Therefore, it's left to Chow to seduce you into Lt. Chen's life, and seduce he does: The character is swollen with all the sly charm, lanky style, and bemused gentleness that his brittle Replacement Killers character repressed. Chen's practical, then desperate, corruption intrigues enough that I felt the pull of the love story--but not enough to fall, with Wallace, completely. Chow's isolated brilliance becomes a curiosity in itself: Why is he so good at playing men that other men feel comfortable falling in love with? Undoubtedly he's tough, but there's something in his doughy face and full lips that looks soft, too, in the same way that Cary Grant's rounded shoulders seemed endearing. Chow's characters resemble the movies they inhabit: Like hibernating volcanoes, they're cold and sharp, but with a hot, liquid center.
I hesitate to ask why straight men must be under the gun (forgive the pun) to show affection for each other--the answer seems so obvious. But even if you spring free the gay subtext, or simply acknowledge the fear that some American men have of appearing gay, you're left with this incomplete equation: Violence plus love equals...what? Perhaps warfare has been so inscribed on male bodies that men tend to process love's high emotion through images of fear, adrenaline, and combat. And maybe competition is an expression of love as valid as "feminine" cooperation and compromise. In The Deep End of the Ocean, Bethie's two sons develop a gruff affection on the basketball court in between (or through?) their taunts and their shoves. But where's the woman in this scenario? Whether in the foreground of this chick flick or the background of this guy movie, she's lying there sleeping or dead--weak, pallid, and unknown.
Giving it up (again): Michelle Pfeiffer and Ryan Merriman in The Deep End of the Ocean