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Monday, 14 January 2019

Retro Review: So Close (2002) #Hongkongcinema

So Close (aka Zik- joeng tin- si)
Cast: Shu Qi, Vicki Zhao, Karen Mok, Song Seung-heon
Genre: Action
Hong Kong Box Office Gross: over $800 million

Plot: A conflict of interest between two high-kicking assassin sisters is complicated when they are pursued by the criminals who hired them and a high-kicking female cop

'Close, Yet Oh So Far'

I could see Corey Yuen's Western influences and traits in The Transporter starring Jason Statum, as well as The Matrix running through this film; it's not so much less Yuen and a little bit more of John Woo in its slick production and choreography. Although I'm not really a fan of post-mid-1990s Hong Kong action films, So Close is a tad better than most offerings, and still, as an action martial arts film, it is disappointing with an over-reliance on CGI and wire work-based action scenes and a surprisingly tame narrative.

The comparisons made with 2000's Charlie's Angels is a little odd, with the only resemblances being the girls use martial arts and the films themselves have female action protagonists.

The downsides to this film are the romance part, which bored me and I could care less for it and the middle part of the story doesn't explode. I would have also liked a bit more action, the tonality is off-key and at times, the melodrama, similar to the one in She Shoots Straight, was overdone. Zhao Wei is not bad, whilst Karen Mok has screen presence and shows her versatility in the action stakes. Both Zhao Wei and Karen Mok have a Stephen Chow connection, as they each shared the spotlight with the comedic actor; Shu in Shaolin Soccer and Mok in The God of Cookery. Performances-wise, I liked them, but the CGI thing and the lack of high-quality action scenes I've come to expect from a director in Yuen really lessened my enjoyment of So Close.

The individual origin stories of the sisters and the female cop are just not well developed, that as much as I tried to engage in the drama and the plot, it just wasn't strong or believable enough. The plot twist with the murder frame-up could have used a bit more work and it's a shame that despite some good performances, the actors were let down by the script and the action is mostly decent at best, but is not exceedingly great. Add to that that the editing is haphazard (which is unheard of by his usual standards), there is that underlying sense that Yuen, an action director and choreographer of whom I admire, was fuelled by and opted for style over substance and going for that John Woo flashy feel, which under Yuen here, isn't a good match for him. Yuen is better being Corey Yuen, but by mimicking or going for that Woo style and the slo-mo shots, the end result is not as particularly good.

The plot twists were confusing to boot and made little sense; the two girls, who came across to me like the bad guys (though that was the impression I was receiving) infiltrate a computer system and after gaining access, hell breaks loose. A female cop in Kong enters the fray and the girls are pursued by Kong and Chow Lui's brother who hired the girls and who now wants them dead.

As a fan of Hong Kong action movies of the 1980s and 1990s, I wonder whether this sub-standard quality action flick is too good enough for fans of martial arts action films that have a rewatchability factor; well, as far as I am concerned, this is two steps down for Yuen-Kwai who has delivered far better. 

Final Verdict:

As Corey Yuen films go, this is one of his weaker efforts that when compared to the excellent She Shoots Straight and Yes Madam!, this one underwhelms and it feels not very impressive and is rather hackneyed. Although it fares a tad better than say, DOA, which isn't saying much either. The CGI-based action scenes also took away from some of my enjoyment, but the final third scene was rather good.

Additionally, lacking in wit and self-awareness, it would have benefited So Close a good deal had these aspects been considered and the film had not taken itself too seriously.


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