As I entered into Blind War, I must admit that I did it with lowered expectations. This is mostly to do with it being initially produced for Chinese streaming service iQIYI. Now, I am not saying everything to come from iQIYI is of a poor quality, as there have been some enjoyable actioners now and again. However for the most part, these are lower budgeted productions that would never be able to compete with anything hitting cinemas.
I was more than happy to be proven wrong, with Blind War turning out to be a terrific action movie that harkens back to the great Hong Kong actioners of the 80’s and 90’s. Sure there are some issues in terms of character and plot but nothing out of the norm for a film of this type and when the action kicks in you’ll soon forget about any laps in logic.
Andy On stars as Dong Gu, a SWAT captain who is brought in to deal with a terrorist attack at a courthouse. The resulting firefight ends with Dong Gu losing his sight. Taking full responsibility for the failure of the mission, Dong Gu quickly falls into depression, with his daughter being his only reason for continuing. He slowly begins to adjust and adapt to being blind, with him still being capable of kicking arse if needed.
This is lucky, as just as he starts to get his life back on track, those he wronged at the courthouse come looking for revenge, with them kidnapping his daughter. Now he must use every one of his remaining senses if he wants to save her.
As mentioned, Blind War has a definite classic Hong Kong movie vibe going for it, with its mixture of martial arts, heroic bloodshed style gunplay with a bit of the girls with guns genre thrown in for good measure. Although it may not be on par with greats like A Better Tomorrow (1986) or Angel (1987), director Huo Sui Qiang certainly does his hardest to at least bring it somewhere close.
Huo Sui Qiang is relatively new on the scene, with his first directing credit only going back to 2020. In this small space of time he has churned out seven movies, alternating between fantasy and modern set actioners such as Blind War. He clearly shows a flair for action, with he and his action team creating several explosive set pieces. The largest action scenes are reserved for the opening and the lengthy finale, with a number of smaller action scenes peppered in between. One particular standout of these has On fighting off a gang of henchmen whilst being chained up. He gains the upper hand on his captors and turns the chain that holds him to his advantage, with it becoming a deadly weapon in his hands.
The court house set opener gets proceedings off to a great start, with it both working as a well choreographed action scene and as a means to introduce us to the principal characters. It is during the opening where Andy On’s Dong Gu loses his sight which leads him to leave the police force. This is where the more dramatic portions of the film take place, with On’s character having to re-adjust to being blind, as well as building on the relationship between him and his daughter. Action lovers shouldn’t fret, as it isn’t long until his daughter is put in harm’s way, with On’s Dong Gu relying on his existing senses if he and his daughter are to survive.
Suspension of disbelief is a necessity with Blind War, especially after Dong Gu loses his sight. The film would have us believe that even without his vision that Dong Gu could take on a room full of terrorists and leave victorious. Playing like a Chinese variation on Marvel’s Daredevil, Dong Gu quickly adapts to his situation, with his lack of vision even being shown as an advantage on a couple of occasions.
As ridiculous as this may seem, the filmmakers play it totally straight which helps us as an audience to quickly accept it and just be swept up with the action on screen. It does help that Blind War has a quality leading man in Andy On who is able to sell this frankly ridiculous aspect, making it as believable as possible .
Speaking of On, he is one of the film’s main advantages, with him raising Blind War above other similar DTV fare. Even with a career spanning over two decades, lead roles for On have been few and far between, and even when On has had the opportunity the films haven’t exactly turned out great. While his debut film Black Mask: City of Masks (2002) may have seemed a terrific opportunity, it didn’t work as the best introduction for him. His follow up Looking for Mr Perfect (2003) didn’t fare much better with the result being that his ensuing roles would mostly be supporting parts.
These supporting roles at least allowed him to build up a good catalogue of work, with him getting numerous chances to shine. Memorable turns in the likes of Mad Detective (2007), True Legend (2010) and Special I.D. (2013) not only showed his range but the latter two more than cemented his action credentials, with him facing off with Vincent Zhou and Donnie Yen.
Thankfully, more recently On has been once again given the chance to lead a film, with him sharing the screen with Scott Adkins in Abduction (2019). Although Adkins received top billing, upon viewing the film it’s clear that On was the lead. No one takes top billing from him this time, with the entire film revolving around his character. As well as throwing himself fully into the action, On impresses in the more dramatic scenes, giving Dong Gu an air of vulnerability, not only with his disability but his concern for his daughter.
On is capably matched by Yang Xing who gives a suitably demented performance, with her and On coming together in an unholy alliance, with neither ever trusting the other. Xing is essentially the villain but if you’re like me, you will find it hard not to be rooting for her during certain parts of the film. Xing’s character brings back memories of those fighting females that became popular in the glory days of Hong Kong cinema like Michelle Yeoh, Moon Lee or Yukari Oshima. I wasn’t initially aware of Yang Xing, but if her work here is anything to go by I look forward to seeing where she goes from here.
Some of the promotional material for Blind War has been using Waise Lee’s role as something of a selling point. If like me, those of you who became fans of his from seeing him in A Better Tomorrow (1986) or Bullet in the Head (1990) will be sadly disappointed by how little screen time he is given here, with his part being no more than a cameo.
Blind War may not be a game changer, but I was more than pleasantly surprised by how entertaining it was, with it hardly letting up in its 100 minute runtime. With it recently being released stateside on streaming service Hi-YAH!, there’s no excuse not to check it out. I can’t see martial arts and action lovers not being entertained.
Additionally, if you do enjoy Blind War I would recommend director Huo Sui Qiang’s follow up, The Comeback (2023). Once again featuring Andy On, albeit in a supporting role, The Comeback finds Hong Kong movie legend Simon Yam kicking all kinds of arse. Further Hong Kong movie royalty show up as the film progresses, with both Yuen Wah and Norman Chu getting notable turns, which just makes The Comeback all the easier to recommend. Hopefully the good people at Well Go USA also see fit to put this on Hi-YAH! In the near future.
Plot: 3/5 Acting: 3.5/5 Action: 4/5 Overall: 3.5/5