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夕陽天使 (2002)
So Close


Reviewed by: Hyomil
Date: 12/31/2010


Reviewer Score: 10

Reviewed by: Anticlimacus
Date: 05/11/2006

So Close
Chinese Action
Zhou Wei, Karen Mok, Shu Qi, Yasuaki Kurata

So Close is THE movie that hooked me onto foreign cinema. Like many Americans I was ignorant to everything except horribly dubbed martial arts films from the 1970s. I visited my video store one day and noticed So Close in the Action section, immediately assuming that it would be a good film to laugh at. Subsequent to watching this film, however, I was confused. Had I just inadvertently watched an EXCELLENT film? Yes, I had!

My criteria for excellence is quite simply entertainment value, regardless of the genre (i.e., drama, horror, action, romance, etc.). And yes, there are serious dramas that are quite frankly NOT entertaining, and therefore NOT good movies, regardless of how many awards the “official critics” want to give them. In like manner, there are actioners that are VERY entertaining, and therefore VERY good movies, regardless of how negatively the “official critics” want to rate them. Keeping this in mind, So Close is simply BURSTING with entertainment value.

First of all, the action sequences are very well done, and are highlighted by the final infiltration of a corporate high-rise, which ends with an absolutely CLASSIC three-way swordfight. The choreography (both gunplay and swordplay) is phenomenal, and puts the vast majority of actioners to shame. It is admitted that this film focuses more on finesse than the power and brutality of Hong Kong films released in the late 1980s and early 1990s. This is actually a good thing when one considers the originality of the movements and the length of the scenes themselves, which greatly exceed most of the action sequences in previous (and subsequently released) movies. The stylish protagonists use a treasure chest of items – satellite imagery, high-frequency earrings, guns, wall-piercing high heels, miniature grappling hooks, swords, decoy programs, bamboo sticks, etc. – in a wide variety of ways to eliminate the antagonists. The sheer diversity that is showcased in this film is enough to overpower three typical action films put together. Finally, it is a delight to experience action sequences where the characters actually DO something, instead of making theatre poses and shooting little glowing balls at each other (as in Storm Riders and A Man Called Hero). It is also a delight to see carefully choreographed movements, instead of slide-shows with chaotic camerawork that makes the scenes completely impossible to follow (as in Ashes of Time).

One important point to be made is that this film contributes characters that are LOVABLE. Regardless of who is present on screen (Zhao, Karen, Shu, or Yasuaki), it is an enjoyable experience. This adds significant entertainment value for scenes shown in-between fights, and therefore enables So Close to avoid the incessant boredom that most actioners inflict upon their viewers.

In fact, So Close BLOWS AWAY virtually every other Chinese action movie from the apparent “Golden Age” era of the 1980s and 1990s (with the exception of a limited few, which include Hard Boiled, Fist of Legend, and She Shoots Straight). I almost feel sorry for anyone who is willing to cite movies like Yes Madam, Royal Warriors, In the Line of Duty 3, Women on the Run, Naked Killer, or The Big Heat – none of which can hold a candle to So Close (in terms of action, characters, or sheer entertainment value).

Was this film so groundbreaking that it single-handedly opened the flood gates to an entirely new realm of cinema for me to explore? Is So Close the primary reason that I have thusfar viewed almost 100 Chinese, Japanese, and Korean movies over the past half year and have added over 300 more in my online rental queue? Yes, it was!

Rating = 5/5 stars

Reviewer Score: 10

Reviewed by: mrblue
Date: 09/17/2005

So Close is almost ultra-cheesy at times and the script has plot holes the size of Rosie O'Donnell's ass. However, it's actually a pretty damn fun movie (much better than the horrid Charlie's Angels), mostly due to Corey Yuen's solid action work. Though it didn't do that well at the local box office, and had been blasted by many critics, this humble reviewer says that So Close was one of the better action movies to come out of Hong Kong -- or anywhere else for that matter -- last year.

