So Close

on September 12, 2003 by Wade Major
For all the success that Hong Kong action directors have enjoyed in making the leap to Hollywood, it's telling that those who continue to work on both sides of the Pacific tend to do their best work at home. This is particularly evident in the case of Corey Yuen, known here for his behind-the-scenes fight choreography for Jet Li. Yuen, a childhood classmate of Jackie Chan's, has twice directed films in the United States--the first, "No Retreat, No Surrender," was a dismal 1986 low-budget effort that introduced Jean-Claude van Damme. The second was the more recent "The Transporter," a decent showcase for his skills that nonetheless failed to win over audiences. Yuen's directing efforts in Hong Kong, however, are legendary, most of the best involving either Jet Li or teams of lethal women

"So Close" represents a return to those roots, specifically '80s hits like "Yes, Madam!" and "Blonde Fury." The story centers on a pair of assassin sisters--trigger-woman Lynn (Shu Qi) and tech expert Sue (Zhao Wei)--whose takedown of a powerful crime kingpin places them on a collision course with an equally fierce policewoman named Kong Yat-hung (Karen Mok). Hong Kong films have always been adept at plots involving the delicate dance between righteous detectives and noble assassins, with John Woo's "The Killer" the most revered touchstone. "So Close" doesn't live up to the highest standards of the genre--early, exposition-heavy sections sag terribly--but once in gear, its plot twists and action sequences are infectious.

Yuen clearly relishes the chance to "cut loose" once again--unchained from the manacles of the Hollywood system, his camerawork, choreography and imagination seem re-energized. The increasing use of CGI, now commonplace in Hong Kong movies, is sometimes distracting, but with two of Hong Kong's most beloved actresses--Shu Qi and Karen Mok--alongside one of the industry's hottest newcomers--Zhao Wei--it's unlikely anyone will be overly focusing on the visual effects.

Reportedly inspired by the success of "Charlie's Angels," the picture's pedigree is nonetheless pure Hong Kong, drawing from the best of such classic all-female action ensembles as "Peking Opera Blues," "The Heroic Trio," "Naked Killer" and Yuen's own aforementioned "Yes, Madam!" It's high-octane estrogen designed for unisex consumption, addictive action-film eye candy for boys and girls. And in a summer as dismal as 2003's, that's a welcome tonic. Starring Shu Qi, Zhao Wei, Karen Mok, Seoung-heon Song and Michael Wei. Directed by Corey Yuen. Written by Jeff Lau. Produced by Chui Po Chu. A Strand release. Action. Cantonese- and Mandarin-language; subtitled. Rated R for pervasive violence and a sexual conversation. Running time: 110 min

Tags: Starring Shu Qi, Zhao Wei, Karen Mok, Seoung-heon Song, Michael Wei, Directed by Corey Yuen, Written by Jeff Lau, Produced by Chui Po Chu, Strand

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