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FilmsAsia: Asian film reviews
Soh Yun-Huei
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   So Close  


So Close

Reviewed by Soh Yun-Huei

Chinese Title: Chik yeung tin sai
Director: Corey Yuen
Writing Credits: Jeff Lau
Cast: Hsu Chi, Vicky Zhao, Karen Mok
Genre: Science Fiction Action
Country: Hong Kong
Language: Cantonese
Year released: 2002
Runtime: 110 min
Rating: 2½ stars (out of four stars)

Is So Close the Asian answer to Charlie’s Angels? From the trailer, one might expect it to be - it features three women who look sexy, are scantily clad half the time, but aren’t afraid to dish out some serious ass-whupping should the situation call for it. However, the similarities with Charlie’s Angels stop there. Directed by acclaimed martial arts choreographer Cory Yuen, and starring established starlets Shu Qi, Karen Mok and Vicky Zhao, So Close has a lot going for it. And for the first twenty minutes, So Close delivers in spades. Unfortunately, it’s all downhill from that point on.

Lynn (Shu Qi) and Sue (Vicky Zhao) have been orphaned since their teenage years, their parents murdered by thugs hankering after their father’s breakthrough invention called the World Panorama, which allows the user access to any surveillance system in the world. The two girls grow up to become assassins, aided by the World Panorama as well as other innovative gadgets. Their most recent hit is to assassinate a powerful mob boss, and although more jobs are waiting for the duo, Lynn is thinking of retiring from the trade. The reason for her change of heart is a chance meeting with her ex-beau (Korean heartthrob Song Seung Hyun) - and a desire to finally settle down and get away from it all.

Sue has other plans, however. Always the logistics support for Lynn, she craves to see some action on her own. When Lynn decides to give up a hit contract, Sue grabs the opportunity to try to conduct the hit on her own. However, things aren’t as simple as they seem - especially when an intelligent female cop (Karen Mok) comes into the picture, and seemingly is able to predict their every move. Of course, something then occurs to make the good cop and the bad assassins team up to fight a common enemy - will they succeed in defeating the enemy? And at what cost?

So Close ostensibly is a film about female empowerment - after all, it’s about three ass-kicking femmes fatales. However, one only needs to look closer (pun not intended) to realize that this is simply a gratuitous excuse to parade the three women in skimpy outfits and less. There’s not a single scene where at least one of the three women bares her legs, her back, or some other part of her body (this being a Parental Guidance PG film however, there are no bare breasts around). Even worse, there are shots that are simply there to titillate the right audience and serves no real purpose - we see Karen Mok wearing her clean, white, cotton underwear in a morning shot, but it doesn’t advance the story at all. There’s even a scene where Sue sneaks up to surprise Lynn whilst she is taking a bath - which feels more at home in a soft-porn flick than an action movie. Of course, I am sure not many male moviegoers are going to complain much.

The opening reel of So Close is a very promising one - it features Shu Qi resplendently decked out in a stylish white suit, and the subsequent hit on the mafia boss is also well-filmed and executed, with the use of the Carpenters’ Close To You a particularly inspired touch (and possibly a tribute to Tarantino), as well as a plethora of cool gadgets. Unfortunately, the film goes onto increasingly unsteady footing, featuring a romance that fails to convince, and then bogged down by an unnecessary and overtly melodramatic plot development. Also, whilst most of the special effects are passable, there are certain effects that stick out like a sore thumb - especially the many, many sheets of glass that are digitally smashed.

Of the three actresses, it’s obvious that Shu Qi is the central character in the film, and no expense has been spared to make her look good at all times. And look good she does, although there is nothing in the role of Lynn to even test her acting mettle. Zhao Wei fares more poorly, however. She plays second fiddle to Shu Qi almost throughout the entire film, and somehow she manages to look dowdy with great ease. When she is finally in the limelight for the last reel, her performance is remarkably blasé. Karen Mok is at best a speaking vase, and her character is easily the least developed amongst the three.

Another drawback is that So Close runs for way too long, clocking in at close to two hours, when a more judicious editing team would have made the movie so much more palatable. As it stands, there’s too much filler in the film, and it’s hard to maintain interest in the film. This is coupled with a dumb plot that boggles the mind with its stupidity - for example, one of the characters in the film is framed for a crime, but she actually has a watertight alibi during the time the crime was committed. Perhaps everyone involved in the movie just assumed that the copious amounts of flesh would make up for the lack in plot.

However, the pain is somewhat eased with the superlative action choreography by Cory Yuen - the Hong Kongers are still the best action choreographers in the world, and So Close is further testament to the fact. Thankfully, for every soppy melodramatic scene, there are two action sequences to counter the cheese. So Close is, thus, not the Asian Charlie’s Angels, but it can pass off as a moderately entertaining, if not exactly intelligent, piece of film-making.

Final Word: So long. So much flesh. So close... to being a less-than-mediocre movie.