Counterattack review: Vincent Zhao kills bad guys in the jungle while speaking bad English

Vincent Zhao stars as Lu Ziming in Counterattack. (Photo: Golden Village Pictures)
Vincent Zhao stars as Lu Ziming in Counterattack. (Photo: Golden Village Pictures)

Rating: NC16
Length: 88 minutes
Director: Vincent Zhao
Cast: Vincent Zhao, Diego Dati, Jiang Yiyi, Lu Peng
Language: Mandarin with English and Chinese subtitles

Release date: 18 March 2021 (Singapore)

Score: 2.5 out of 5 stars

Counterattack is a Chinese action film directed by and starring Vincent Zhao. Zhao plays the role of Lu Ziming, who is a security expert in Southeast Asia. In a mission to assassinate a fugitive, Ziming becomes the only survivor and his partner Leon (Diego Dati) is believed to have died due to an incoming missile.

Two years later, Ziming is tasked by Colonel Dee (Lu Peng) to safeguard an auction for a Sino-Euro oil-gas plant project. However, Ziming is framed for shooting a minister at the auction and goes on the run. Meanwhile, journalist Mo Bai (Jiang Yiyi), who is eager to get the scoop, becomes Ziming’s ally after uncovering the truth.

Although Counterattack is a Chinese film, the dialogues are partially English. This is possibly due to the fact that it is set in a fictitious Southeast Asian country that supposedly speaks English as the mother tongue. Unfortunately, this mix of languages appears awkward as the actors are obviously not accustomed to speaking English, which inevitably affects the flow of their acting.

The plot also comes in short, especially when Ziming literally trains a civilian Mo Bai to become a full-fledged sniper in days. The missile that wipes out Ziming’s team is rather abrupt too, as it looks as if all the enemies have already been taken care of — like there would be a background story to the mysterious missile, except there isn’t. Certain details of the story are not properly explained either, including why Ziming is framed, and why a secret sniper, who is hell-bent on taking Ziming’s life, resents him so much.

However, all hope is not lost as Counterattack is saved by its action scenes. Zhao, who is also a martial artist, is best known for playing Wong Fei-hung in the Once Upon A Time In China saga, taking over the role from Jet Li. With almost three decades of experience in carrying out action scenes, Zhao is able to engage the audience with gunfires, dagger moves, and fist fights. Specifically, what's most interesting are the traps he sets in the jungle to kill his enemies.

The cherry on top is a particularly amusing scene that contrasts with the film’s serious tone, where he bites onto the rubber screaming chicken, while Mo Bai helps him to retrieve the bullet in his chest. In other words, the rubber chicken does the screaming for him, which reminds me of these Japanese guys who hilariously translate pain into a harmonica tune.

As Counterattack is Zhao’s directorial debut, there is still plenty of room for improvement. Apparently, the film’s ending also hints at a sequel that will feature the duo Ziming and Mo Bai. But if everything remains status quo, it is difficult to see how the sequel will do well at the box office.

In general, Counterattack is the film for you if you enjoy action flicks and don't care so much about plot and dialogue.