The 2000 film China Strike Force, from Hong Kong director Stanley Tong (Super Cop, Rumble in the Bronx), won my heart forever before I even watched a frame. It was a two-step process.
Step one: While spelunking in the deep, deep Netflix action movies archive one night, I spotted its box cover, which features a) the title; b) a picture of Mark Dacascos, best known as one of the stars of the live-action Double Dragon movie and the host of Iron Chef America; and c) a picture of Coolio. Color me intrigued. Color me very intrigued.
Step two: I rushed to Google — like, immediately — to find out more about the movie, where I was greeted with this description (emphasis mine):
Shanghai police Detectives Alex Cheung (Lee-Hom Wang) and Darren Tong (Aaron Kwok) stumble onto the massive cocaine smuggling operation of crime boss Tony Lau (Mark Dacascos) and attempt to take down Coolio (Coolio), the American dealer in his employ who is responsible for bringing the drugs into China. In the midst of the criminal activity, Alex gets engaged to the daughter of his superior, Sheriff Lin (Paul Chun), which adds personal tensions to an already heated case.
Did you catch the little slice of magic in there? China Strike Force is a movie that stars Coolio as a drug smuggler named Coolio. I have been thinking about this basically non-stop since I read it, and I have come to the conclusion that the only way it could be better is if another rapper had beaten him out for the role, but they kept the character name anyway. Examples include:
- “… stumble onto the massive cocaine smuggling operation of crime boss Tony Lau (Mark Dacascos) and attempt to take down Coolio (DMX)”
- “… stumble onto the massive cocaine smuggling operation of crime boss Tony Lau (Mark Dacascos) and attempt to take down Coolio (Ja Rule)”
- “… stumble onto the massive cocaine smuggling operation of crime boss Tony Lau (Mark Dacascos) and attempt to take down Coolio (Skee-Lo)”
And so on. The point of all this being: I needed to see China Strike Force. And I did. And it was everything I could have hoped for and more. Allow me to explain.
China Strike Force comes out of the gate hot.
The following things happen within the first 30 minutes of the film:
– There is a murder at a high-end fashion show that results in two simultaneous chase scenes. One involves a cop chasing the murderer through the streets, leaping from speeding car to speeding car and at one point using the bed of a truck as a ramp to drive a motorcycle up to the second layer of a moving double-decker bus, whereupon a martial arts fight breaks out. The second chase involves the other cop chasing a beautiful woman in a ball gown on foot to her hotel, and ends at a mall attached to the hotel with the woman kicking a security guard in the sternum and then using the cop’s tie — still attached to his neck — as a rope swing to glide safely to the lower level of the mall and escape.
– There is another chase scene between Mark Dacascos’ character and one of the cops, in which Dacascos is driving a white Lamborghini Coolio has smuggled into the country for him, and the cop is driving a Formula One race car that he commandeered after getting tossed from the roof of the Lambo. Because he was flung directly toward an area where Formula One race cars were getting loaded onto a truck. Which was convenient.
– See that lady holding the crying baby up there? Dead. Dacascos shoots her in the face — “No witnesses” — after she stumbles across a traffic stop gone awry. China Strike Force does not play.
Coolio is, uh… really something.
I’m really not even sure how to begin describing the film’s fictional, drug-smuggling Coolio. I suppose I should start with the fact that he is so, so racist. Over the course of the film he says offensive things about the Chinese, the Japanese, the French, the Italians (“Eye-talians”), and Africans. Also, he mispronounces everything. Genghis Khan is “Jengis Can,” the Qing Dynasty is “the Zing Dynasty,” and, my favorite, Chairman Mao is “Chairman Mayo.” (NOTE: The fact that Hellman’s does not have a mascot named Chairman Mayo upsets me deeply and greatly as of about five seconds ago.) And yet, despite his ignorance and disrespect for multiple elements of Asian culture, he is a martial arts master. Coolio does martial arts in this movie. Or rather, a stuntman in a Coolio wig does martial arts in this movie. Either way, magnificent.