Black and White: The Dawn of Assault (2012)


black white dawn assault poster

Director: Tsai Yueh-Hsun

Starring: Mark Chao, Huang Bo, Angelababy, Terri Kwan, Leon Dai, Alex To, Jack Kao

153 Minutes


Newly assigned to the Southern Precinct of Harbour City, Wu (Mark Chao) immediately finds himself on suspension after a botched arrest results in excessive property damage. Ordered to transfer all his cases he nonetheless finds trouble is drawn to him as a dead body, a mysterious cell phone message, and his sense of justice send him off to investigate. At the same time, low level Triad associate Xu (Huang Bo) takes a large amount of money from his organization for quick score with plans to return the money after making a windfall. The two find themselves attacked by multiple groups and this unlikely duo must team up to recover a case which may hold the key to a destructive new weapon.

A prequel film to the hugely successful 2009 Taiwanese television series, Dawn of Assault features a number of actors from the series as well as characters exclusive to the film. Tackling an origin story of sorts, the film seems to offer quite a bit of fan service to viewers of the original series but struggles to develop a solid standalone film. Offering a fast pace and lots of action, the film actually has a serialized element to the storytelling, with its many twists and turns and character introductions, and it is easy to see where end of episode cliffhangers would have been placed. As it is, the film is way too bloated at nearly 2.5 hours in length and for a viewer like me who was unfamiliar with the show going in, it has a real lack of storytelling in terms of characters.

Mark Chao is fine as the stoic Wu; his fights and action sequences are solid and he shows the physical ability that has made him more of an action film leading man in recent years. While the film doesn’t really offer much for him to do outside of typical action film posturing and fights, he does it well and is likable enough. The real shining bit of the film here is Huang Bo as Xu, he infuses quite a bit of real humor and way more relatable than anyone else in the picture. The cast is rounded out with a quick appearance by beauty Angelababy who is a lovely bit of eye candy even if she doesn’t truly get much to do outside of the first hour in the film and Leon Dai who is a welcome addition to any film in which he appears.

Of note is definitely the solid and generally intense action sequences. From gunfights to some really good hand to hand exchanges, the film certainly doesn’t slouch thanks to expert choreographers Nicky Li and Cyril Raffaelli. These bits are only tempered by some lousy visual effects and hammer home the fact that Chinese effects houses have yet to reach the quality of Western productions despite typically providing work on those as well. Musically is pretty forgettable but the camerawork is solid and a number dynamic shots pepper the film.

In the end, the film is a more than serviceable actioner despite some missteps regarding the story and pacing. It relies too heavily on foreknowledge from the series for a full appreciation of the characters and while it is a self contained story, one can’t help but feel out of the loop if this is your introduction to Black and White.

Special Thanks to SHOUT! Factory for providing a viewing copy!

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Long time film lover and occasional writer. I watch anything and everything though I have massive love for the works of Shunji Iwai, Jackie Chan, Johnnie To, and Kinji Fukasaku. POP! POP!

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