The plot has Hsu Chi and Vicky Zhao as sisters who are a pair of assassins. Their father created a system that can tap into any closed-circuit TV system, and they use this for their jobs with a lot of success, attracting some high-class clients. One of these hires them to take out his brother so he can take over the family company. The job goes well, but afterwards Hsu runs into an old love (Song Seung Hun) and wants to retire. The problem is that there's one more job to do and there's a gung-ho cop (Karen Mok) on her tail.

That small plot synopsis points out two off the biggest faults in the script. First, with the CC-TV monitoring system: if the sisters wanted to get out of "the game", why don't they just sell it off for the billions of dollars it must be worth? The whole backstory for the pair is very flimsy, and really should have been left out, as is the case with the dreaded mandatory romantic subplot. It really goes nowhere and serves no real purpose. In a action movie starring male actors, this kind of stuff would just be an excuse to add in a hot woman showing her boobs. Song Seung Hun's character (who comes off as a boob) doesn't need to be here, and cutting out that part of the movie would have served to speed things up and get to the good stuff, namely the action.

Corey Yuen is known for his over-the-top wire-fu style, and So Close showcases some of the best work he has done in that field. Though it's not as hard-hitting as his last movie, The Transporter, it's still exciting, especially considering who he had to work with. I still have a hard time taking former porn star Hsu Chi as an action star, but she at least looks the part here compared to her earlier efforts in the genre like Martial Angels.

[review from www.hkfilm.net]


Reviewed by: ewaffle
Date: 07/21/2005
Summary: Excellent on its own terms

Taken on its own not terribly profound terms, "So Close" is an excellent and very entertaining movie.

It has three female stars with plenty of screen presence and charisma, exciting gunfights, beautifully realized martial arts action, one intricate car chase and an ultimate showdown with a Samurai sword wielding bodyguard.

In the opening scene, Shu Qi as Lynn uses a combination of high tech and low cunning in order to assassinate a corrupt CEO who is ensconced in an all but impregnable office fortress and escapes by jumping off the top of the building, all to the sickly sweet strains of “Close to You” by Burt Bacharach.

Later she is as heroic as Chow Yun Fat ever was when she stands her ground at the computer console while a platoon of heavily armed thugs close in. She stays to shoot it out against impossible odds so that she can direct Vicky Zhao, playing her sister Sue, trying to escape from another band of hoodlums. Even though her character, Lynn, stacks up bodies like cordwood, the sheer force of numbers finally overwhelm her. That both the audience and Lynn can see the attackers makes the scene more poignant.

Karen Mok’s character is Kong Yat-hung a tough cop who, while tracking down the assassin sisters, is framed for murder. She has to join forces with Sue, who now steps out of her sister’s shadow in order to avenge her. The obvious (and not particularly well presented) sexual chemistry between them actually detracts from the primary action of the movie. But the long, brutal and wonderfully choreographed fight between them and Yasuaki Kurata is a terrific action set piece. Kurata is essentially the last berserker, the toughest of the Praetorian Guard, a man willing to die to protect his master but who will sell his life very dearly.

There is plenty of gunplay—an almost slow motion standoff in the beginning of the movie and large scale slaughter toward the end. As Kong and Sue fight their way toward the final battle, they are able to dispatch the bad guys with one shot each while avoiding being hit by the thousands of rounds fired at them.

There are subplots galore—in addition to the Sapphic attraction between Kong and Sue, Lynn is given a lame love interest—any of which could have been left out.

Superb costuming, jaw dropping set design (along with enough flying glass for three movies), unobtrusive but effective editing, impossibly athletic feats of heroism-—well worth spending a couple of hours with.


Reviewer Score: 10

Reviewed by: j.crawford
Date: 05/07/2005
Summary: best action movie of 2002.

This may be my choice for best Hong Kong action movie of 2002. Corey Yuen has learned his lessons well while working in Hollywood over the last few years. The 3 female leads give outstanding performances, Karen Mok is, as usual, stunning as the policewoman. The script is well writtten, with lots of interesting twists and turns between Shu and Zhao, as sisters who happen to be highly skilled Robin Hood-like assassins, the nasty bad guys and the police. Lots and lots of gunfighting and ass kicking by the ladies who all manage to look like fantastic martial artists thanks to the brilliant use of CGI, camera angles, and the action direction by Director Yuen and Gwok Gin Yung.

