Follow TV Tropes


Film / Undeclared War

Go To
When you really, really, really want your action movie to be the next Die Hard...

Undeclared War is a 1990 Hong Kong action buddy cop film directed by Ringo Lam, starring Danny Lee (The Killer), Vernon Wells (Commando) and Peter Lapis (Ghoulies II).

Hannibal (Wells), a terrorist mastermind, has launched a deadly attack on Warsaw, killing an American ambassador and his family and dozens of innocent people, and is planning his next target, a diplomatic conference about to be held in Hong Kong. CIA Agent Gary Redner (Lapis), who is the brother of the deceased diplomat, volunteers for the case, but against his will, he is paired with Inspector Lee Ting-bong (Danny Lee) of the Royal Hong Kong police. Both Redner and Bong, despite an uneasy start, have to eventually put their differences aside to stop Hannibal.

Notably the first of Ringo Lam's movies made with a high budget and with an International audience in mind, and actually pre-dates Rush Hour by eight years when it comes to the "Asian kung-fu super-cop teaming up with American Detective despite language barrier and differences" premise.

Not to be confused with British 2022 series The Undeclared War

Undeclared War contains the following tropes:

  • Bar Brawl: Subverted, after the arrest goes badly, Redner decides to take a drink in a local bar to unwind himself, only to find Inspector Bong already there. One thing leads to another, but the barís owner shouts at them that if theyíre going to fight, "donít" do it in his bar. So Bong and Redner took the fight outside instead, with hordes of nosy onlookers and patrons following them to watch the fun.
  • Bloodstained Glass Windows: The opening massacre scene, where the American diplomatís staff gets ambushed by Hannibalís terrorists in a church while the diplomatís newborn baby is being baptized, leading to plenty of dead bodies littering the pews.
  • Buddy Cop Show: The relationship between CIA Agent Gary Redner and Hong Kong senior policeman Bong plays out pretty much like Lethal Weapon.
  • Bulletproof Vest: Hannibal turns out to be wearing one of these, which helps him survive being shot by Redner in the penultimate boat chase, allowing him to come back for one last Post-Climax Confrontation. It doesnít do him any good from a grenade shoved into his shirt though.
    Hannibal: (reveals his vest to Bong and Redner) "Itís like an American Express Card. Never leave home without it."
  • Convenient Escape Boat: Hannibal had a boat docked in Kowloon Harbour after the conference attack was sabotaged, which he attempts to flee on it. Inspector Bong and Agent Redner had to steal another boat docked in the harbor by showing their identifications to the boatís owner, to pursue Hannibal in a boat chase.
  • Death of a Child: In the church massacre the American diplomat managed to escape with his newborn baby after a fierce gunfight where dozens and dozens of people are graphically killed, but as soon as the diplomat made it inside his limo, another terrorist disguised as a policeman shoots both the diplomat and baby. And throws a grenade on their corpses for good measure.
  • "Die Hard" on an X: Die Hard in a Studio Recording Booth, although it only happens in the last 11 minutes of the film.
  • Eagleland: Gary Redner is a mixed example.
  • Fish out of Water: Gary Redner, a CIA Agent sent alone to Hong Kong on an assignment. His command of the Cantonese language is mediocre at best, and his failure to understand how the Hong Kong police works gets him into serious hot water with Inspector Bong.
  • The "Fun" in "Funeral": After Hannibalís terrorists gets noticed by the police while attempting on an arm deal with local gunrunners, they quickly made a run for itÖ by crashing into a funeral parlor where a funeral procession is taking place. Including hijacking a hearse to make their escape, and shoving the coffin inside onto the streets so that it gets run over by the pursuing police vehicle, mangling the corpse in it in the process.
  • Headbutting Heroes: Inspector Bong and Agent Redner, to the extent of fighting each other after an arrest gone badly.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: Hannibal tries to blow up Inspector Bong and Agent Redner with a hidden grenade after they manage to arrest him. Instead, Bong handcuffs Hannibal to a set of stage-lights and sends it ascending, while Redner forced Hannibal to shove his grenade up his own shirt instead, causing Hannibal to be blown apart into Ludicrous Gibs by his own grenade.
