- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 3, 2002

Don't let the bland generic title fool you: Marco Mak's 2001 Cop on a Mission, new this month from Tai Seng Video, is one lean, mean gangster classic. It's our …

Video pick of the week

Sort of a Chinese "Donnie Brasco," "Cop" (priced for rental VHS, also available on DVD) chronicles the edgy adventures of "mixed" (Australasian) Hong Kong police officer Mike (Daniel Wu), who agrees, reluctantly at first, to go undercover to get the evidentiary goods on cunning Triad boss Tin (Eric Tsang) only to develop a strong taste for money, power and the impotent Tin's gambling-addicted wife Pauline (Suki Kwan).

Unlike Johnny Depp's titular cop in "Donnie Brasco," though, Mike's moral struggle is a brief one as he plots to trick both Tin and his own police brethren in a bid to bag some major swag.

Crowded with gunplay, exciting but realistic stunts, devious intrigues, lethal betrayals and unwavering suspense, "Cop on a Mission" is further abetted by flavorful characters brought to believable life by an expert cast. Mr. Tsang, who resembles something of a Chinese Bob Hoskins (you'll remember "The Long Good Friday"), is especially memorable as the alternately brutal and soulful Tin. Crime-film fans will find this undercover "Cop" well worth rooting out.

The 'A' list

No fewer than three fact-based films arrive on home video later this month: Mekhi Phifer and Sean Maher star in Brian's Song (Columbia/ TriStar), a 2001 remake of the popular 1971 movie dramatizing the friendship that formed between Chicago Bears standout Gayle Sayers and his terminally ill teammate Brian Piccolo (originally played by Billy Dee Williams and James Caan, respectively).

Daydream Believers: The Monkees Story (New Concorde) relates the stirring rise of four manufactured-for-TV Beatles wannabes (they did cut some good singles, though).

Larry Clark's Bully (Trimark) tells a harrowing true-life tale of teen murder, set in Florida and starring Brad Renfro and Bijou Phillips. All three titles will be priced for rental VHS and also available on DVD.

Universal, meanwhile, keys in to Michael Mann's recent big-screen boxing biopic "Ali" with the feature-length documentary Muhammad Ali: Through the Eyes of the World ($14.98 VHS, $19.98 DVD), featuring a plethora of authentic Ali footage plus interviews with such notables as Nelson Mandela, James Earl Jones and (speaking of Beatles) Paul McCartney.

Collectors' corner

In DVD developments, Paramount prepares a pair of discs, due next week, showcasing veteran director John Frankenheimer (known for "The Manchurian Candidate" and "Reindeer Games") at his best and worst: his brilliantly chilling, Oscar-nominated 1966 identity-crisis thriller Seconds, starring Rock Hudson in what may have been his most challenging role; and his 1979 nature-amok horror dud Prophecy, with Talia Shire and Armand Assante. Perhaps not surprisingly, only "Seconds" receives a Frankenheimer audio commentary. The discs are tagged at $24.99 each.

The same pricing applies to the label's upcoming Valentine's Day-targeted DVDs: Sydney Pollack's 1995 critically lauded romantic comedy remake Sabrina, starring Harrison Ford and Julia Ormond; and Joel Schumacher's 1989 Cousins, featuring Ted Danson, Isabella Rossellini and Sean Young. Both are due Jan. 15.

Tele-video

In tube-to-tape (and disc) news, next week Acorn Media issues the British miniseries Charles Dickens' Nicholas Nickleby, starring Charles Dance and James D'Arcy, plus four new episodes of the cult TV sci-fi series Lexx S2-V5 ($29.95 each DVD or two-tape VHS set).

Later this month, A&E; Home Video weighs in with The Awful Truth: The Complete Second Season ($39.95 double-disc DVD set), containing all 12 episodes of gonzo video journalist Michael Moore's Emmy-nominated series. Extras include behind-the-scenes commentary by filmmaker Moore, bonus "Lenny the Bookie" appearances and more.

Phan mail

Dear Phantom: I have tried to track this down across the Internet skies: I am a big fan of Hayao Miyazaki and have seen everything from "The Cockpit" to "Kiki's Delivery Service." My quest: In a preview on "Kiki" there is a film called "Castle in the Sky." No one has any answers for me. Even on Amazon.com, there is only the soundtrack. If anyone can help me, it's you.

Michael Ford, Laurel, Md.

The full title of Miyazaki's 1986 anime feature is Laputa: Castle in the Sky, briefly available on VHS via Streamline Pictures but currently out of circulation. You might try Video Vault (800/VAULT-66) or Science Fiction Continuum (800/232-6002) for a rental copy.

Send your video comments and queries to Phantom of the Movies, The Washington Times, 3600 New York Ave. NE, Washington, D.C. 20002 or e-mail us at: [email protected] And check out our Web site at www.videoscopemag.com.


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