Tsui Hark produces this flashy Hong Kong-Japanese effort; if ever there was a mark of quality in the 80s, it was to see his name attached to a project in any way. Yet ‘Spy Games’ is the perfect example of style over substance and how, if the former massively outweighs the latter, whatever potential is there is wasted.
Japanese pop star Takako is the unwitting victim of a practical joke by her bandmates, something actually intended for their shrewish manager. Because of this, Takako is convinced that her estranged father is a spy in Hong Kong and is currently in tremendous peril. Before the misunderstanding can be corrected, Takako decides to fly to Hong Kong and investigate for herself. Almost immediately she finds herself surrounded by nefarious characters and is saved by inept news anchor Ken. The two team up to complete the mission while her bandmates decide to follow her to Hong Kong and clear up the deception. Yet however crazy Takako’s theory seems, a very real case of espionage means that her life is at risk.
‘Spy Games’ starts with terrific energy and bombast, quick-cut scenes backed by vibrant J-Pop. That energy continues through most of the film; one thing ‘Spy Games’ doesn’t lack is a sense of glossy confidence. What it does lack, critically, is any kind of involving plot, something that would have tied the brightly coloured shots of Tokyo and Hong Kong together. Instead, the focus is on exuberance with precious little to knit it all together, making for a tiresome experience.
And it could all have been so different. The storyline is absurd and relies on the remarkable naivety of its heroine, but it could have worked if there was a sense of it going somewhere. The narrative is never worthy of the breezy nature of the film and becomes a series of barely connected scenes thrown together. It’s a crying shame as ‘Spy Games’ is blessed with a great cast from both Japan and Hong Kong, along with a sense of fun that should be infectious. It isn’t. ‘Spy Games’ is packed with 80s excess and ebullience, yet forgot to include the countless other elements that so many of its contemporaries included.