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Year of release: 2001

Company: Golden Harvest

Genre: action horror

Running time: 95 min.

Director: Wilson Yip

Script: Kwok Tse Kin, Szeto Kam-Yuen

Action director: Poon Kin Kwan

Producer: Vincent Kok

Cinematography: Poon Hang Sang

Editor: Cheung Ka Fai

Music: Tommy Wai

Stars: Nicholas Tse, Stephen Fung, Law Kar-Ying, Rain Li, Sam Lee, Danielle Graham, Alex Fong, Anya

Rated IIB for violence

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Nicholas Tse. Image courtesy of Golden Harvest.

The use of ghosts is so prevalent in Hong Kong movies that they have almost become a genre all their own. One particular series, Troublesome Night, has spawned 14 films and still continues on. So it would only make sense that film-makers would try and fuse the "ghost" genre with others. 2002 takes the base elements of a ghost movie and combines them with some Matrix-style action. The results are a mixed lot; like many other genre-bending Hong Kong movies, it feels like too much was dissolved out of each genre's part of the formula, and the film feels a bit watered-down as a result.

Nicholas Tse plays a cop with psychic powers (say it with me, he sees dead people) who is the only member of a police squad called 2002. Along with his ghost partner Sam Lee, Nic manages to bust quite a few ghosts and send them to hell for good, with the aid of some unique weapons. However, it is Sam's time to reincarnate, and so Nic must find a new partner, who turns up in the guise of Stephen Fung. The problem is that to do Nic any good, Stephen must be dead, so Nic tries to set Stephen's life in order while still battling a fierce water spirit (Alex Fong), who wants revenge after Nic killed his girlfriend (Anya).


Nicholas Tse and Sam Lee. Image courtesy of Golden Harvest.

This would make for an interesting take on the ghost genre, but apparently the film-makers decided that this wasn't enough, and so they added in a romantic subplot -- well, actually two of them. The first has Stephen falling in love with a coma victim (Rain Li), and Nic falling for a nurse (Danielle Graham). Problem is, Stephen knowing he's going to die sours his relationship with Rain, and Nic's carrying of a "death star" marks bad things for anyone he gets close to (how then he can keep a relationship with Law Kar-Ying, who plays a sort of mystical Q from the James Bond movies, is a mystery or just a bad plot hole). I don't mind a bit of romance, but the stuff in 2002 is so heavy-handed, it really grinds the movie down. A good case in point is the climatic battle. It should be exciting, but the use of a cheesy Nic Tse ballad and musical montages really degrades the power of the fight.

On the positive side, the rest of the action in 2002 is well-done. Matrix was definitely an influence -- right down to the leather trenchcoats -- but the style of fighting fits in well with the film, and the CGI is integrated well enough that 2002 doesn't look as fake as some other recent action movies. The young leads also do a good job. Nic Tse and Stephen Fung display their usual winning chemistry, and the supporting cast does a good job as well -- especially Sam Lee, who even though he seems to be fufilling his quota for "goofy sidekick" roles, manages once again to create a very likeable character from next to nothing. Especially surprising is newcomer Danielle Graham. While no one is going to mistake her for Brigitte Lin anytime soon, she does a fine job, thankfully forgoing the Chinglish that seems to be in vogue for young actors in Hong Kong.

Overall, 2002 is an entertaining -- if forgettable -- movie that should satisfy fans of the stars, as well as provide a quick fix for action junkies.


Nicholas Tse and Danielle Graham. Image courtesy of Golden Harvest.