Harry Potter!
Cinema Signal:


. "So Close" (aka, Chik yeung tin sai)

Lots of films have virtues lurking amidst the failings, even when that includes a juvenile sense of storytelling, copy-cat concepts, video game cutting, cartoonish characters, and a false representation of reality -- all to provide motivation for kung fu gymnastics and action chases. As though anyone prone to embrace this movie cares about motivation.

We're asked to believe that someone has the capability to take over the highly protected network of a giant computer company as a threat to wipe out their records and databases, and then back out of the virus-like attack at the flick of a key. We may not believe it, but corporate co-chairman Chow Lui takes it seriously enough to accept a face-to-face meeting with the perpetrator. When world-class beauty Lynn (Qi Shu, "The Transporter") shows up we know we're in for a glamour show patterned on Charlie's Angels -- not on the more esteemed, reflective drama, "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon." The chairman, who, with his brother, is really an arch crime boss, quickly learns he's facing off with an assassin who perfectly anticipates his moves and has brought the necessary tool to counter his most impregnable defenses.

This omniscience on Lynn's part is explained when we see her almost equally hot younger sister Sue (Zhao Wei, aka Vicky Zhao) in radio contact with her while operating their World Panorama surveillance program that displays the view of any security camera anywhere -- currently in the Chairman's office! (Hey, I don't write this stuff!).

This handy device which seems to be able to do anything the present danger calls for, including high-res imagery from a satellite, could challenge the concepts behind the T machines of the Terminator, the binary dynamics of The Matrix and Patrick Stewart's two-level world view in "X2". It was invented by the girls' father and, when he was murdered, they harnessed it to become professional assassins, to help heal the hurt. Now, after many years of invincibility in the field, Lynn is growing weary of it and looking for other avenues of expression.

Too bad, because the other part of their success and our entertainment is their physical prowess, which, when needed, is boosted by gravity-defying cable-enabling martial moves to exploit the physical allure and peppy personalities of the pair. Then, as though to maintain the Charlie's Angels imagery of three delicious babes, the astoundingly perceptive female detective Kong Yat Hong (Karen Mok) is brought in as their ultimate nemesis.

Director Cory Yuen and screenwriter Jeff Lau seem to know that killers, however beautiful and spunky, might lose the sympathy of their audience, so they put them at their parents' grave, paying homage -- a sign of respect that's sure to gain enough favor in the Asian market to counter the disapproval of such lovely, bloody hands. Add to that Lynn's desire to retire, her level-headed protectiveness of her sister, and a reunion between her and her childhood boyfriend that we don't for a moment believe is going anywhere -- all seems to straddle rather than fit the chop socky blueprint. Yuen has established himself as an action director of considerable skill, but if he's reaching out for wider appeal he would do well to enlist the aid of writers with a little mainstream sophistication -- as in not killing off your main character before the final act.

This bit of story unruliness is as unexlainable as why the team's employers try to get rid of them... other than that it's an unclever ploy to keep up the stream of action choreography. Combating the madcap cartoonish style, the actresses perform with the kind of camera awareness that bespeaks volumes of prior work, as well as incorporating an impressive level of athleticism. As Vicky Zhao puts it, "If you want the scene to look real you have to fight hard." The fight in handcuffs between her and Karen Mok -- one of many death-defying ballets - would seem to live up to this credo. Vicky Zhao doesn't just create credo's, however. She's the one who dreamt up the hint of lesbianism - an element already being made much of in the press.

Cinematographer Kwok-Man Keung proves his mettle by providing the professional touch in big scenes and in caressing closeups while, in the special effects department, the blood squibs in the gun battles is a borrowed device that's been done to death, pun intended.

This is a film that'll look great in a trailer with so much dazzling action and fashion-shoot glamour to cull scene snippets from. In its entirety, however, its ever-leaping continuity is a strain on more demanding sensibilities that look for style in the craftsmanship as well as in the casting. That said, however, one can hardly ignore the appeal of its leads, their looks, their spirit and their fearless friskiness. Flowers in a rocky landscape. Virtues amidst the failings.

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                                      ~~  Jules Brenner  


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Rating: 4

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                                                      ~~ Senaka Y.

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Shu Qi, a beauty to contend with

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