Undeclared War (1990)- * * *
Directed by: Ringo Lam
Starring: Vernon Wells. Olivia Hussey, Danny Lee, Peter Liapis, David Hedison, Tommy Wong, and Rosamund Kwan
An evil man named Hannibal (Wells) and his sidekick Rebecca Eche (Hussey) are the leaders of the so-called "World Liberation Army", which is just a front for a terrorist organization. Leaving a trail of death and destruction in their wake, they travel from Poland to Hong Kong and attempt to set up shop there. But local cops Inspector Bong (Lee) and Inspector L.T. Tang (Wong) are trying to stop them - as is American CIA-Agent-With-An-Attitude Gary Redner (Liapis). Despite the typical inter-agency and inter-country squabbles, the men band together to stop Hannibal and Rebecca. Adding to their stress are the interventions of the US Ambassador (Hedison) and newswoman Ann Chang (Kwan). Will our unlikely heroes put an end to the UNDECLARED WAR?
1-2-3-4, I UNdeclare a thumb war! Or, at least Ringo Lam does in this intrigue-actioner with a truly international cast. Finally, we get to see the Australian Vernon G. Wells team up with the Argentinian-born but British Olivia Hussey causing mayhem in Poland with a Chinese director! Only during the video store era could you get a country-spanning mashup like that. Wells's nefarious baddie role of Hannibal is said to be a "master of disguise", and it is true he can put on a gray-haired wig and look like Leslie Nielsen at the drop of a hat. Truly a must-have for any aspiring terrorist.
All that being said, fans of Hong Kong action and the style of Ringo Lam will find plenty to feast on with Undeclared War. It has all his classic directorial trademarks, and the shooting, fighting, and stuntwork can't be beat. Whenever anyone gets shot, they're enveloped in a thick red mist, as if they had a pack of Crayola crayons in their pocket (only the red ones, of course - for some reason), and the bullet slammed right into it.
Peter Liapis as Redner was a real revelation. Apparently, we had last seen him in Ghost Warrior (1984), but he must not have made much of an impression. Well, he more than makes up for that, as he gets all the best lines in the film and adds a lot of energy to not just his own role but to the movie overall.
David Hedison, a mainstay of TV throughout his career and throughout all of our lives is also present and accounted for here, and only the year before he had appeared in Licence to Kill (1989). Going from James Bond to Ringo Lam in one easy step. What a life.
In America, Undeclared War came out on VHS on the Imperial label. Unfortunately, the transfer is not the best, with blurry/washed out colors and muddy audio. The guitar and sax on the soundtrack don't come across as clear as they should. Thankfully, some of the dialogue is subtitled but there is an array of thick accents throughout the film. Not a bad thing, of course, but, to date the VHS is the only way to see Undeclared War in this country. A cleaned-up digital release is badly needed and would surely raise its standing in the eyes of viewers.
Really the only flaw here is that it's 104 minutes and doesn't really need to be. Other than that, Undeclared War is more of an Unseen War because it remains a hidden gem, at least in the U.S. Here's hoping a company like MVD will give it a Blu-ray treatment sometime soon. In the meantime, if you can find it, we think you'll be very entertained by Undeclared War.
Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty