(Gordon Chan, HK, 1997)
Taking inspiration from The X-Files, Armageddon stars Andy Lau as Gark Tin Shan, a scientist selected by mysterious assassins as the next on their hit list. You see, Tin is one of ten people from across the globe selected by Century Magazine as potential future leaders of the world - each being at the pinnacle of their chosen field - and, one by one they are being killed off by a unknown organisation calling themselves The Brotherhood. The Hong Kong police assign a bodyguard, Chui Tai Pan (Anthony Wong), to protect the scientist who quickly discovers Tin is having visions of his dead girlfriend, Adele. He isn't the only one who sees Adele, so are these visitations connected to the murder case? During the investigation, Chui and Tin discover that The Brotherhood believe they are readying the world for 'Judgement Day' which will begin in Prague. The two set off for Czechoslovakia to either meet their maker or solve the crime, or maybe both.
Gordon Chan's film benefits from a more complex than usual (particularly for the genre) plot and although running only 99 minutes it does take its time fleshing out the apocalyptic aspects of the screenplay. At times one has the feeling that the director is dawdling for no apparent reason. And there is no reason to dawdle as there are several plot elements that work well together. Particularly well worked in is the haunting return of Tin's dead girlfriend (whose demise we witness in a shocking flashback). The casting is good, Lau is appropriate as the scientist out of his depth and, best of all, is Anthony (Tony) Wong as the police officer Chui Tai Pan who remains convinced the case is a straight-forward crime. After a mightily impressive opening ten minute set-piece (à la James Bond) where a SWAT team attempts to stop the latest assassination, what follows never manages to reach that dramatic high again and so disappoints to some extent. The 'is it a crime or is it supernatural' theme of Armageddon would seem to be inspired by the success of The X-Files, with which it does share some superficial similarities, but there are certainly a couple of apocalypse movies that this is closer in spirit to. Not quite the gripping thriller it could have been, nevertheless, Armageddon should hold some appeal to both genre and HK thriller fans alike.