So Close (Chik yeung tin sai)

Selling So Close as a Hong Kong Charlie’s Angels is so wrong. The Angels simply aren’t worthy. Stars Shu Qi, Vicki Zhao, and Karen Mok strike poses that make Drew Barrymore, Cameron Diaz, and Lucy Liu look like prepubescent wannabes. And So Close isn’t a weightless "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun"-with-martial-arts music video. Sure it’s got a cheesy B-movie feel (this is Hong Kong cinema after all) and it’s the height of melodrama, but it’s also Hong Kong action delirium at its best.

Two assassin sisters, Lynn (Shu) and Sue (Zhao), utilize their late scientist father’s invention to tap into any video security system in the world. More melancholic Lynn is the better fighter while playful Sue is the computer hacking wiz who wants more involvement in the physical end. A chance encounter with old flame Yan (Seung-heon Song) reignites Lynn’s romantic feelings for him and causes her to consider retirement.

Meanwhile, police forensics expert Kong Yat Hong (Karen Mok) and her partner Mark (Michael Wei) are on the trail of the sisters after their latest hit on the head of a giant computer security company that fronts drug running (hey, it could happen!). The new CEO, who had the sisters kill his predecessor, now wants them to perform another hit, but also to eliminate them in the process so that they have nothing on him.

So Close is just one marvelous set piece after another – Lynn’s opening hit set to the Carpenters’ "Close to You," Hong recognizing some wanted men with her photographic memory and nabbing them in an elevator, Lynn and Sue versus Hong and Mark in an underground parking lot, Sue toying with Hong in a record store, sister steering sister in the middle of an invasion, and of course, the climatic sword fight with Japanese B-movie legend, Yasuaki Kurata.

Director Corey Yuen, who, as usual, also acted as action choreographer, should be mentioned in the same breath as Hong Kong’s other action filmmakers – John Woo, Tsui Hark, Johnny To, and Ringo Lam. Yuen directed The Legend of Fong Sai Yuk, The New Legend of Shaolin, and so many other Jet Li vehicles in addition to choreographing all of Li’s American films (from Lethal Weapon 4 to The One). There would be no Jet Li without Corey Yuen.

While So Close appears similar to Johnny To’s phenomenal Heroic Trio with its three female leads, the story structure is lifted mostly from John Woo’s The Killer right down to its homoerotic overtones (but with the gender switch, they are now lesbian of course). In the case of star power, So Close is the coming out party for Vicki Zhao. She was satisfactory though not particularly notable in Shaolin Soccer (which Miramax has yet to release stateside), but here, she carries the emotional weight of the movie despite spending most of it playing sidekick to Shu Qi. Shu and Mok are no pushovers however, and if you love grrl power action, So Close will put you in heaven sooner than those other Angels will.

George Wu

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New York, NY
George Wu holds a masters degree in cinema studies from NYU. He eats, drinks, and sleeps movies. Fortunately, he lives in New York City, the best place in the country for disorders of this type. He also works on the occasional screenplay when inspiration strikes, but his muses don't slap him around enough.