Reviewer Score: 9

Reviewed by: Arshadnm6
Date: 04/15/2005
Summary: So close, yet so far!!........

A cool action-choreographed movie with plenty of over-the-top stunts and silly humour, and obvious western-influenced storyline. Corey Yuen Kwai decides to take a vacation, back from the USA, and directs probably an obvious clique of genre that spawned the young movie stars careers with other movies like the much better and older ‘Gen-X-Cops’, ‘Downtown Torpedo’s’ and even the occasional crap like ‘Skyline Cruisers’.

Shu Qi (from better roles in ‘Storm Riders’ and ‘Visible Secret’) and Vicki Zhao Wei (again from better roles in ‘Shaolin Soccer’ and ‘Chinese Odyssey 2002’) are Lynn and Sue respectively, who are high-tech assassins with a very high price rate, possessing a satellite surveillance system, designed by their late parents, called the unimaginatively named ‘World Panorama’. It allows them to hack into any type of surveillance system, throughout the world, as well as the obvious cool looking monitors placed creatively all over their house, like their running some kind of global military satellite. This satellite’s most important use is to keep track of the enemy and the police so that their escape plan is 100% full-proof. Unfortunately their last mission goes awry, where they leave some small but evident clues to their identity. No sooner a quick-witted and perhaps over-zealous cop Hung (played by ‘Karen Mok’) picks up onto these clues alongside her quirky and sometimes shy partner, played by ‘Leo Koo Ka-Kui’, both are on track with Lynn and Sue, knowing they had something to do with the assassination. Meanwhile the Brother, Mr. Chow, of the recently assassinated member, has taken over the company, and with his Japanese trustee (played by Yasuaki Kurata, from better roles in ‘Fist of Legend’ and ‘Millionaire’s Express’) they are meticulously planning to assassinate Lynn and Sue, before the police find out that Mr. Chow was the person whom had financed the assassination.

Corey Yuen Kwai, should have seriously looked back at all those years he spent in the USA, and wondered whether this was the kind movie an average Chinese person would want to watch on his/her occasional journey to the big picture, and let me just tell you, no it isn’t. This movie has very little emphasis on character development and the storyline is weak, especially the point where Karen Mok is shown to be Super Cop, where she can pictorially memorize an entire file cabinet of Police Records and automatically conceives whether a person has an outstanding crime warrant or not. In my personal opinion if Corey Yuen Kwai wanted to show this, he could have shown Karen Mok to be some kind Model Police Officer, with an outstanding crime-solving record and even a few complementary medals wouldn’t have been far-fetched, but let’s forget that, a simple two minute scene to show this should be enough for the movie, I Don’t Think So.

Even the love interest of Shu Qi, which happens to be some Korean Chap from abroad (played by ‘Song Seung-Hon’), was given very little role, where occasionally he pops in and out of the movie more than someone in the Mens Room after eating a dodgy take-away. This should really be considered a Pan-Asia movie, since we have the well-respected Yasuaki Kurata taking a back role to the main bad guy as his enforcement bodyguard (I say this with the most respect). In fact the last fight, which takes place in a Japanese Style Dojo, is probably the only thing worth seeing in this movie. Vicki Zhao and Karen Mok team up together to take down Yasuaki, and here’s the best part, with samurai swords. The action sequence is so well done and timed, that it would probably represent one of Corey Yuen’s best pieces of work to date.

Overall the action and car chases are entertaining, but only those are worth watching, and we have the one-off lesbian romance with Sue and Hung, which at best is unconvincing and poorly directed. There is too much wire-assisted stuff with some slow-motion thrown in to hide the stuntmen / stuntwomen (or doubles, as they prefer to be known). Corey Yuen Kwai should have thought more about the direction he wanted this poor excuse of a movie to go into, before hiring a camera crew and going straight to work. Although, with as much respect as I have for ‘Corey Yuen Kwai’ from his past movie making, all I can say is, that this is probably the writer’s and cast fault as well as his. To the Reader: Don’t let your hopes go down, I’m sure Corey Yuen Kwai would choose a much mature and better team to work alongside next time round!!

