Review: THE BRINK (2017) -Fantasia Film Festival 2018

After a career as an assistant director that began with INFERNAL AFFAIRS 3 in 2003, Jonathan Li makes his move into the director’s chair with THE BRINK. It’s an impressive debut, one that more than makes up in action what it lacks in originality.

Sai Gau (Zhang Jin PACIFIC RIM: UPRISING, ESCAPE PLAN: THE EXTRACTORS is a reckless, hot-headed but efficient cop. He’s just narrowly avoided jail for the death of a suspect who somehow fell from a window while resisting arrest. This just leaves him more determined than ever to bring down the brutal Jiang Gui Cheng (Shawn Yue WILD CITY, INITIAL D). Jiang is in the middle of taking over the gold smuggling outfit he works for. This involves, among other things, forcing his godfather to watch as he has his son gutted like a fish.

Jiang kidnaps A-de (Wu Yue PARADOX), Sai Gau’s now retired partner. He also sets his sights on taking out Kui (Yasuaki Kurata BLOOD: THE LAST VAMPIRE, FIST OF LEGEND) the operation’s big boss. It all leads to a showdown at sea as a typhoon bears down on all involved.

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Despite its world-famous harbour and importance as a shipping center, Hong Kong cinema hasn’t made many seagoing films. Plot-wise, this is about the only real innovation to be found in THE BRINK. The rest is the usual mix of tough criminals, tougher cops, greed, corruption, desk-bound superiors that “just don’t get it” etc. It still works, but it really needs some changing up and soon.

Setting most of the action in the poorer parts of Hong Kong rather than the gleaming towers and office buildings that, so many recent action films, have used is a plus. It helps give the film a different look and adds an edge to the action. And that’s really what sells THE BRINK. Just as it’s Li’s first film as a director, the film is also Jin’s first starring role, and he aims to prove he can carry a film on his own. For the most part, he succeeds, with highlights that include a running battle with a knife-wielding hoard in an abandoned building and the final battle on the deck of a storm-tossed boat.

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Don’t expect anything groundbreaking, just sit back and enjoy the action. Do that and THE BRINK won’t disappoint.

Well Go USA has THE BRINK on the festival circuit and I caught it at Fantasia 2018. It’s currently available on Digital, DVD and Blu-ray as well as on Tubi for those who have access to it.

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