So Close (2002) / Action-Romance
aka Chik Yeung Tin Sai

MPAA Rated: R for strong violence, mild language and some sexuality
Running time: 110 min.

Cast: Shu Qi, Wei Zhao (Vicki Zhao), Karen Mok, Seung-heon Song, Yasuaki Kurata, Derek Wan, Michael Wai, Wan Siu-Lun, Sau Shek,
Director: Corey Yuen
Screenplay: Jeff Lau
Review published May 7, 2005

Another style over substance Hong Kong action film that has some pretty exciting fight scenes, but also some very flimsy and annoyingly romanticized back story to fill in between them.  The mish-mash of styles is a bit of a quandary, as the action doesn't flinch from showing copious amounts of blood oozing out of every gaping wound, while at the same time, the romance within the film is as innocent as a movie made for children -- well, except for the fact that one of the romantic stories is lesbian, I suppose.  If the screenplay by first-time screenwriter Jeff Lau could have at least injected the drama with something that could be modestly interesting, So Close could have been one of the better Hong Kong action vehicles of the new millennium.  Spectacular action and a lot of filler isn't going to cut it anymore these more sophisticated days.

The main premise involves a computer virus that is so powerful, it can actually access almost any security camera anywhere around the world.  The man who invented it was killed, leaving the program in the hands of his talented daughters, Lynn (Shu Qi, Martial Angels) and Sue (Vicky Zhao, Shaolin Soccer).  They use their technology to become assassins, bolstering up their fighting ability and utilizing the latest in cutting edge technology, the sisters pride themselves on being able to crack any security system and target any living person, no matter how well-guarded he is.  However, the assassin game has started to lose its luster for the eldest sister, Lynn, who has begun to think that settling down with a man and starting a family provides more interesting life opportunities.  However, Sue still has a thirst for the kill, looking forward to the adrenaline rush and ability to come out on top, and she particularly likes the cat-and-mouse game she's been playing with sexy detective Hong (Karen Mok, Black Mask), with whom she feels an attraction that goes beyond just respect. 

The titillation factor is high, but not really high enough to push any boundaries.  So Close is an oddly juvenile film to deal with such adult situations as death and sexuality, and even sees those things as romanticized through a young girl's eyes.  The plot tends to become muddled, probably because it is never really defined sufficiently, although I suppose from the way that what we do know is delivered, we can be thankful that heavily detailed conversations didn't erupt now and then, which would probably make the entire film intolerable. 

The real attraction in So Close are the cute actresses, who are seen in a variety of different tight-fitting outfits whenever possible, and director Corey Yuen (High Risk, Fong Sai-Yuk)  seems to have a special place in his lustful heart to see them in panties staring pensively out of a window while smoking or sipping coffee.  The lesbian angle between the crook and cop is something fairly new for Hong Kong flicks, but it feels more like just another device to provoke cheap thrills than in a tie-in to any overriding themes that the movie pushes forward.  It's cheesecake for audiences who've led sheltered lives.

Other than the looks of the stars, the only other strength comes from the well-choreographed battle scenes, which are too stylized to believe, but they're still exhilarating to watch nonetheless.  However, even these are too cute for their own good, with far too many examples of moves that go for style points rather than for victory.  Basically, it's Yuen showing off, trying to outdo himself by seeing just how ridiculous he can make it while maintaining some semblance of reality to the story. 

So Close isn't really a good film by any means, but it will find a receptive audience among viewers who like eye-candy in their action as well as their actresses.  It will probably be more appealing to those who haven't seen a wealth of Hong Kong films, as most components of the film have been done to death in Asian cop/criminal flicks since the Eighties.  With just a little more emphasis on story and characters, So Close would have been an international phenomenon with staying power, given the dynamite action.  However, without any interest in anything other than high-flying kicks and scantily-clad chicks, So Close is so close, and yet so far away from being anything more than a silly, forgettable popcorn flick.

Qwipster's rating:

2005 Vince Leo