Review: SPECIAL ID 特殊身份 (2013) | Casey's Movie Mania | Movie Reviews, Features & Others

Saturday, 19 October 2013

Review: SPECIAL ID 特殊身份 (2013)

There are few worthwhile action scenes, but not enough to overcome the movie's poor storyline, bad acting and amateurish direction.

After spending an amount of time exploring historical action dramas ranging from 2008's AN EMPRESS AND THE WARRIORS to 2011's WU XIA, it's refreshing to see Hong Kong martial-art superstar Donnie Yen back to his familiar modern gritty-hero role in SPECIAL ID. But despite all the heavy promotional buzzes and exciting trailers that have shown lately across the internet, SPECIAL ID is surprisingly a huge disappointment if to compare with 2005's SPL and 2007's FLASH POINT.


SPECIAL ID follows Donnie Yen as an undercover cop Chen Zi Long, who's been posing as a gangster for years to infiltrate the notorious triad activities lead by Xiong (Collin Chou). As the time goes by, Chen is getting worried about his undercover identity being exposed sooner or later. When he decides to bail out, his superior, Captain Zhang (Ronald Cheng) wants him to complete one last mission in China before finally reinstates him as a police officer. However, Chen's mission turns out to be more complicated than he expected when he requires to investigate his old gangster buddy Sunny (Andy On), who recently appears in China and kills a rival gang leader. It gets worse from there, when Xiong also wants him to track Sunny as well.

While the action doesn't have that same intensity level from either SPL or FLASH POINT, they are still worthwhile to watch for, especially with Donnie Yen returns to his down-and-dirty MMA fighting techniques.

The exciting car chase scene where Fang Jing (Jing Tian) hangs on the outside and later fights against Sunny on the inside of the speeding SUV; and the final one-on-one fight between Chen and Sunny at the broken bridge.

Despite the involvement of the late Szeto Kam-Yuen in the script department (after all, he's the one who penned SPL and FLASH POINT), the entire movie feels so clumsily written. And thanks to numerous script changes that ultimately forced original co-star Vincent Zhao to bail out, the end result has too many awkward moments of bad drama and misplaced sense of humor. Then there's Clarence Fok, a veteran Hong Kong director who most remembered for 1989's THE ICEMAN COMETH and 1992's NAKED KILLER, is obviously a poor choice for this movie. If you're a fan of Hong Kong movies, you will probably know that Fok's directing resume is often ranging from bad to worse. Not surprisingly, his directing effort in SPECIAL ID feels like a complete hack job. Adding further insult is Dou Peng's rotten piece of the music score (you will know when you hear it right from the opening credit itself).

Even the actors here are disappointing. Despite all the multiple tattoos and bad-ass attitude, Donnie Yen looks surprisingly unconvincing in his gangster role. Problem is, he tends to overact a lot (the way he speaks in his Cantonese-accented Mandarin is rather unbelievable) and he's more cringe-inducing whenever he tries to be funny with his co-star Jing Tian. In fact, all the cutesy and flirty moments between him and Jing Tian feels terribly awkward. Speaking of Jing Tian, while she looks quite convincing as a kick-ass policewoman, the same cannot be said when she acts too girlish in front of Donnie Yen. There's even one scene where she cries like a little girl! As for the villains, it's a pity to see that Collin Chou is neglected to a thankless role where he doesn't even get to fight with Donnie Yen at all. Andy On, in the meantime, looks cool playing the bad guy as usual but it's kind of baffling when he tries to speak three different languages (Mandarin, English and Cantonese) at the same time. Last but not least is Ronald Cheng. Whoever thought of hiring him to play a police captain role is a good idea really needs to get a slap in the face.

As much as Donnie Yen tries to make a grand comeback in a modern action movie, SPECIAL ID is a cinematic embarrassment. Perhaps someone should tell Yen that he needs to collaborate with his SPL and FLASH POINT director Wilson Yip again in the future.

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