the successful pairing of him and Chung that lasted through Once a Thief. Djeng also provides us with background on the supporting cast members, notes that the film features some of leads dubbing themselves because of the perception that films with the actor's actual voices were more successful, notes the time capsule look of Hong Kong harbor during the Christmas season of 1985, as well as noting the similarities of the film's plot to Witness.

Djeng also moderates "The Doyen of Dubs" an audio interview with dubbing artist Simon Broad which plays as an alternate track to the main feature for the first sixty-nine minutes (reverting to the English dub after). The actor recalls moving with his father from New Zealand to Hong Kong for a job, getting involved in modeling and acting, and finding lots of work in ADR and dubbing not only for films but also for television, commercials, and for export to Indonesian countries where the Chinese language was banned and they just needed to put a voice to the images (also a methodology for some of the lower-budgeted dubs of features). Broad notes that a lot of the voice actors from earlier generations were American and British residents and business people recruited off the street while the dubbers of his generation tended to be trained actors, notes the difference between dubbing then and now with Hong Kong still using the old looping method while other countries had moved to ADR, as well as the busy schedules of his younger years dubbing TV by day and film by night (calling himself and others who did any job "whores").
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The disc also has "Roy Cheung on Fire" (17:11), a 2003 interview with actor Cheung in which he recalls getting into acting through modeling, already having appeared alongside Chow in a brief part in Lost Romance, and getting his first real acting opportunities from Lam with the "on fire" films and Aces Go Places 4. He notes the differences between Lam's handling of experienced actors like Chow and newcomers like himself, and how Wild Search was his first role with Lam where he was given more freedom to improvise.

Packaging

The first print run of 1,000 copies comes with an O-Card slipcase featuring new artwork by Grégory Sacré (Gokaiju) and a collector's booklet featuring new writing by David West (NEO Magazine).

Overall

An acknowledged very loose adaptation of Peter Weir's Witness, Wild Search is something of a departure from director Ringo Lam's successful action "on fire" trilogy but it is otherwise a middling affair as a thriller or a melodrama.

 


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