Man enough to be an action star

Man enough to be an action star
Cinema still: Helios starring Janice Man.

In the testosterone-heavy thriller Helios, Hong Kong actress Janice Man more than holds her own, playing an accomplice to Chang Chen's ruthless criminal.

Her bone-crunching, face-bruising slugfest with Nick Cheung's counter-terrorism agent is an action highlight. There were only two rehearsals before the scene was shot over half a day in a back alley in Macau.

While the fight comes across as brutal with her getting slammed into a stationary car and Cheung getting pinned by a chokehold, she assures that no one was hurt while filming.

"The rhythm of the action was very fast, but we were very careful," says Man, 26, in a telephone interview with the Singapore media from Wuxi, China, where she is filming a television series.

Still, she "breathed a sigh of relief" when the scene was in the bag because she knew how pivotal it was to the film, which is currently showing in cinemas.

To prepare for her physically challenging role, she trained for six months, three to four hours a day, learning to fire a gun and picking up "quite vicious" mixed martial arts moves.

One of her two trainers was formerly with the United States army.

Sprains and minor scrapes were unavoidable, but she took them all in her stride and proclaims that the fight scene was "pretty fun".

Her fighting spirit is admirable considering that she has a hereditary condition where if she "gets hurt or gets stitches", a lump of flesh will grow over the scar.

Even so, she is keen to venture further down the action star path.

"As an actor, I think it's good to try different kinds of things."

Such as, perhaps, playing a villain, which she does for the first time in Helios.

"There's a surprise for audiences in watching me play a villain, but there was some pressure on me at first because my roles were previously more genteel," says Man, who started modelling at the age of 14 and later acted in television shows and films such as Love Is Not All Around (2007) and Basic Love (2009).

She enjoyed the atmosphere on the set of Helios, which was as convivial as it was multilingual, with snatches of Mandarin, Cantonese, Korean and English used in communication.

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