U.S. Release Date: September 12, 2003
Distributor: Strand
Running Time: 1 hour and 50 minutes
MPAA Rating: R

Charlie's Angels Hong Kong Style
by C.A. Wolski

The new Hong Kong actioner So Close seems to have been made for a particular kind of audience—one that likes its action thick and its plot thin. Following the exploits of two sisters, assassin Lynn (Shu Qi) and computer genius Sue (Zhao Wei), and the policewoman chasing them Kong Yat Hong (Karen Mok), the movie offers a dizzying array of exciting, death-defying, mind-bending action sequences which, unfortunately, can't plug the holes in the Swiss cheese of a plot.

The plot, such as it is, revolves around "Computer Angels" Lynn and Sue's most recent job, the assassination of evil businessman Chow Lui. After attacking Lui's computer system, the angels seemingly repair it, Lynn gains entry to the fortified headquarters, and that's when guns start blazing and fists start flying. It's a breathtaking sequence played with a Debbie Boone song warbling underneath (a plot point never fully explained). After the attack, Police Officer Kong enters the scene (why, since Chow Lui is an obvious bad guy with his own private army that's more efficient than the Hong Kong police, is never addressed). With their contract complete, the angels find that they are being pursued both by the police and by Chow Lui's ambitious brother, Chow Nunn, who hired the angels and now wants them out of the way.

There are numerous sub-plots, ideas, characters that are introduced and dropped. Each scene of So Close acts as if it is an end in and of itself, almost like a little movie within the movie, which makes the flick rather maddening for a Westerner used to conventional plotlines to watch. For instance, in one of her early scenes, it is established visually that Kong has photographic recall. She is able from memory to match mug shots to two suspects, which sets off a clever fight in an elevator. But the idea is dropped, and isn't used again, nor is it fully explained why and how the man she was on her way to meet, the "Spy king," is helping her with her investigation.

So Close has some technical problems that could leave American audiences cold as well. The editing is haphazard at times, lighting is inconsistent, and the special effects harkens back 20 years.

But for all of its flaws, So Close does have some virtues. Like their angelic counterparts in America, the Computer Angels are beautiful, smart and can kick butt. Zhao Wei, particularly, is quite good and the only member of the cast who gives something approaching a nuanced performance, transforming from rollerblading kid sister to a sword wielding avenging angel. Mok is not particularly beautiful—at least in Western terms—but she has presence and her tough-as-nails performance make up for any of her aesthetic shortcomings.

But action is So Close's raison d'etre, and it delivers consistently, if not haphazardly. However, fans of Hong Kong cinema will probably find much more to admire about So Close than the first time viewer who wants to see what all the fuss is about.

So Close opens in limited release on Sept. 12 in Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco, Seattle and Minneapolis.

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