Naked Soldier 絕色武器
Martial arts action
2012, colour, 2.35:1, 92 mins
Directed by Marco Mak (麥子善)
By Derek Elley
Mon, 06 August 2012, 09:30 AM (HKT)
Classy, old-style pulp action is a worthy companion to Naked Killer and Naked Weapon. Asian and genre events, plus vigorous ancillary.
1980: Interpol agent Lung Chi-keung (Sammo Hung) smashes a drugs ring and captures goods worth US$25 million, much to the anger of their owner (Anthony Wong), who hires Madame Rose (Ellen Chan) and her assassins to kill Chi-keung's whole family over Xmas at their home in Florida. Chi-leung narrowly escapes death, and his five-year-old daughter is kidnapped by Madame Rose and brainwashed into believing she is her mother. The girl is given the name Phoenix and trained, along with other kidnapped children, to become a professional assassin. Fifteen years later, overseas Chinese Sam Wong (Andy On), who's been working in the Beijing police force for several years, is assigned to the Hong Kong office of Interpol, where he meets Chi-keung, who's still searching for his daughter. Sam invites him to join an investigation he's working on with his colleague Siu Pei (Timmy Hung): five powerful druglords with links to the one Chi-keung smashed 15 years earlier have united to take over the world's narcotics business and South America's druglords, worried about the implications, have hired Madame Rose to take care of the problem. Chi-keung agrees, as long as Sam reopens the case on his daughter. Simultaneously, Madame Rose has three of the druglords killed: Jimmy (Alain "The Panther" Ngalani) by Ivy (Lena Lin) in a Las Vegas jacuzzi, Kato by Selina (Ankie Beilke) in a Tokyo boxing ring, and Iron Wolf (Tang Weicheng) by Phoenix (Jennifer Tse) at the funeral of his old enemy, Ma, in Taiwan. However, Phoenix leaves a blood trace which is found by the police, and her face is seen by Ma's widow (Amy Lü), whom Phoenix mistakenly leaves alive. Back at National Taiwan University, where she is posing as student Wen-ching, Phoenix is introduced by her professor (Shi Laiqun) to Sam, who used to study under him. Sam falls for her. Meanwhile, in Hong Kong, Chi-keung is dealing with his tomboy adopted daughter, Wai-chu (Kang Jiaqi), whose school marks are terrible. Sam is shocked when the blood sample's DNA identifies Iron Wolf's killer as Wen-ching but doesn't tell Chi-keung she's also his daughter. In Hong Kong, Phoenix, after being chastised by Madame Rose for her mistakes, sets out to kill Chi-keung, not realising he's her father. Meanwhile, the two surviving druglords, gay Dutchman Honey (Ian Powers) and Thai tomboy Tigress (Jiang Luxia), kill Ivy in revenge for Jimmy's death. After failing to kill Chi-keung, Phoenix finds herself hunted by Madame Rose but protected by her training-school colleague Black Dragon (Philip Ng), who's always liked her, much to the jealousy of Selena.
Ten years after Naked Weapon 赤裸特工 (2002) and 20 after Naked Killer 赤裸羔羊 (1992), producer Wong Jing completes his female-assassins "trilogy" with Naked Soldier 絕色武器 — and, for fans of old-style Hong Kong babes-with-guns movies, this one more than delivers the goods. It lacks the sheer outrageousness of the cult original, and the sheer sexiness of the second outing, but it compensates with loads of action, a much richer plotline (with a large cast of characters), the stabilising presence of a relaxed Sammo HUNG 洪金寶, and classy production values.
Each Naked has reflected the time it was born in, with Killer made at the peak of the Category III boom and Weapon at a time of Asian-Americans making a mark on the industry. With an eye on the lucrative Mainland market, and its stricter censorship, Soldier doesn't have a trace of the lesbian tease that powered the first two movies nor the extreme violence; in their place, there's a very busy plot with a large cast of characters and Mainland martial artists (JIANG Luxia 蔣璐霞, KANG Jiaqi 康佳琪, XIN Jingzhu 辛静竹, plus basketball star CHEN Xiaolei 陳小磊) alongside the Hong Kong (Hung) and overseas Chinese (Andy ON 安志杰, Philip NG 伍允龍) action names. There's also veteran Anthony WONG 黃秋生 in a career first fighting Hung, plus Hong Kong star Nicholas TSE 謝霆鋒's younger sister Jennifer TSE 謝婷婷 (Bruce Lee My Brother 李小龍 (2010)) in her first leading role.
