Lôi Báo (2017)
Film review #520
Director: Victor Vu
SYNOPSIS: Tam is a comic book artist who is working to finish his next big superhero project. His work has left him neglecting his health, and when he finally visits a doctor about a cough, he discovers he has terminal lung cancer. Tam visits a family friend, uncle Ma, who reveals that he has been working on a secret project to transplant heads onto other bodies. Although initially reluctant, Tam eventually agrees to undergo the procedure, using a body that Ma found in the woods. The operation is successful, but it seems to have come with a side effect: he has acquired lightning-fast reaction times, fighting skills and super strength, making him a real-life superhero. however, these newfound powers begin to cause trouble for himself and his family, and the attention of a criminal gang…
THOUGHTS/ANALYSIS: Lôi Báo is a 2017 science-fiction superhero film. The film centres around Tam, who is a comic artist working on his next big superhero project. He has been neglecting his health though, and when he goes to a doctor, he finds the persistent cough he has is actually terminal lung cancer. Family friend Uncle Ma reveals he has been working in secret on head transplants, and that he could save Tam’s life by transplanting his head onto another body. Tam is initially reluctant, but eventually agrees, and using a body the two find in a forest, Tam successfully undergoes the procedure. However, this seems to have the side-effect of giving Tam super powers, turning him into a real-life super hero, but this also comes with it’s downsides, as his new body has a bit of a life of it’s own, putting a strain on Tam’s relationship with his family and others. The film is a first attempt by the Vietnamese film industry at a superhero blockbuster film in the style of the Marvel/DC films, and it has a lot of the plot staples assembled. The main character is fleshed out in terms of his relationships and what he is going through, but it often feels like everything that goes on around him is just a mashup of superhero tropes without developing into anything really unique. When the film tries to tie everything together in the third act, it ties everything together: every character and disparate thing is revealed to be a part of some big plan and criminal organisation. Even in this, it just feels like everything is just lumped together, and gives the film no spontaneity. The twists that the film presents are fairly predictable, leaving very little room for the film to actually do anything purposeful.
The tone for the film is very odd: at some points it gets very dark, such as when Tam finds out he is dying, and attempts to kill himself. Other times it tries to be light and a bit silly, in particular with Tam’s young son, whose jokes about his own obesity don’t really hit the mark, and don’t really apply to anything. Tam’s relationship with his wife provides a high source of drama, particularly when his new body was previously involved with another woman who he meets, forming a love triangle, but even this is very surface level, and plays out exactly as you’d expect. With regards to Tam’s superpowers, they are also very inconsistent: he has faster reaction times, but also sometimes super strength as well, and how he actually got his new powers from his body is also vaguely explained.
Where the film does excel in it’s action sequences: the fist fighting is nicely choreographed and has some silly, but very high energy fights and stunts, which are fun to watch; it’s just a shame there’s so few of them. On the special effects side, the CGI isn’t particularly great, which drags the film down again, but when it just does some good old-fashioned martial arts, it’s alright. Overall though, Lôi Báo is a fairly lacklustre superhero film that takes many superhero tropes and fails to innovate or join them together in a stand-out central character. There’s a effort to fit a lot of story and a myriad of drama in here, but though it tries to connect everything together, does so in a way that is predictable and isn’t particularly satisfying.