Review: ‘The Rookies’ (2021), starring Talu Wang, Sandrine Pinna, Timmy Xu, Meitong Liu, David Lee McInnis and Milla Jovovich

June 8, 2021

by Carla Hay

Talu Wang in “The Rookies” (Photo courtesy of Shout! Studios)

“The Rookies” (2021)

Directed by Alan Yuen

Mandarin, Hungarian and English with subtitles

Culture Representation: Taking place in Hong Kong and in Hungary, the action flick “The Rookies” features a predominantly Asian cast of characters (with some white people) representing law enforcement and criminals.

Culture Clash: Four agents in law enforcement battle a villain who wants to take over the world.

Culture Audience: “The Rookies” will appeal primarily to people who don’t mind watching incoherent and poorly acted action movies.

Milla Jovovich in “The Rookies” (Photo courtesy of Shout! Studios)

Utterly forgettable and messy on every level, “The Rookies” is one of those movies that makes viewers wonder why the filmmakers thought it would be a good idea to get this embarrassing dud made. The acting is cringeworthy, the visual effects are cheap and tacky-looking, and the story is just simplistic garbage made even worse with jumbled and nonsensical action scenes.

“The Rookies” director Alan Yuen seems to have been going for a video-game-inspired tone for the movie. But almost all video games are far superior to this clumsily made film, which was written by Yuen, Yun Cheung and Kong Xu Lei. It has the most boring and over-used concept imaginable for an action flick: heroes chase after a villain who wants to rule the world. Watching this movie is like watching someone saying a bunch of gibberish to answer a simple question.

In “The Rookies,” four special agents in law enforcement team up to stop the bad guy, who happens to be a billionaire. The villain’s name is Iron Fist (played by David Lee McInnis), but his real name is Liam Wonder. At the beginning of the movie, it’s mentioned that he went into hiding after the death of the love of his life named Angelina Kim.

This tidbit of information is the movie’s weak attempt at having a backstory for the villain. The information ends up being irrelevant because “The Rookies” is a movie that consists primarily of badly filmed chase scenes and stupid dialogue. Iron Fist’s master plan to take over the world is to have bombs go off in Budapest and Hong Kong. It’s just a very unimaginative story idea that’s mishandled in the filmmaking.

The four agent pals, who are all in their 20s, waste considerable time bickering with each other, just so the story drags out even more. These four agents are:

  • Zhao Feng (played by Talu Wang), the alpha male of the group who sometimes bungles his way through the job.
  • Miao Yan (played by Sandrine Pinna), an Interpol office who’s a master of disguises and who is struggling with bipolar disorder and depression.
  • Ding Shan (played by Timmy Xu), the group’s nerdy “beta male” who’s the computer/tech expert.
  • L.V. (played by Meitong Liu), who’s got combat skills that catch opponents off-guard because they underestimate her.

Iron Fist has an androgynous accomplice named Bruce (played by Milla Jovovich), an assassin who has a thing for wearing black ties with a black leather jacket and slicked-back hair. As an example of how bad the dialogue is in the movie, in one scene, Bruce faces a group of several men as opponents. Bruce says to them, “Hey boys? Do you like music? How about a fast track?” And then, Bruce fights all of the men by as some fast dance music plays. In another scene, Bruce comments, “Every battle needs a theme song.”

The movie has some filler nonsense where someone has to go to Budapest to hand-deliver a bag that contains something that’s so secret, the person making the delivery can’t even know what’s in the bag. Zhao Feng and Miao Yan have arguments, but it’s really for the most cliché movie reason possible: Deep down, they’re attracted to each other. And throughout the movie, there are cartoonish, animated graphics that just serve as annoying distractions.

“The Rookies” is one of those movies that tries to do too much with some of the action scenes by making them colorful and busy-looking. But it’s all very superficial, because the plot is so jumbled and there’s absolutely nothing memorable about the personalities of the heroes. Jovovich looks like she’s having some fun as she smirks away in her villain role, but clearly this was “just a paycheck” movie for her. She’s been in a lot of terrible movies, but “The Rookies” is easily one of her worst.

The other stars of “The Rookies” have acting talent that ranges from average to almost unwatchable. “The Rookies isn’t the type of horrible movie that’s aggressively offensive. It’s just a complete waste of time for anyone who wants to see an entertaining action flick with a story that doesn’t insult viewers’ intelligence.

Shout! Studios released “The Rookies” in select U.S. cinemas, on digital and VOD on April 16, 2021. The movie was released in China and other countries in 2019.