Starring Donnie Yen, Tian Jing, Collin Chou, Andy On, Ken Lo
Fight Choreography by Donnie Yen
Directed by Clarence Fok
After living with the moniker “he has the potential, but…” Donnie Yen has finally taken his place alongside Jet Li, Jackie Chan, and Sammo Hung as a bona-fide action star, after rattling off a string of hits in Killzone (SPL), Flashpoint, Ip Man 1 and 2, and Legend of the Fist: The Return of Chen Zhen. Now he returns to the cop genre. But the results are a mixed bag, through no real fault of his own.
Yen plays Chi-Lung “Dragon” Chan, an undercover cop who has been working to infiltrate members of local crime gangs in Hong Kong, in particular one ran by Xiong Cheung Mo-Hung (Chou) and finds that his old protoge Sunny (On) is trying to take over, and must go to mainland China to find and stop him. There Chan teams up with cop Jing Fang (Jing) to stop Sunny, but things get complicated when Chan’s real identity is revealed, and he’ll have to stop the entire gang if he’s to save the only person he truly cares about…
The film itself is a mixed bag. The story doesn’t seem to know what it wants to be, but I can guess. This film wants to be what Jackie Chan’s Police Story was: a mixture of comedy, drama, and action. Donnie Yen can do the last two. But the first comes off as silly and out of character for him, and out of place for the film in general. Jackie Chan could balance the comedy and serious stuff, but it just doesn’t work here with Yen. The story also has serious logic issues that exist only to make things more dramatic and tension filled. Yen’s character does some things that are head-scratching, as does Jing Fang, as if they don’t understand the concepts of what undercover means. Yen is good in the serious scenes, and Jing Fang is a welcome character, but the best performance here is Collin Chou and Andy On. Collin oozes menace whenever he’s on screen, and really, the finale should have been him. Andy On does a terrific job as the thug who’s set his sights far too high, and his energy brings a needed life to the film, but there’s far too little of either him or Chou.
The fights here are of a similar type to the fights in SPL and Flashpoint, with Donnie Yen mixing Mixed Martial Arts with kung-fu, but the results leave much to be desired. The kitchen fight is the best fight of the film, in some ways very reminiscent of a fight in one of the Police Story films, but the finale, the one on one between On and Yen, which should have been the show stopper, is okay, but not great, and no where in the league of Collin Chou vs. Yen in Flashpoint or Sammo vs Yen in SPL. It felt like a “been there, done that” kind of thing, which is not good for a martial arts film. The car fight between On and Jing was good, and maybe it was excellent (it was well-shot) but after the car fight of The Raid 2, you’ll forgive me if I wasn’t as impressed as I should’ve been.
Kiai-Kick’s Grade: 6
Special ID isn’t as special as it should have been. Despite some cool moments, the film just doesn’t come together as well as it should have.
The film is out today on Blu-Ray from Wellgousa
Fun fact: Bruce Law and his stuntteam were responsible for both the car chases in Special ID and The Raid 2.
I thought Jing Tian did the best Michelle Yeoh in Police Story 3 impression ever since 1993.
(Haven’t seen The Raid 2 yet, because it’s not out here..)
Totally agree with your review. A reprise of the Flash Point fight between Donnie and Collin would’ve been amazing.
And I guess Clarence Fok is just not the right director for a gritty movie with a cohesive tone. He did a fantastic job in the original The Iceman Cometh with Yuen Biao and Maggie Cheung, but that’s pretty much the opposite of Special ID.
Thanks, Nik! I can’t wait for you to see The Raid 2 and see the difference between the car chases in both films. Gareth Evans’ film is much more ambitious, and it looked like Bruce Law and his crew had a lot longer to prepare for it.
I agree with your assessment and evaluation. You always have such strong narrative content, insightful focus and thought provoking analysis.
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