Cinema-Maniac: Will of Iron (1990) Review

Will of Iron is a PSA disguised as a feature length film attempting to tell the audience that drugs are bad, and don’t do them. Sharing the spotlight between four characters it aims to show in the simplest of ways the horrors that drugs can bring to their lives directly, and indirectly. A serious subject matter that should be handle with care none of which will be found here. You have Jacky Cheung playing the complex character of Jacky. A drug addict whose trying to call it quits, but just seems incapable of quitting it cold turkey. Then you have Michael played by Michael Wong. Doing all he can to clumsily play a drug dealer whenever he’s on screen. The material he’s given doesn’t provide much leniency, or clarity how tough, sympathetic, scummy, or funny he should be in a scene. One scene will have Michael being scummy in supplying Jacky the drugs, while seconds will be the concerning best friend. It doesn’t help that Michael Wong himself does a poor job in the role; he’s fine whenever he’s not acting as a drug dealer, but since half of the film has him doing that he lacks the toughness the role demands.

Will of Iron 01
Producer: “What do you say now Jacky? Agree to star in the movie?”

Jacky (the character) is given some background being told that he has tried beating his drug habit, but there’s no usage of that in any sort of theme. From my limited experience, having a drug addict constantly coming back to doing drugs has worked itself into a theme in other movies about drugs. It’s a ongoing cycle that drug addicts have difficulty in breaking, and typically this would be used in either its narrative to reflect that cycle, or have the drug consumption sequences reflect its character enjoyment of it. Here, you get neither of those approach. Breaking the norm by just having it as a plot point, and just bringing it up whenever the plot is at a standstill. Like Jacky job for instance is to draw pictures; however, manga/comic panels (you anime fans will notice the Dragon Ball manga in the background) can be seen in his household multiple times throughout the movie will confuse matter. Simply saying Jacky is a comic artist would have clear things up. However, Jacky claims people buy his pictures whether this means making an entire issue of drawings, or just a singular piece is unclear. It’s not important to the story, but given Jacky addiction revolves around him using cocaine to get inspiration for his artwork just getting the basics right is required.

There’s also the character of Maggie played by Maggie Cheung. Considering how incompetently written the movie is I can’t fault it for naming some of its characters after their actors since it would have forgotten that too. She’s the one good person among the group of friends who managed to make a good life for herself. Going out of her way to help her friends resolve their issues no matter how dangerous it gets. We’re talking about involving drug dealers who regularly appear in the movie violently reminding Jacky he owes them money. Now, Maggie character when not interacting with the drug dealers is a sensible character. This flawless character ain’t got much going for her, but her actions to help her friends never come off as far fetch, or out of the boundary of realism. When she does interact with the drug dealers, well, one-hundred thousand dollar debt increases to around half a million in one conversation, and have to earn that within a week all because Maggie had to open her mouth.

 

Will of Iron 03
Drug Dealer: “Get into the fridge! Revenge is a dish best serve cold!”

Finally, the character of Carol is played by Crystal Kwok. She suffers the most from bad writing being important in the beginning of the movie than turning into a plot point. Kwok character is so poorly written I laughed unironically at the characters discovery that Carol attempted to kill herself. Yep, you can tell by that how much I cared. The only character left to talk about is Sam played by Yiu-Wah Kwok. Sam is just simply evil, and money grubby. Everything he does is done without subtlety to paint the idea all drug dealers are this crazy, and ruthless. In a action movie sure I’ll accept such a character depending on the context, but in a PSA passing itself as a drama such a character is out of place.

The film doesn’t function a film first, and quickly fails because of it. Typically, you would think certain rules, or ideas about writing would be common among people who are paid to write stories for a living. In this film, it thinks it’s a good idea to have the lesson first, and then think about the movie aspect to them. So what you get are scenes, after scenes, and more scenes driving the same point home of drugs are bad. Given the territory, expect the usual giving into temptation, friends being torn apart by the person’s addiction, the addict falling back into their habits until they finally have the strength to overcome it on their own, and other such scenes.

The only scene in the movie that’s worth anything is a scene where Jacky has a nightmare consisting him making some silly expressions. It starts off with Jacky walking into a hallway, finding a small packet of cocaine, and than a bigger package, until eventually finding barrels full of cocaine in the hallway. Jacky gleefully envelopes his face into the cocaine overjoyed by the supply. Once the cocaine disappears, Jacky sees a the drug dealers in the hallway, and they go after him. After tripping, Jacky turns back to see it was all in his head, and then an avalanche of red plastic barrels fall into down a flight of stair, and into the hallway. This nightmare finally ends when Jack witnesses his girlfriend getting killed. This the only entertaining scene in the movie, and all for the wrong reasons.

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Now that’s the face of a drug addict.

Finally, the action climax which the film has one for some reason lacks urgency. To give you an idea of the setup, you have a character who swallowed drug pods, a pregnant woman, and two other friends avoiding getting killed by gangsters in a abandoned house. Despite the prospect one character can die unexpectedly of drug pods exploding inside of him, and a pregnant woman possibly having her baby killed still left me bored. As characters, the previous two acts did nothing much in creating compelling characters. Once it got the setup done in the opening credits that was about it for characterization. Everything that was to be heartfelt felt phoned in due the constant PSA of don’t do drugs prevented the story from flourishing naturally. A happy ending wouldn’t actually lessen the significant of the message, but this film thinks otherwise which is why it just ends. After the action climax is done, and the last person is killed the film just finally calls it quits. It ends without lingering the consequences, or ends bittersweetly with a message that not committing to quitting an addiction is just harmful.

Will of Iron is simply a tiresome PSA patronizing the viewer, and does even worse as a drama having no idea how to properly discuss its subject matter. Just about every aspect of the film doesn’t work in its favor from the clueless writing, bad acting, and hammering the same points over, and over again to the point the viewer might actually take up drugs just to feel like their time wasn’t completely wasted. It’s just a dreadful movie to sit through, and by the end of it I felt my life sucked out of me during my viewing experience. I was done with the movie before hitting the halfway mark, and maybe taking some cocaine, unlike watching this movie, will actually provide some level of engagement.

Rating: 1/10

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