Overall Rating: 6.9/10


Reviewed by: JohnR
Date: 01/03/2004
Summary: Good Action, Decent Plot, Eye Candy = Entertainment

Some of the other reviewers have criticized this movie for bad writing and a lack of plot, and even some of the positive reviews dismiss the plot. I don't want to get academic because this isn't Citizen Kane, but there is an interesting story and Corey Yuen handles it well, revealing it bit by bit through flashbacks.

The plot features two sisters (Shu Qi and Vicky Zhao) who are professional killers and a brilliant rookie detective (Karen Mok). The younger sister (Zhao) has a conflict with her older sister, who she thinks is holding her back. At the same time, she starts a cat and mouse game with the detective. Big sister is caught up between love and her career. The detective, in addition to her game with the little sister, is in conflict with her department superiors who want her to keep out of the way of the investigation. Meanwhile, both sisters and the cop are fighting the bad guy. And running along beneath all this is the complex relationship between the little sister and the female cop.

There's plenty of plot here and, as others have pointed out, some really good action and lots of eye candy. My only criticism is that Corey Yuen put so much emphasis on the eye candy part that it undercuts the credibility of Shu Qi as a tragic figure. It's hard to picture Shu Qi (especially when she flashes one of those soft-focus angelic smiles) as a tragic figure. But she did pull it off in "Portland Street Blues" so I know she can. Like I said, I think the emphasis on eye candy got in her way a little bit, but not enough to prevent me from thoroughly enjoying this well-crafted action/drama. Recommended.

Note: American release DVD has language options for English (dubbed, not the actresses), Mandarin, and Cantonese, and English or Chinese subtitles. No meaningful extras.


Reviewed by: ksbutterbox
Date: 08/12/2003
Summary: Light but Entertaining at Least

I like this one..."Close to you" and
CGI with Shu Qi and bullets flyin' in
the first 10 minutes..ha! Fun Stuff!! Happily the CGI is used very effectively
and not overdone...Whew...what a relief!
Finally, somebody figured out "Less is More". The girls do some pretty impressive fighting for not being "real"
fighters at all...cool!

Shu Qi looks great in every single shot
and Mok and Zhao are very good in the
humour dept. Corey Yuen is back with some
old tricks ala Yes Madam in the finale.

Good popcorn movie! Better than most
out of HK lately for an actioner.

Recommended.


Reviewed by: pjshimmer
Date: 05/06/2003

I find it hard to believe that the HK audience don't like this kind of movie. This kind of stuff would sell well in Hollywood, but box office analysis shows that HK people would rather watch something like "Cat and Mouse" 30 times over "So Close."

As for the movie - yes, very thin, pathetic, high-tech material. One can admire the CGI technology, of course. Shu Qi looks gorgeous here. Now, the action scenes were not bad, but they did not satisfy this viewer. Granted, you've got 3 girls who don't know any martial arts, so that accounts for the quick edits and cuts. Overall, the action is probably better than what you find in an American movie, but I was not satisfied.

I would say "So Close" is slightly more entertaining than Naked Weapon. Both have some style as well as shorcomings.

[6/10]


Reviewed by: magic-8
Date: 04/18/2003
Summary: A Hoot of a Ride

"So Close" is Hong Kong action cinema at its exploitive best. Director Corey Yuen Kwai takes a page from the glorious past by using a script by Jeff Lau that contains plot elements like sister assassins being trailed by a female cop who is just as competently skilled; new world technology (computer graphic imaging: CGI) to help tell the story; delightful fight choreography; and three female leads, in the form of Shu Qi, Vicky Zhao and Karen Mok, to execute the action. Due to these factors, "So Close' succeeds where films like "Naked Weapon" failed. What we get is a hoot and a holler of a ride.

