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  So Close They're no angels
Year: 2003
Director: Corey Yuen
Stars: Shu Qi, Vicky Zhao Wei, Karen Mok, Song Seung-Hun, Michael Wai Chi-Ho, Yasuaki Kurata, Wan Siu-Lun, Sek Sau, Ricardo Mamood, Ben Lam Kwok-Bun, Josephine Lam Gei-Yan, May Kwon Man-Chung
Genre: Action, Martial ArtsBuy from Amazon
Rating:  7 (from 1 vote)
Review: Columbia Pictures’ Asian division concocted this Hong Kong cash-in on their American hit Charlie’s Angels (2000), although So Close easily trumps the admittedly good-natured Hollywood romp. Ai Lin Chen (Shu Qi, at her loveliest) and her kid sister Sue (Vicky Zhao Wei, fresh off her star-making turn in Shaolin Soccer (2001)) are beautiful high-tech assassins for hire, having inherited control over their late father’s invention - the World Panorama satellite able to tap into any closed circuit video system across the globe. When Lin kills a corporate criminal Chow Lui (Sek Sau), the siblings’ activities are uncovered by ace policewoman Kong Yat-hung (Karen Mok), who is every bit as smart, sexy and skilled at martial arts as they are. As a series of cat and mouse games ensue, Chow Nunn (Wan Siu-Lun), having anonymously ordered his brother’s murder in the first place, tries to clear up any lose ends by killing all three gun-toting girls.

Watching Shu Qi melt hearts and blow bad guys away here as the guilt-ridden, acrobatic assassin only makes it more galling to see her wasted as simpering Chinese totty in The Transporter (2002). Rumour has it the great Corey Yuen Kwai, with veteran filmmaker Jeff Lau on scriptwriting duties, came up with this role at least in part reaction to Qi’s boredom on the set of that Jason Statham actioner, which he also directed. She kicks things off on a high, blasting villains to the strains of a Cantopop cover version of The Carpenters’ Close to You (a typically quirky Jeff Lau touch and from whence the movie takes its name). Yuen Kwai, Hong Kong’s master of fighting femme fatale flicks from Royal Warriors (1986) to She Shoots Straight (1990), pulls off a winning facsimile of a slick Hollywood techno-thriller. Set in a glossy world of mile high skyscrapers and high-tech hardware, the film is laced with breathless gunplay, showy computer graphics and high-wire stunts.

Although Lin’s romantic subplot with Yen (Korean pop idol Song Seung-Hun) is a tad too syrupy it remains true to Jeff Lau’s preoccupation with star-crossed romance (see also his script for Yuen Kwai’s marvellous Saviour of the Soul (1991) and his self-directed classic A Chinese Odyssey (1995)), while the payoff evokes winning memories of A Better Tomorrow II (1987). More than the love story, it’s the female bonding that proves compelling, done with typical HK movie gusto via a suspenseful sequence that begins with the sisters sharing a lift with Kong. It erupts into a blisteringly balletic duel wherein Kong and Lin are handcuffed and, as an added bonus, try to rip each other’s clothes off. All three leads look marvellous and put their all into the dramatic and action elements, though Karen Mok arguably steals the show. You can’t take your eyes off her live wire tomboy cop, from her great intro doing the splits in mid-air to pin two crooks either side of an elevator, to her amusingly filthy sex talk with geeky partner Siu-Ma (Michael Wai Chi-Ho) and quasi-flirtatious banter with an appealingly pixyish Vicky Zhao Wei.

Yuen Kwai loses sight of the whole corporate intrigue subplot, but pulls off a trio of top-notch set-pieces including the aforementioned four-way standoff, a superb scene where Lin fends off a house invasion whilst instructing Sue how to evade the pursuing cops, and Vicky Zhao Wei and Karen Mok’s climactic sword duel against martial arts legend Yasuaki Kurata. Karen Mok also contributes a couple of soul numbers over the end credits.

Reviewer: Andrew Pragasam

 

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Corey Yuen  ( - )

Hong Kong director and actor. His earliest work was an uncredited director on the cheapo Bruce Lee sequel Tower of Death, but it was stylish, popular martial arts hits like Ninja in the Dragon Den, Yes Madam, Jackie Chan's Dragons Forever and the action fantasy Saviour of the Soul that made Yuen's name.

In the nineties, he directed Jet Li in films like The Legend, The Defender and The Enforcer, which led to work as action choreographer on many of Li's Hollywood films, including The One, Kiss of the Dragon and Cradle 2 the Grave. Most recently, Yuen directed the Luc Besson-produced action hit The Transporter.

 
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