Yen's hooligan cop better at clouting than courting

Yen's hooligan cop better at clouting than courting

Special ID (NC16)

Action/95 minutes

Rating: 3/5

Donnie Yen, the action man of the moment, speaks most eloquently with his frantic fists and high-flying kicks. However, his dramatic scenes in this adrenalin-pumped film pack less punch.

From the opening sequence to the final fight, Yen manages to set hearts thumping with his pugilistic moves. Sadly, his wooden attempts to woo his love interest, Fang Jing (Jing Tian), left me cold and, sometimes, in stitches.

Filled with displays of different martial-arts styles, from Brazilian jiu jitsu to muay thai, fans of the action star will not be disappointed by the gritty fight scenes.

But don't expect the balletic grace Yen exhibited in period films like Wu Xia (2011) or the dignified reserve of a Wing Chun master he displayed as Ip Man (2008 and 2010).

Instead, as Chen Zilong, an undercover cop who has assimilated too well into the underworld, he is a self-proclaimed gu huo zai (hooligan) who uses street-fighting tactics. This means lots of close-body combat and unorthodox moves.

While the movie attempts to be Infernal Affairs "lite", there is little covertness or subtlety about Special ID.

Directed by Clarence Fok, who is known for cult hit Naked Killer (1992), the threadbare plot barely ties the fighting and car-chase scenes together.

In just 95 minutes, he has to squeeze in numerous one-on-one duels, group battles and other action stunts, as well as product placements. I can see why there is little time left for character development.

At times, the plot twists feel like unwelcome distractions from the beautifully choreographed action and stopped me from immersing myself fully in the movie.

But who watches Donnie Yen movies for emotional depth anyway?

There are enough action set pieces here for three movies: from a final car chase through Shenzhen, to a massive brawl in a restaurant kitchen between Yen and knife-wielding gangsters in southern China.

But Yen is not the only star in fighting form. Andy On, who plays villain Sunny, is a worthy adversary in terms of bold gongfu moves and some over-the-top acting.

Doll-faced Chinese actress Jing Tian, in her first fighting role, is a surprisingly competent action-movie star.

It never seems quite clear what kind of relationship she has with Yen, as they evolve inexplicably from reluctant partners in crime-fighting to clumsy courtship for little reason other than filmic convention.

The rambling scraps of conversation they have on a picturesque rooftop hold no helpful clues either.

Nonetheless, it was satisfying to see the lady save the hero for a change, in a scene where she takes down one badass gangster - and then points her pistol at another's crotch.

If you're in the mood for some brainless martial-arts porn, this is the movie to catch.

Special ID opens in cinemas tomorrow.

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