With Dada Chen at NYAFF 2013

With Dada Chen at NYAFF 2013
With Dada Chen at NYAFF 2013

Wednesday, March 05, 2014

SPECIAL ID opens in limited North American release this Friday

Well Go USA
Special ID / Te shu shen fen
Directed by Clarence Fok Yiu-leung
China, 2013, 99 minutes

Special ID, is a rip-roaring action film directed by Clarence Fok (known for 1992's classic Naked Killer) and stars Donnie Yen. It opens on Friday, March 7th in New York and Los Angeles, with a national release to follow. (Check out the official Special ID website at Well Go USA for information about cities, theaters, roll-out dates and showtimes.)

I attended a pre-release press screening here in New York on February 24th. In a nutshell, Special ID is a WINNER! Donnie plays undercover detective Chen Zilong who is known in the criminal underworld he's infiltrated as "Dragon" Chen. There's lots of suspicion, distrust and betrayal going on, as one might expect in this kind of film. And action sequences a-plenty; very fine action sequences as far as I'm concerned. Lots of fisticuffs as well as a nicely done car chase in which Volvos are prominently featured. (China's Geely Automobile Holdings Ltd. completed its purchase of Ford Motor Co's Volvo unit in August 2010.)

Donnie doin' what he does  best: puttin' the hurt on an opponent.

With Sammo Hung, Jackie Chan and Jet Li in the "aging out" process, "Donnie the Prince" is becoming "Donnie the King" of Chinese action movies. His role here is somewhat similar to Tony Leung's in John Woo's Hard Boiled. In fact, Special ID's action scenes have the intensity of Woo's old "bullet ballets" but with fists, elbows, knees and feet instead of guns, and without the slow mo' and white doves.

The film brought to mind some of the other great Hong Kong films of the 1990s, including Jackie Chan's Police Story series. I make these comparisons in the most respectful way. Whether or not Fok intended to hint at that golden age of Honk Kong actioners, I found it very enjoyable to experience once again the awesomely satisfying feeling of watching those great films.

Mainland police officer Fang Jing (Tian Jing, center)

Lovely Tian Jing (The Warring States, Police Story 2013) is fine looking as Fang Jing, a Mainland cop who's at loggerheads with Chen. She does surprisingly well in the action scenes, though she seems to be clearly doubled in some of the more dangerous ones, which would be no surprise. Her delicate bone structure does make her physical toughness a bit far-fetched. (Her arms are so thin that she remind me of Phoebe, the character with "avian bone syndrome" in the television show 30 Rock.) No matter, she's perfectly fine in the role and provides a welcome respite from the abundant testosterone with which the film is imbued.

Special ID is one helluva fine actioner. Thanks to Well Go USA for bringing yet another terrific Asian film to North American theaters. Seeing it is guaranteed to satisfy your "action Jones."

ACF Rating: 3.5 out of 4 stars; very highly recommended.