The problem with film hype is that the audience may be led to have ludicrous expectations for an underwhelming film that would have ended up being average if the hype was not present. Andy Lau's "Switch" is a glaring example of this analogy and now it falls to Donnie Yen's "Special ID", although thankfully, the latter is hardly as cringe-inducing. Hailed as THE film that marks the return of Donnie Yen to contemporary action films after "Flash Point" in 2007, the trailers for "Special ID" make it seem like it is filled with hard-hitting demonstrations of martial arts and gritty police drama a la Johnnie To's "Drug War", but the presentation starts off enjoyable only to become repetitive, frivolous and overbearing. It is a movie that sells itself solely on having Donnie Yen back onscreen kicking a** more than the story or characters.
Chen Zilong (Donnie Yen) is an undercover police officer deep within the ranks of one of China's most ruthless underworld gangs. The leader of the gang, Xiong (Collin Chou), tasks Chen with getting rid of a dangerous rival, Sunny (Andy On), who used to be Chen's loyal follower. Chen wants out, but his police contact, Captain Cheung (Ronald Cheng), wants Chen to gather more evidence against Xiong before he will reinstate Chen. As Sunny grows more suspicious, Chen fears his days are numbered. Now, he must risk everything to take down both Xiong and Sunny before it is too late. The film opens with a high-stakes game of mah-jong where Chen has to beat the other players in order to rescue his henchmen. With every losing move, Chen's henchmen is forced to swallow a mah-jong tile, but thankfully, we are saved from more stilted dialogue and acting when Chen finally comes through, only to have the losing gang challenge him to a fight before he can leave.
The fight scenes are what make "Special ID" worth the price of admission. Fans will appreciate the raw and brutal style of Donnie Yen's mixed martial arts rarely seen in polished films like "Ip Man" and "Painted Skin". The cinematography by Peter Pau and action choreography by Donnie Yen combine to create a distinct theme for each fight scene, which gives them the feeling and emphasis that are previously associated with pugilist films and Wong Kar-wai's "The Grandmaster". Particularly notable is the opening scene where Donnie Yen uses "dance" moves to dispose of a thug, the harrowing car chase scene involving Donnie Yen, Tian Jing and Andy On and final showdown between Donnie Yen and Andy On.
Fantastic action choreography aside, director Clarence Fok often tries to write Chen into a quandary by forcing him into situations where his superiors and colleagues are questioning his capability of returning to being a cop as he has been undercover for so long. Except that Chen has never done anything truly despicable while he is undercover, aside from getting numerous tattoos and adapting a rough-mannered way of speaking. Chen has to protect his special identity, but no one in the underworld is all that eager about weeding out the mole in their midst; they pick fights with Chen simply because they dislike his arrogance, rendering the plotline contrived. These are but a few of the plotlines that are shoehorned in to provide conflict for Chen. The film also tries to depict meaningful conversations between Chen and his colleagues, but the supporting characters are so shallow that if the good people behind the editing could literally cut them out of the film, save for Chen's mother (Paw Hee-ching), and it would still work.
Overall, "Special ID" is not the best film to highlight the return of the martial arts maverick that is Donnie Yen. A number of inherent problems quickly make themselves known throughout the film; scriptwriting being the root cause. All the characters are caricatures of film stereotypes in a world that is undoubtedly adult. Often, there are glimpses of the film trying its best to rise above its given material, especially when it comes to scenes involving Chen and his mother, but it would have failed if not for the earnestness and commendable action choreography from their leading man, Donnie Yen.
I'm a BIG fan of donnie but this movie is a BIG disappointment. Started off quite well but go downhill the moment Tian Jing show up...from then on the movie focus more on her action than donnie and her fighting really sucks! Even bigger disappointment is they under use Colin. Plus point is there are a few (very few) worthy fight scenes.
Best Action Movie This Year?! Definitely! Donnie Yen is back with Special Identity. Must Watch!
This film is said to be the best film in the whole of Asia, said to be the biggest Blockbuster of the year, with great reviews coming out from Hong Kong and China... one would wonder... can it live up to the hype?
I went into the cinema, don't know what to expect.. could this be as good as Ip Man(2008)? The Answer is Yes, or even better than Ip Man.
The main theme of the movie is of course the fight scenes, Donnie Yen uses MMA(including Muay Thai, Judo, BJJ, Taekwondo) in this movie, and the effects are outstanding. We can literally see every punch land, every knock-out, hear every kick... Hong Kong is known for producing action movies, but this is just another level altogether.
Donnie Yen has let go of his usual heroic self in Ip Man and Lost Bladesman and taken on the role of a Undercover Cop/Gangster in this movie and the results are outstanding. The fighting style and aggression is like a man on vengeance, which is totally different from his heroic fight styles(fight to win, not to hurt or kill) in his previous movies.
The plot here is great, brothers to enemies... and the relationship portrayed between Donnie and the Mum is just outstanding, you will literally tear.
Great direction, great acting, great plot, great action... No wonder this is said to be the biggest Asian Blockbuster this year.
I am definitely not disappointed, definitely the best Asian Movie this year, but we will see whether it can be the best movie in the world this year. =)
This is definitely a must-watch, worth your ticket money and much more. Great 99mins of entertainment and very intense moments.
We look forward to Donnie Yen's next movie, he may be the last Asian Star left to carry the Asian Movie Industry on his shoulders, and he is handling it very well.