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So Close
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So Close (2002)

Vicki Zhao, Karen Mok and Shu Qi vogue for the camera.
Chinese: 夕陽天使  
Year: 2002  
Director: Corey Yuen Kwai  
Writer: Jeff Lau Chun-Wai  
Action: Corey Yuen Kwai  
Cast: Shu Qi, Vicki Zhao Wei, Karen Mok Man-Wai, Song Seung-Heon, Michael Wai, Deric Wan Siu-Lun, Yasuaki Kurata, Lam Kwok-Bun, Sek Sau, Richard Mamood, Tats Lau Yi-Tat, Henry Fong Ping, Bau Hei-Jing, May Kwong Man-Wai, Josie Ho Chiu-Yi, Leo Koo Ka-Kui
The Skinny: The occasional cool action sequence redeems this otherwise ridiculous and laughable action thriller. The gorgeous actresses are well-doubled, and hold the screen pretty well, but the undeveloped script, massive plot holes and generally poor direction doom matters. This is eye candy par excellence, but little else.
by Kozo:

One day somebody in Hong Kong should hold a meeting and issue this edict: stop making western-influenced action films! Ever since Downtown Torpedoes, it seems that every HK Cinema action flick comes with high-tech razzle-dazzle and manufactured sentiments that would make Jerry Bruckheimer wince. Corey Yuen's much-anticipated So Close follows suit with a ridiculous plot and situations that could only affect the most easily-manipulated. He does throw some decent action into the mix, but that isn't always enough.

Shu Qi and Vicki Zhao are (respectively) sisters Lynn and Sue, who are high-tech assassins with an appropriately high price tag. They possess a secret weapon: a satellite surveillance system called World Panorama, which was developed by their late father. It allows them to tap into any closed-circuit camera system worldwide, as well as decorate their home with lots of cool-looking flat panel monitors. Unfortunately, their latest job has its share of issues. Evil bastard Mr. Chow (Deric Wan) hired the girls to off his brother, but wants to save his cash by taking them out too. Also, unreasonably tough forensics cop Hung (Karen Mok) is on their tail, which leads to an unconvincing romantic subplot between she and Sue.

There's heterosexual romance too. Lynn is reunited with old flame Yen (Korean actor Song Seung-Heon), which reawakens her womanly passions, or something like that. She decides she wants out of the game, but things aren't that easy. Sue wants in on the field action, which Lynn has restricted her from being a part of. She doesn't want her sister immersed in blood as she has, and wants a better life for her. However, with the forces of good (Hung) and evil (evil bastard Chow) closing in, even leaving the life may become too difficult.

Then again, none of this makes much sense, anyway. The origin story of our two heroines is revealed midway through the film, and it's underdeveloped and hackneyed. Then there's the issue of World Panorama: the girls have possession of it, which is bewildering considering the circumstances. If the girls became orphans as a result of the satellite, then somebody out there probably still wants it. Yet, here they are years later with a massive satellite doing their bidding. And they live in a fabulous house without any locks on their doors, and apparently they aren't wary of people following them home. They also frequent the same establishments and aren't careful at all about covering their tracks. Whoever taught them to be professional assassins didn't do such a hot job.

Of course, the defense for such narrative laziness is that this is a fictional popcorn movie with little or no tie to reality. And, that's definitely true here. But, with that in mind, it's near-impossible to engage yourself in the drama that occurs onscreen. Writer Jeff Lau gives us more than enough manufactured pathos, the worst being the insipid romance between Lynn and Yen. There's also some sisterly drama and a murder frame-up that are supposed to be involving. Big surprise: they aren't, and seem as credible as the girls' perfectly-arranged hair and spotless white outfits. Considering the film's surplus of over-the-top action, some actual wit or humor would have been welcome.

Well, at least the action is entertaining. It's the usual wire-assisted stuff with some slow-motion and fast-cutting thrown in to hide the doubles. That, in itself, costs the filmmakers points, but there's an energetic panache to the action scenes that's quite fun. The best sequence occurs midway through the film, when Hung encounters the sisters in an elevator. It's one of the few scenes in the film that creates actual tension, and the over-the-top fighting that follows is a welcome release. Unfortunately, there aren't enough moments like that.

In the end, So Close is less successful than Corey Yuen's The Transporter, as it lacks that film's self-reflexive wit. On the other hand, So Close does win the battle of the babes. The Transporter had just Shu Qi, while So Close has Shu Qi, Vicki Zhao AND Karen Mok. Readers of FHM Magazine should go home happy with all the bare legs, arms and midriffs on display here. Also, the slow-motion shots of Shu Qi's hair should make long hair fetishists lose control of their bodily functions. Who cares if Shu Qi's performance is unreasonably dour, or that both she and Vicki Zhao are annoyingly dubbed*? There are enough close-ups of pouting lips, supple flesh and doe eyes to make all the fans happy. The filmmakers know their audience, and oblige them wholeheartedly. It's called Fan Service; if it applies to you, go ahead and enjoy it. (Kozo 2003)

Notes: So Close was shot with multiple languages, and then dubbed appropriately depending on the country of release. Shu Qi and Vicki Zhao were shot sync-sound in Mandarin, meaning the Mandarin version reduces the dubbing to the bad guys and the occasional scene where Karen Mok speaks Cantonese. However, any scene between Mok and the other two female leads was shot sync-sound in Mandarin, as Mok is fluent in both Mandarin and Cantonese. As such, the ratio of sync-sound to dubbing is comparatively high on the Mandarin release, and the acting from Shu Qi and Vicki Zhao improves considerably. The film is still incredibly silly, but the better performances makes enjoying the film much easier.
Availability: DVD (Hong Kong)
Region 3 NTSC
ERA Home Video
16x9 Anamorphic Widescreen
Cantonese and Mandarin Language Tracks
Dolby Digital 5.1
Removable English and Chinese Subtitles

image courtesy of Copyright 2002-2017 Ross Chen