It’s amazing how much cheaper Hollywood-style filmmaking is in other countries. Asian filmmakers have been proving this for decades, making handsomely produced fare that delivers blockbuster-size action on budgets that would barely take care of one mid-level stars’s salary on your average Hollywood production. Black And White: The Dawn Of Assault is fairly recent example of this, delivering two or three movies’ worth of action on an $11 million budget. The results aren’t necessarily satisfying at a story level but they deliver enough kinetic madness to keep your eyes dazzled.
Black And White: The Dawn Of Assault is hard to synopsize as it is a juggernaut of large-scale action scenes and convoluted conspiracy-movie plot. The simplest way to put it is this: hotheaded cop Ying-xiong Wu (Mark Chao) has been restricted from active duty but secretly researches a mysterious murder tied to organized crime. This leads him to cross paths with Xu Dafu (Huang Bo), a mid-level Triad hood using $1 million of his boss’s money to buy some diamonds and turn a quick profit.
Unfortunately, a secret weapon is stashed in with those diamonds and soon Wu and Xu Dafu are on the run from the cops, the hoods and the military as they try to figure out what the story is behind the mysterious cargo and foil a potential terrorist attack on Taiwan. Cue plenty of shootouts, explosions, a few CGI setpieces and a lot of mismatched-partners action comedy banter.
The results don’t make a lot of sense: there are tons of subplots that go unresolved, too many characters and the villain’s attempt at a final explanation during the finale is so eccentric in its logic that it plays like a Mad Magazine parody of a villain’s final speech. Black And White: The Dawn Of Assault also suffers when it reaches beyond its limitation: the stunts and fights are impressive but a few attempts at CGI-laden setpieces fall flat because the visual effects are as cheap as those in your average SyFy Original t.v. movie.
However, Black And White: The Dawn Of Assault is seldom dull despite its nearly two hour and thirty minute length. Director/co-writer Yueh-Hsun Tsai maintains a pretty aggressive pace throughout the film and goes for lengthy scenes that show off gunplay, car stunts, shootouts and hand-to-hand combat in great detail. Some of the best action comes in the simplest scenes: there is a killer fight sequence where the leads have to fight off attackers while handcuffed and a pretty effective multi-character shootout in a parking garage.
There’s not a lot of room for deep characterization buy Chao acquits himself as the cop, particularly in the fight scenes, and Huang Bo puts a lot of energy into the comedic schtick. Also thrown in is pop star “Angelababy” in an odd role as a woman who is half-secret agent and half-tech nerd. It’s an interesting idea but she is quickly shunted to the periphery of the plot, as many characters are in this film.
In short, Black And White: The Dawn Of Assault feels like a quickie programmer despite its scale and scope due to the odd, inconsistent storytelling. That said, if you want Hollywood-scale action, this delivers it by the truckload.
Blu-Ray Notes: This production recently made its U.S. blu-ray debut via a new disc from Shout! Factory. The transfer is colorful and boasts a nice level of detail. 5.1 and 2.0 stereo Mandarin language tracks and a 2.0 stereo English dub are provided, all lossless. The 5.1 track was used for this review and it’s bombastic enough to keep up with the action. Extras are limited to a trailer and a seven minute, EPK-style “Making Of” piece that mixes interview snippets with film clips and on-set footage.