SPECIAL ID (NC16)
Review: Action Thriller
Duration: 99 minutes
The story: Undercover cop Zi Long (Donnie Yen) has posed as a gangster for years while investigating Hong Kong's triad activities. Apprehensive of the increasing risks, he contemplates ending his undercover stint. But his police supervisor persuades him to finish one last mission in China, with assistance from China counterparts, including a spunky policewoman Fang Jing (Jing Tian).
It is not hard to guess that subtlety is not a strong suit of this latest flick starring one of Hong Kong's leading action stars, Donnie Yen. During the opening credits, actors' names appear onscreen accompanied by thunderous rumbles, like giant boulders that have just rolled off a cliff during a landslide.
While this film takes on the premise of an undercover cop Zi Long (Yen) having to guard his true identity within the lair of his enemies, it pales in comparison to the tension and intricately layered plot of Hong Kong crime thriller, Infernal Affairs (2002), where Tony Leung Chiu Wai played an undercover cop to great acclaim.
In fact, in a script riddled with bullet holes, the danger of the hero's undercover work being exposed, and all the conflicts and struggles accompanying this complex line of duty are never fully exploited here.
At the onset, there is some effort establishing how Zi Long's identity is top secret, known only to his police supervisor, Zhang (Ronald Cheng). But soon, defying logical explanation, he is on his latest mission in China, where his special identity as undercover cop is made known to local police officers, Lei Peng (Yang Zhigang) and Fang Jing (Jing Tian), as well as other law enforcers.
It is strange how such plot developments occur without proper explanation or consequences, with the story subsequently proceeding as if nothing out of the ordinary has taken place.
Acting-wise, Yen is unconvincing in his role, despite multiple tattoos and the donning of gangsta bling. This is especially apparent when he overacts his hooligan mannerisms or is seen flirting rather awkwardly with an incompatible love interest played by Jing.
His Cantonese-accented Mandarin also serves to make his lines more hackneyed than they already are.
Jing (The Warring States, 2011) does not impress either, offering facial expressions that are limited to glares and pouts.
The adage "less is more" should have been more readily applied to the many instances where characters engage in shouting matches - whether they involve dialogue between gangsters or love-hate squabbles between Zi Long and Fang Jing.
But for fans of Yen and his martial arts prowess, the action sequences may offer some compensation for the lacklustre story penned by Szeto Kam Yuen (Out Of Inferno, 2013) and unmemorable acting.
The film, directed by Clarence Fok Yiu Leung (The Iceman Cometh, 1989) opens with a bare-knuckled scuffle in a mahjong den, where Zi Long has to defend his henchmen for encroaching on the turf of a rival clan.
While Yen deserves commendation for his bravery to tackle roles against type, beyond the clear-cut heroes he plays so well in Ip Man (2008) and The Lost Bladesman (2011), Special ID is, unfortunately, confirmation that he still needs to work harder on his acting chops.
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