"So Close" is the first Hong Kong movie to really emphasize CGI as a tool to enhance the story and not as a slave to the technology that has hindered or hurt other film efforts. In Hong Kong action movies, you've got to break a lot of glass, digital shards or otherwise. "So Close" has shattering window panes with bodies and bullets aplenty. The CGI and Yuen's humorous choreography had "wink and a smile" written all over the moves. You can't help but be pleasantly surprised by the director's inventiveness and ability to find new and exciting ways to portray action on the screen. Add in the melodramatic touches, with all of the cute sentiments possible, the light lilting background melody and the token love interest. What you get is a prime example of a Hong Kong action movie done with some panache.

"So Close" is a solid action flick that has no illusions of being anything other than fluff entertainment. It accomplishes its mission with verve to spare.

Reviewer Score: 7

Reviewed by: MrBooth
Date: 03/07/2003

Saw SO CLOSE in Hong Kong (which unfortunately meant I got the badly dubbed into Cantonese version). I was quite excited about seeing it, just because Hong Kong doesn't produce many action movies these days... and because Shu Qi is always a pleasure to see.

My first reaction to the movie was "Oh my god, how was this movie ever allowed onto the screen"? The script is one of the worst I have ever seen - I used to write more coherently when I was 10 years old. Scripts have never been a big focus in Hong Kong movies, but the really sad thing about SO CLOSE is that it feels like they did try but didn't have a clue what they were doing.

With all the cliche and nonsense in the script, and the erratic direction from Corey Yuen (the mood of the movie lurches all over the place, with totally gratuitous attempts to inject 'style' in all the wrong places), I thought that Shu Qi had gotten herself a lead role in a clunker to rival the dreadful MARTIAL ANGELS. However, the movie does have one redeeming feature - excellent action scenes. Corey Yuen also choreographs, and he manages to add something new to the action movie's vocabulary. None of the cast except Yasuaki Kurata have any martial arts background, but the sophisticated choreography and deployment of wire and computer effects hides this fact well. The scenes are full of variety and adrenaline. The fact that you're watching cute girls doing most of the fighting doesn't hurt either :)

Overall, there is no escaping the fact that SO CLOSE is a badly made movie. The script and direction are woefully sub-par even by HK action movie standards. This is a real shame, as the action scenes are probably the best we'll see in 2002.

Reviewer Score: 7

Reviewed by: Chungking_Cash
Date: 01/27/2003

Eye candy with surprisingly agreeable choreography, an exciting car chase, and yet this slick Cantonese retool of "Charlie's Angels" manages to come up short everywhere else. Close, but no cigar.

Reviewer Score: 6

Reviewed by: danton
Date: 12/26/2002

Latest action movie from Corey Yuen Kwai, starring the most fetching trio of Shu Qi, Zhao Wei and Karen Mok, as well as Yasuaki Kurata as the villain and a Korean fella I didn't recognize as the romantic love interest.

Perhaps I was a little too enthusiastic about actually being able to see this film on the big screen in HK and hence favourably inclined to like this film come what may, but I have to say the film delivered both in terms of eye candy and innovative action choreography. Granted, the script is a mess, completely incoherent in parts and full of holes and logic flaws in others. But who cares about a coherent script when you get to watch Karen Mok manhandle a few bad guys in an elevator, or watch Shu Qi and Vicky Zhao Wei entangle their towels in a bathroom fight scene reminiscent of the legendary "disrobing fight" between Brigitte Lin and Maggie Cheung in Dragon Inn? The CGI effects are mostly ok, and the fighting is well done, with the final swordfight encounter between two of the girls and the villain being a particular standout. Corey Yuen doesn't fall into the trap of filming the fights in the Andrew Lau style but tries to focus on the actual human movement with only some wire enhancements and a few CGI flourishes, and this restraint pays off well.

In the end, I'd say this is certainly one of the better action flics to come out of HK recently, with great production values, a fantastic looking cast and had they managed to improve the script we would have had a truly great movie.

Two thumbs up!


Reviewed by: Sydneyguy
Date: 12/13/2002
Summary: American-ised action movie

I did see a bad copy of the film but i didn't think that would of helped the film. Quite ordinary action film with an inventive beginning and end and a nice car chase scene but apart from that you dont care about what happens to the characters.

6/10