Sunday, October 21, 2012

Why of the Tiger: "White Tiger" (1996)

Stop me if you have heard this one before: Mike (Gary Daniels) and John (Matt Craven) are DEA agents out on their first weekend off with John's picture perfect wife and son (Stop). They are called in early to bust a drug operation (Stop!). John is killed (STOP!). Mike seeks vengeance...yeah, you have heard this one before.

The main villain, Victor (Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa) has created a new synthetic drug that is more addictive that anything on the streets now, as most movie synthetic drugs are. Victor is eliminating the competition, while Mike is following him and putting up with a corrupt Seattle cop force who are in Victor's pocket. Mike meets Jade (Julia Nickson), the mysterious woman who seems to be playing on both sides of the law. The inevitable investigation and fiery climax arrive at their appointed times, feel free to unbuckle your seatbelt and move about your living room.

I am mad at "White Tiger." Four people are credited with the screenplay and story, when in fact the basic plot is older that the hills, and has even been spoofed in the "Naked Gun" films. The fact that no one seems to realize this, and plays their parts so seriously, frustrated me. Come on, we have the thought dead villain miraculously jumping back to life; Mike at one point says the eternal line "he killed my partner"; Victor is a "funny" villain who has a one-liner for every violent occasion; and we get the obligatory sex scene between Jade and Mike complete with new age music and artsy camera angles. There is not one plot point or character that you have not seen in any other action film before.

So why three stars? Simple, everything else but the script worked for me. While director Martin overdoes the "slow motion flames" shots, his action scenes are very sure of themselves. The editing is crisp and clean, not wasting a camera angle, and the cinematography (this was shot in Vancouver, British Columbia) is professional and takes advantage of the scenery.

Daniels is a little stiff in some of the dialogue scenes, but he has male model looks and can kick butt with the best of any major action star on the big screen today. Nickson is given a thankless role but does her best with it. Tagawa plays a great villain, he is sometimes the only good thing in the films he ends up in. His last drugged out scenes with Nickson are just plain weird. Matt Craven, playing this movie's equivalent of "Hot Shots!"'s Dead Meat, registered nothing with me.

I cannot recommend "White Tiger," but I found enough to keep this from being a complete mess. Martial arts action films are hard enough to pull off successfully, and the cast and crew here were let down by a loser script. (* * *) out of five stars.