  • Hostage Situation: The climax of the film, with Hannibal and his last surviving henchman, Lieutenant Tang taking an entire studio's worth of staff hostage.
  • Imposter Forgot One Detail: The attempted banquet attack is thwarted when the Hong Kong police orders for a mass evacuation after receiving reports of a bomb threat beforehand. One of Hannibalís terrorists, disguised as a security officer, tries removing a flower basket (which is where they have hidden a time bomb) from the conference room only to be stopped by Redner, asking him where heís taking the flowers. The disguised terrorist claims heís taking the flowers back for his wife, but Redner saw that he isnít wearing a wedding ring.
    Terrorist: "Well, it's my wedding anniversary, my wife would be mad if I go back empty-handed."
    Redner: "Youíre not wearing a wedding ring."
    (The terrorist, realizing his cover is blown, tries to draw a gun on Redner, but Redner beats him to the draw and shot him dead. The dropped flower basket reveals a time bomb ticking away.)
    Redner: "Shouldíve gotten her candy instead."
  • Improvised Weapon: Redner gets into a fight while armed with a bicycle. Which he uses like a club-shield combo.
  • The Mole: Inspector Bongís partner, Lieutenant Tang, turns out to be an informant working for Hannibalís terrorists, who secretly helped Hannibal take over the radio station at the end of the film. Luckily Inspector Bong managed to convince Tang to have a change of heart, but Redemption Equals Death follows soon enough when Hannibal shoots Tang with an Uzi.
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed: At one point Lieutenant Tang said of the current President (back when the movie came out), "Mr. George Bullshit ".
  • Pineapple Surprise: When Inspector Bong and Agent Redner manage to subdue and handcuff Hannibal in the final scene, Hannibal reveals that he actually has a grenade on him, which he attempts to blow up Bong and Redner in a Taking You with Me final moment.
  • Pink Mist: Happens in every scene where somebody gets shot. In the opening scene in the church when the American ambassadorís bodyguards and Polish authorities gets gunned down by Hannibalís mooks, plenty of red spray gets everywhere. As did the final scene when Hannibalís terrorists open fire at the Hong Kong police.
  • Pretty Little Headshots: Played straight in the opening scene when the diplomat's baby gets shot in the head, the only aftermath being visible being a single red speck on the baby's headscarf. Also played straight when Inspector Bong shoots a fleeing terrorist in the head. But averted when Hannibal shoots an innocent woman in the final hostage scene.
  • Redemption Equals Death: Rebecca before the climax, and also Lieutenant Tang near the end.
  • Revenge: Gary Redner is the brother of the diplomat who gets murdered in the opening scene, and deliberately volunteers to be assigned to Hong Kong to apprehend Hannibal and avenge his brotherís family.
  • R-Rated Opening: The movie opens with Hannibalís terrorists attacking an American diplomat while in a church in Warsaw, firing their machine-guns in public and killing plenty of policemen, security guards, bystanders and civilians in a brutal gunfight, where more than 40 onscreen deaths occurs within the first 5 minutes of the film. The rest of the movie is actually a rather slow, mostly drama-orientated Buddy Cop Show which is rather light on action, save for the last 10 minutes or so.
  • She Knows Too Much: Rebecca, after revealing to Hannibal that she wants out of his organization, ends up having Hannibal sneaking on her with a set of curtains and using it to strangle her dead.
  • Silver Fox: Hannibal, a terrorist leader and anarchic mastermind, with a head full of silver hair.
  • Stoic Spectacles: On Inspector Bong.
  • Teeth-Clenched Teamwork: Inspector Bong and Agent Redner really, really, really doesnít like working alongside each other for most of the movie. Though they do later warm up on each other, and at the end of the movie after taking down Hannibal together they do become Fire-Forged Friends.
  • Time Bomb: Hannibalís men use one of these, hidden in a flower basket, to blow up a conference room where several VIPs are gathered. It fails.
  • Token Good Teammate: Rebecca, the sole female member of Hannibalís terrorist team who has a conscience, refusing to open fire on innocent people and actively stopping her teammates when they are about to engage in a full-blown shootout with the police.
  • Water Torture: Part of the Jack Bauer Interrogation Technique imposed on Ian, Hannibalís number two, while being dunked into a tankard of water while suspended upside-down from his ankles.