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At-A-Glance Film Reviews

The Enforcer (1995)

(aka: My Father Is a Hero)



Reviews and Comments

The Enforcer is not a great work of art. It's not even an original narrative. It is one of those formula pictures that aims at the tried and true and nails it so perfectly that it transcends its aspirations. It is an action film with lots of hand-to-hand combat and action set pieces, and it also has a touching human center to it that makes it much more than an adrenaline exercise. It is one of Jet Li's best films.

The early scenes set the stage for the story, though they don't quite hint at the momentum and emotional involvement the film will build later. While Jet Li is dispatching street thugs, his son is competing in a martial arts tournament for boys. Cross cutting between the two adds stylistic flavor to the narrative. As the son looks about for the absent father, you may be anticipating tired familial cliches, but no: the movie is smarter than that, and so is the kid, who is more understanding than the norm for movie kids. He's also more intelligent and resourceful, though he never feels like a child artificially endowed with adult-like maturity, which is the other trap screenwriters often fall into when creating child characters.

The ensuing intrigue, which involves an undercover sting, an FBI agent on Li's tail, and the son's attempt to track his father down, is a scream of a ride, full of unexpected twists and crisscrossing deception. It's nice to see an action movie with intelligent characters instead of idiots: it's fun to watch them trying to outwit each other. It's also nice to see a movie like this use the hero's family for more than simply his Achilles heel. The son, in fact, is every bit as fun to watch as Jet Li himself. The action scenes are spectacular, but the real surprise is that the quieter moments in between are just as compelling, if not more so.