Hong Kong drug traffickers are found dead at random sites around Amsterdam, leading aging heroin baron Chung Wei (Keye Luke) to contact ex-DEA agent Quinlan (Robert Mitchum) with an offer to inform on the international cartel in exchange for amnesty. Quinlan was removed from his job for stealing drug money, so is looking to redeem himself in the eyes of his colleagues Odums (Bradford Dillman) and Ridgeway (Richard Egan) and show-up pompous DEA chief Riley Knight (Leslie Nielsen). Using Chung’s information, Quinlan tips DEA agents to drug busts, but when the first two of these go awry resulting in dead officers, the cops question whether he should be trusted.
The Amsterdam Kill was among Golden Harvest’s sporadic attempts to crack the American market. It is supposedly a remake of Jumping Ash (1976) which is considered the first film of the Hong Kong New Wave and was a breakthrough for director Ronny Yu. In spite of an A-list leading man, this has the grainy visuals and choppy editing of a kung fu quickie (editor Allan Holtzman later directed cheapo Alien rip-off Forbidden World (1982)) but is murky, lethargic and at times borderline incoherent. Robert Clouse may have made Enter the Dragon (1973) but was never really the action maestro his reputation suggested. Bruce Lee and Sammo Hung were long rumoured to have been the real force behind that film’s classic fight scenes and in fact Hung choreographed the action here, although it is far from impressive, largely scenes with Mitchum piled under hordes of screaming Chinese stuntmen.
Sold with the tagline: “the meanest Mitchum movie yet”, fans hoping to see the iconic star bust triad skulls the way he battled Japanese gangsters in The Yakuza (1975) may be disappointed. The aging actor was none too keen about throwing himself into exhausting action sequences and chose to leave them to other actors like George Cheung, a prolific film and television actor active to this day, as Chinese agent Jimmy Wong who safeguards the annoyingly quixotic Chung Wei. At least Mitchum goes wild with a bulldozer during the lively climax, but the film throws repetive scenes where he keeps being captured, bound and gagged then inexplicably released. He allegedly hated making the movie - and the Hong Kong crew weren’t crazy about him either - but delivers his usual professional, laconically charismatic performance. Of the supporting players, Bradford Dillman recycles his irate police chief act from the Dirty Harry sequels whilst viewers more familiar with Leslie Nielsen’s spoof roles will struggle to take him seriously.
Although the film takes a more sober view of the drugs trade than Golden Harvest’s outrageous Stoner (1974), Clouse blunders through the globetrotting action without clarifying the increasingly nebulous plot. We never learn whether Quinlan really did steal that drug money nor why Chung Wei keeps escaping from Jimmy when he is supposed to be his bodyguard. By far the most interesting aspect for Hong Kong film fans is spotting several soon-to-be-big stars among the supporting cast. Mr. Vampire himself, Lam Ching Ying appears as a Hong Kong cop unimpressed with Quinlan’s maverick ways and look out for a young Yuen Wah and Yuen Biao killed by stampeding horses in slow-motion.