Special ID (2013)

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Special ID: Directed by Clarence Fok. With Donnie Yen, Tian Jing, Andy On, Ronald Cheng. A cop goes undercover in a ruthless underworld organization to stop a gang leader, only to put himself in great danger after being exposed by his former protégé and best friend.

“The six years since u0026#39;Ip Manu0026#39;, Donnie Yen has not looked back on the kind of contemporary action that fuelled his latest career resurgence, preferring instead historical epics like u0026#39;Bodyguards and Assassinsu0026#39;, u0026#39;Legend of the Fist: The Return of Chen Zhenu0026#39; and u0026#39;Wu Xiau0026#39;. No wonder then fans of u0026#39;S.P.L.u0026#39; and u0026#39;Flash Pointu0026#39; have been waiting in eager anticipation for his return to MMA-type action that this latest u0026#39;Special IDu0026#39; promises, in particular since Donnie himself has promised this to be the epitome of the techniques he had used in his earlier two movies.u003cbr/u003eu003cbr/u003eGood news is that Donnie doesnu0026#39;t disappoint – as the action director and of course his own choreographer, he makes great use of the tight enclosed quarters of the sets to stage some thrilling MMA fights. Right from an invigorating opening that pits him against veteran Jackie Chan stunt team member Ken Lo in an old-school mah-jong parlour, itu0026#39;s clear Donnie is going for the jugular when it comes to his blows, kicks and head-locks. This is none of that poetic grace we saw in u0026#39;Wu Xiau0026#39; or restraint in the u0026#39;Ip Manu0026#39; movies; rather, this is no holds barred Donnie, and boy is it awesome to watch him in full macho mode.u003cbr/u003eu003cbr/u003eAnd throughout the 100-minute run time, Donnie gets to go ballistic twice more – once in the middle when he first confronts his protégé turned arch-nemesis Sunny (Andy On) and again right at the end where the two go mano-a-mano against each other. Both are unique in themselves; whereas the first sees Donnie take on dozens of Sunnyu0026#39;s lackeys on his own (think Donnieu0026#39;s one against many in u0026#39;Ip Man 2u0026#39;) within the narrow confines of a two-storey restaurant and its kitchens, the second gives Donnie more latitude to brawl with a well-matched opponent both in attitude as well as in ferocity.u003cbr/u003eu003cbr/u003eImpressive though they may be, we do have a few caveats to make. One, much as Donnie had wanted to top what he accomplished in u0026#39;S.P.L.u0026#39; and u0026#39;Flash Pointu0026#39;, the truth of the matter is that youu0026#39;re probably not going to be wowed to the same extent as watching Donnie go up against Wu Jing in u0026#39;S.P.L.u0026#39; or against Collin Chou in u0026#39;Flash Pointu0026#39;. Despite packing bare-knuckled brutality, it lacks the u0026#39;oomphu0026#39; to make it a contender amongst Donnieu0026#39;s best fights. Two, despite adding Collin to the cast as the head of the mafia clan Donnieu0026#39;s Zhilong is infiltrated into, there is no match-up between Donnie and Collin – which in itself is already a disappointment. And lastly, even though Donnie had wanted a female Michelle Yeoh in Mainland star Tian Jing, the actress is largely unremarkable in the few scenes she gets to show off her moves.u003cbr/u003eu003cbr/u003eNow that weu0026#39;ve covered the failings in the action department, itu0026#39;s probably opportune to talk about the rest of the movie, which can be summed up in a single word – dreadful. Letu0026#39;s start with the script by the late veteran Hong Kong screenwriter Szeto Kam Yuen, who had also penned Donnieu0026#39;s u0026#39;S.P.L.u0026#39; and u0026#39;Flash Pointu0026#39; – while the former two shrewdly chose a simple but tightly wound narrative around the action, u0026#39;Special IDu0026#39; sees Yuen channelling u0026#39;Infernal Affairsu0026#39; into its story of an undercover cop who wants out but is forced to take on one last mission by his superior (played here with comic but unconvincing effect by Ronald Cheng). Not only is Zilongu0026#39;s character arc of a tortured cop clichéd, it is tacked on with an equally hackneyed pseudo-romance between Zilong and his Mainland partner Fang Jing (Tian Jing) from which he is supposed to find a sense of composure to his brash aggressive self.u003cbr/u003eu003cbr/u003eIt might have been better if a stronger director was at the helm; unfortunately, the person behind the camera was also behind Donnieu0026#39;s most atrocious movie in recent years u0026#39;Togetheru0026#39;. Weu0026#39;re talking of Clarence Fok, best known for his work on the 1992 Wong Jing scripted film u0026#39;Naked Killeru0026#39;; here, Fok literally u0026#39;f**ksu0026#39; up the direction with poor continuity between scenes, annoying fadeouts and most of all, a utter lack of coherence in the tone of the movie – the latter in fact is particularly ingratiating, as Fok reveals yet again how he has utterly no clue how to build a credible romantic arc, in this case between Zilong and Fang Jing.u003cbr/u003eu003cbr/u003eBut Foku0026#39;s shortcomings donu0026#39;t stop there – there is absolutely no subtlety in the entire movie, so much so Donnie ends up embarrassing himself by overacting in every single dramatic scene. Fok even manages to screw up Donnieu0026#39;s transformation from impulsive to out-of-control, a supposed crucial turning point in the story where Zilongu0026#39;s dual identity catches up with him and exacts a punishing toll on the one sole family member he has left – his mother (Paw Hee Ching); as it is, the ending that sees Donnie chasing Sunny down the roads of Shenzhen is rushed and jarring, another frustrating sign of incompetence by a director who should have stayed in retirement.u003cbr/u003eu003cbr/u003eNo thanks to multiple shortcomings, u0026#39;Special IDu0026#39; ranks as a queer disappointment. Sure, one goes to a Donnie Yen film for the action, which he does deliver to good – though not great – effect; but there need at least be a competent story to form the narrative glue in between the fights, which in this case is sorely lacking. If Donnie is listening, weu0026#39;d also advise him to simply stick with dubbing or with his native Cantonese tongue for his next movies – letu0026#39;s just say that his Cantonese-accented Mandarin is quite the unintentional cringer here.”


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