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May 12, 2014

Special ID


Te shu shen fen
Clarence Fok Yiu-leung - 2013
Well Go USA Entertainment Region 1 DVD

In Special ID, Jing Tian plays Ginger Rogers to Donnie Yen's Fred Astaire. Maybe not the best analogy, and while Jing isn't dancing backwards in high heels, she shows herself as up to the task of high kicks and bruising stunts. Jing leaps from a bridge onto traffic, and during a high speed car chase is kicking bad guy Andy On, stretched out inside the car, while On is trying to push her out of the passenger side which is missing a door. She shoots, she hits, and has no qualms about arresting a gangster who's taking a piss in the men's room. I don't know what's planned for the future, but as far as female action stars go, I would hope Jing is provided with more opportunities to show what she can do, and yes, she did most of her own stunts. And as far as that Fred and Ginger comparison is concerned, Donnie Yen and Jing Tian do start off on something of an adversarial relationship that evolves over time to one of mutual respect.

Yen plays a Hong Kong undercover cop with a desire to get back into uniform. He's been undercover for so long, there are questions about whether he could even function again as straight policeman. Based on his past associations, Yen works with mainland police in Nanhai, China, most directly with the female cop played by Jing. There's also the usually rivalry between several Triad gangs, plus Yen's struggle with both his identity pretending to be a gangster, and making sure his cover isn't blown. The narrative aspects are not the most compelling here, much of it is familiar, but the action set pieces are often impressive.

special id.jpg

There is some unusual use of color here, such as Jing's red car, or Andy On's watermelon red shirt worn on a rooftop basketball court, contrasting against shades mostly of gray and brown. There's also this shade of green that pops up, on that rooftop basketball hoop, and a car that appears in the big chase, blocking traffic. I can't think of a film with cinematography by Peter Pau that wasn't visually interesting. Pau is also listed as a producer, and I think of this film mostly as his work with Yen, credited as Action Director, rather than the work of director of record Clarence Fok (and I write this with affection for Fok's The Iceman Cometh).

And back to the Fred Astaire comparison, as Yen is not handsome in the conventional leading man sense, but has that charismatic smile. Playing somewhat against type, he's a bit grubbier in this film, unshaven. In the "Making of . . ." supplement, Yen discusses some of the types of martial arts used in the fight scenes. And for many viewers, Donnie Yen would be the big draw, but when Jing Tian decides she can't wait for backup and takes on a few dozen triad members for a street fight, it's clear that Donnie Yen has found his distaff match.

special id jing tian.jpg

Posted by Peter Nellhaus at May 12, 2014 07:11 AM