Canadian-raised model Tse, 24, lacks the hotness of previous Naked leads Chingmy YAU 邱淑貞 and Maggie Q, and has a rather cold screen presence; but she handles herself convincingly in the action sequences, especially in her final face-off vs. German-Chinese actress Ankie BEILKE 貝安琪 (in a Lady Gaga-like blonde wig). That's much due to the action direction of Corey YUEN 元奎 (working here with fellow veteran YUEN Tak 元德), who does his best work since So Close 夕陽天使 (2002). Corey Yuen has history of making female action stars look good on screen, basically by no concessions to gender, and here the combination of wirework, stunt doubling and smooth editing is a classic demonstration of what Hong Kong used to do best. Action buffs have to wait 70 minutes for a real female martial artist (turbine-charged Mainland tomboy Jiang, from Coweb 戰・無雙 (2008) and Vampire Warriors 殭屍新戰士 (2010)) to show up for some un-doubled stuff, but it's worth the wait, in a multi-character action finale that's pure late '80s/early '90s Hong Kong.
The movie is almost a family affair, with Hung having some on-screen fun with his real-life son Timmy HUNG 洪天明 (as a jokey Interpol agent) and off-screen partners Tse and On playing an on-screen couple. That feeling extends behind the camera as well, with longtime editor-turned-director Marco MAK 麥子善 (who's worked many times for producer Wong) producing a quality-looking product that still feels absolutely from the Wong stable, with its mixture of comedy, pulpy action and leaps of belief.
Though the story (anachronistically set in 1995) zips back and forth between Hong Kong and Taiwan, the movie was actually shot in Shenzhen, China. The so-called Naked "trilogy" is linked only by the use of "naked" in the English titles and the theme of a band of female assassins trained by a villainess. The original title of Soldier means Hot Weapon(s).
ContactSales: Mega-Vision Project Distribution, Hong Kong (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Theatrical release: China, 13 Jul 2012; Hong Kong, 23 Aug 2012.
Presented by Mega-Vision Project Distribution (HK). Produced by See Movie (HK). Executive producer: Wong Jing. Producers: Wong Jing, Angela Wong.
Script: Wong Jing. Photography: Tony Miu, Cheung Man-po. Editing: Marco Mak, Lee Kar-wing. Music: Raymond Wong Ying-wah. Art direction: Frederick Chan. Costume design: Andy Daniel Yiu. Sound: Ng Chung. Action direction: Corey Yuen. Action choreography: Yuen Tak. Visual effects: Park Hyeon-shin, Park Yong-jeong (Kinomotive), Samuel Mok, David Tso, Wong Ka-lok (Big Label Creation).
Cast: Jennifer Tse (Phoenix/Wen-ching), Sammo Hung (Lung Chi-keung/C.K. Long), Ankie Beilke (Selina), Andy On (Wong Chi-yung/Sam), Philip Ng (Black Dragon), Jiang Luxia (Tigress), Lena Lin (Ivy), Anthony Wong (super druglord), Ellen Chan (Madame Rose), Timmy Hung (Siu Pei/Pete, Chi-yung's sidekick), Kang Jiaqi (Chi-keung's adopted daughter Lung Wai-chu, "Crooked Pig"), Xue Hongmin (White Snake), Ian Powers (Honey, Dutch druglord), Alain "The Panther" Ngalani (Jimmy, Las Vegas druglord), Tang Weicheng (Iron Wolf, Taiwan druglord), Amy Lü (Ma's wife), Xin Jingzhu (Fang, Phoenix's roommate), Yang Jian (Hua), Shi Laiqun (National Taiwan University professor), Meme Rose (TV newsreader), Paul Bedard (mercenary leader), Pete Larocque (mercenary instructor), René Villeneuve (Chi-keung's uncle-in-law), Zeng Jiang (female Interpol agent), Chen Xiaolei (basketball player), Kong Yiding (Ma's son), Li Jinyu (Chi-keung's mother), