[WARNING: CONTAINS SPOILERS]
I can't recall the last time I had this much fun watching an action film.
Sometimes it's good for the soul to watch mindless, yet enormously entertaining, popcorn movies. That's exactly what Corey Yuen's "Chik yeung tin sai" is.
The plot's preposterous, but no more than most Hollywood blockbusters. It's just that "So Close" - the film's English title - provides tons more fun than any recent Hollywood actioner. And Yuen and screenwriter Jeff Lau still toss in a doozy of a plot twist that most American action filmmakers wouldn't have the chutzpah to do.
The plot: Two sisters, Lynn (a tremendously sexy Shu Qi) and Sue (Zhao Wei) turn assassins after their parents get gunned down by gangsters seeking the girls' father's invention - technology that can infiltrate every closed-circuit monitoring system in the world. Lynn, the brawn, and Sue, the brains, now use that technology to fight bad guys. Tracking them after their latest hit is female cop Hong Yat Hong (Karen Mok).
Although it's occasionally referred to as Hong Kong's "Charlie's Angels," comparing the two American films to Yuen's work is akin to likening a Pauly Shore movie to "Pulp Fiction." Charlie's Angels got nothing on the three women in "So Close." These heroines would mop the floor with Charlie's Angels.
The film's charm is that it doesn't delude itself by pretending to be something it isn't. Yuen set out to make an action film brimming with sensational stunts, exciting gunplay and cheeky humor and starring three attractive women. Lau's script espouses a feminist message, not only with the sisters' high-kicking independence, but also with Hong's struggle in a male-dominated police force. But feminism isn't the film's main goal. Dazzling us with awe-inspiring action is. And Yuen packs his film with plenty of it.
One particularly astounding display of gunplay features Lynn, clad in a tight white body suit, calmly eviscerating an army of bad guys in a shiny high-rise. The sequence features the most novel pair of stiletto heels and quite possibly the best and cheekiest use of Burt Bacharach's "Close to You" I've heard in a movie.
There's also a rousing fight between two handcuffed women within the claustrophobic confines of a parking garage. No wisecracks, no expressions of bravado. No dialogue whatsoever. Just the grace and beauty of a magnificently choreographed action sequence.
Yuen clearly is having fun. A three-person brawl with swords, guns, knives and bamboo seems like a tribute to himself the scene's reminiscent of a fight featuring Michelle Yeoh and Cynthia Rothrock in Yuen's "Huang gu shi jie" (1985),aka "Yes, Madam" and "Police Assassins."
The music's often cheesy and dialogue doesn't exactly zing. But "So Close," nevertheless, enthralls because it's so unpretentious in its aim.
American action films would be so much better if their filmmakers were half as imaginative as their Hong Kong counterparts. Is it any surprise that Hollywood now actively courts Asian filmmakers and stunt coordinators? Of course, thanks to studio meddling, they've wound up making mediocre stuff here.
Yeah, Hollywood makes popcorn actioners, too. But they're rarely as thrilling or enjoyable as "So Close."
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The brothers Chow Nunn and Chow Lui's giant computer company is facing a tense crisis - a powerful computer virus is rapidly wiping out their computer network. At the last minute a cyber-friend arrives to join the battle. The mysterious 'Angel.com' battles the virus and saves the company. Invited by Chow Lui for a visit in person, Angel.com arrives in the form of the beautiful Lynn. But it turns out Lynn is a professional assassin with amazing high-tech and kung fu skills. She kills Chow Lui with cyanide hidden in a pair of sunglasses. She's aided by her sister Sue, who operates the pair's World Panorama surveillance system, which allows them to tap into any video security system in the world. Young cop Kong Yat Hong and her partner Mark are put on the case. Hong has a brilliant mind and immediately senses she's dealing with a killer with very special skills. Realizing they are facing a tough adversary, Lynn and Sue become fascinated with Hong as well. Lynn runs into Yan, the cousin of an old friend who died. Lynn and Yan shared an unspoken love in the past which is now rekindled in the open, and Lynn begins to question whether she wants to continue to be an assassin. Chow Nunn was behind his older brother's death. He hired Angel.com to kill Lui because Lui opposed Nunn's business plans, and also because Nunn is carrying on a secret affair with Lui's wife. But when Hong's investigation starts to point to Nunn, Nunn becomes worried and decides to hire Angel.com for another hit ^Ö only so he can double-cross them, wipe them out and prevent them from leading the police back to him. Yan tells Lynn he loves her and wants to marry her. After battling an attack by robbers with her amazing martial arts skills, she tells Yan her family's history. Her father invented the World Panorama for use by the authorities, but was turned down. Suspiciously, word of the device got out to the underworld and both parents were brutally killed in front of the girls' eyes by criminals eager to get their hands on the invention. Bereft at the loss of their parents and disillusioned with the law, the sisters turned professional assassins, killing criminals for other criminals. Lynn tells Sue she wants to stop their criminal life and get married ^Ö she won't accept Chow Nunn's order for the second killing. But Sue, angry and feeling abandoned by Lynn, decides to carry out the killing herself. Lynn realizes what's happening and rushes to save Sue, who doesn't have the skills to carry out the hit. They are attacked by Chow's men but escape. Now the assassin and the cop must join forces - so Sue can avenge her sister's death and Hong can prove her innocence in a spectacular confrontation at Chow Nunn's headquarters...
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