WIND BLAST (2010) review

To earn enough money to run away with his girlfriend Sun Jing (Charlie Yeung), Zhang Ning (Yu Xia), accepts an offer from a mysterious employer to kill a mob boss. As a safeguard, he secretly takes a picture of this employer. But having carried out the hit, he finds himself and his girlfriend chased through the Gobi desert not only by four policemen (Duan Yihong, Ni Dahong, Jacky Wu Jing and Zhang Li), but also by two mysterious bounty hunters (Francis Ng and Yu Nan).

Wind Blast is obviously directed by Gao Qunshu (who co-directed the great The Message) as a thrill-ride with overtones of the western genre, be it the barren landscape in which everything unfolds or chases on horseback and mexican stand-offs. The story itself is pared down to its essentials, and Gao does a good job (he also wrote the film) of slowly revealing the dynamics that exist between the characters of this ensemble. It helps that he has a great cast to work with : the quartet of cops makes for an endearing team with Duan Yihong charismatic enough as the purposeful cop, Ni Dahong on fine form as the wise but jaded superior, Zhang Li striking in a long white coat, and a very fun Jacky Wu Jing as an almost childish auxiliary who insist on being called “Knight”. Yu Xia is an ambiguous presence as the fugitive, but you could say Charlie Yeung is wasted in a nothing role as her long-suffering girlfriend. But the real sparks come from Francis Ng and Yu Nan as the bounty hunters. Ng rocks a strange haicut (for a change…) and is his reliable self, providing the quartet of cops with a rather formidable opponent, while Yu Nan takes a very thinly written role and makes it a force to be reckoned with her almost reptilian menace offset by a sullen demeanor. Watching her here as a kick-ass hitwoman, it’s not difficult to understand why she was cast as a member of the Expendables in the second film.

But the issue with the film is in the pacing. There are a few thrilling action scenes, most notably a spectacular scene of vehicular mayhem that involves a truck, a 4×4 and horses, not to mention some molotov cocktails and very sharp shooting. It’s a scene right out of The Road Warrior and it gets the blood pumping, just like a night raid on the cops’ encampment that includes what little martial arts Jacky Wu Jing gets to show off (outside of a brief opening scene), in a fight against Yu Nan. The finale in a deserted town run through by a herd of horses is also quite exciting. But the problem is that between those scenes, the pace slows down to a crawl, which is not a good thing since the plot is so thin and the dialogue often puzzling. Action is this film’s main attraction, so when it stops, the film just flatlines.

Long Story Short : Although it is stylishly directed and has a great cast, when it isn’t erupting in a terrific action scene Wind Blast is left to its thin plot and simply flatlines, making for an only intermittently exciting film. **1/2

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