Thursday, February 13, 2014

Film Review: Special ID (2013)

Special ID (Review)
China/2013
Format Viewed For Review: Blu-ray (Kam & Ronson Enterprises Co Ltd)
Netflix Streaming: No
Amazon Prime: No

"...Special ID seems very confused about its own identity."

Chi-Lung (Donnie Yen) is an undercover police officer with a special identity. Promised a job as a regular police officer, Chi-Lung teams with mainland Officer Fang Jing (Tian Jing) to catch an international criminal known as Sunny (Andy On)...

Special ID is a straight-forward, by-the-books undercover police officer action-thriller. The story follows an expected path with a predictable "I want out"-plot, the new partners bickering amongst each other with the potential love interests, a cliché super antagonist, and so on. On top of being very generic, Special ID is delivered with extra cheese -- really, some of the dialogue and situations are plain cheesy. The ending, for example, is as cheesy as it gets -- the final fight is exhilarating and memorable, but the actual final scenes feel so odd.

But... this is an action film, and it doesn't fail to deliver. It's not packed with action from beginning to end, like The Raid: Redemption, but it offers more than enough for action fans. The action is a nice blend, as well, featuring some slick mixed martial arts, some shootings, and a few chases; the final car chase scene is a fantastic mixture of all of the above, and it'll probably be one of my favorites of the last decade. The martial arts stills takes center stage throughout the film, and it does not disappoint, either. Donnie Yen is as nimble and fluid as ever in his action scenes, and Tian Jing does well on her own, as well.

I would like to point out that there was a feeling of conflicting tones throughout the film. From the cover and advertising, you'd be right to expect a dark, brooding crime thriller. And, it visually feels that way -- the film has slick and dark cinematography that you'd expect from a dark crime thriller. However, the acting and dialogue is often cheesy, and the music is oddly upbeat and energetic, which conflicts with the other tones of the film. I eventually grew accustomed to the music, and I don't mind cheese with my movies, but as a whole package, Special ID seems very confused about its own identity.

Donnie Yen plays a great gangster and a solid carefree cop. Tian Jing is charismatic and a real badass with her performance. Andy On was mostly great, but he seemed very off whenever he spoke English. The cinematography was good, and the camerawork was efficient. The soundtrack didn't match the mood or the tone of the film, likely because they were so static, but it does help differentiate itself from other films in the genre. The editing was also a bit off in both audio and video, some odd cuts and fades make the film seem like a Direct-to-TV film. The action choreography was great, even refreshing during some scenes. Writer and director Clarence Fok lacks focus for the actual plot and fails to build an effective atmosphere, but captures the action wonderfully. The English subtitles were good, often wrong but understandable, although they move by fast.

Overall, Special ID is a good action crime thriller. It delivers some great action sequences, but it is muddled by an inconsistent tone, a generic plot, and odd editing and music. I recommend the film for
action fans and die-hard Donnie Yen fans. I wouldn't recommend importing this film for a premium price if you're in the U.S., you should wait for Well Go USA's release in May.

Score: 6/10
Parental Guide: Strong violence and blood.

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