Wednesday, 20 January 2010
WHITE TIGER (1996)
Directed by: Richard Martin
Written by: Gordon Melbourne, Don Woodman, Roy Sallows, Bey Logan
Starring: Gary Daniels, Cary Hiroyuki Tagawa, Julia Nickson, Matt Craven
White Tiger was originally a film called Tiger Storm, shot in Hong Kong and still starring kickboxing ace Gary Daniels. When money ran out, the film was scrapped, the rights bought by a new company and the flick relocated to the States (well, Canada actually) and re-shot as White Tiger. Keeping star Gary Daniels the flick added cool bad guy of 90s action films Cary Hiroyuki Tagawa and gave Daniels one of his best roles despite it being action movie textbook 101. Mike (Daniels) and his partner John (Matt Craven) are DEA agents on the trail of nasty drug lord Chow (Tagawa) who is introducing a new designer drug onto the market that will replace heroin and cocaine. A vacation with John’s family is cut short with a tip off that could mean the capture of Chow but things go horribly wrong ending in the death of John. Mike then swears revenge and goes gunning for Chow.
That's pretty much the gist of it as what follows is pretty generic in story terms and nothing that hasn’t been seen a million times before. Chow’s want to take over the drug market and complete disregard for his superiors isn’t given time to develop other than to set him up as the bad guy. Likewise, love interest Jade (the very lovely Julia Nickson) who helps Mike in his quest to find Chow is, in a last act reveal, actually an assassin for hire whose daughter is being held by the men Chow works for. These plot points could have been developed a bit further adding a bit more interest to an otherwise standard cop-goes-gunning-for revenge story. This is perhaps due to various plot elements being combined from several writers and versions of the film.
However, these negatives don’t ruin White Tiger from being the fun and entertaining slice of mid 90s American produced martial arts action it is. With is distinct East meets West flavour and a good dose of kung fu fight action at regular intervals, White Tiger delivers revenge themed action with aplomb. The action is nicely paced throughout the film varying between gunplay and high impact fights. Daniels gets a good chance here to cut loose (choreographing many of the fights) that while they don’t contain the intricacy and speed of their Hong Kong counterparts, they are full of power and fluid takedowns. Daniels has an impressive fight with Ron Yuan (The Art of War) and there is a cool sequence where he infiltrates Chow's boat come base/hideout. Tagawa is great as the slimy bad guy (playing much the same character he did in Showdown in Little Tokyo) having complete disregard for his employers, violently brandishing people with a hot poker iron and even going all drug introduced crazy come the end. Nickson (Rambo: First Blood Part 2) is lovely on the eye and while she does need rescuing come the end, elevates her character above the usual damsel in distress dross.
While it won’t set the world on fire, White Tiger is one of action star Daniels’ better vehicles that while standard in story is better produced than most direct-to-video fare and delivers lots of full impact action.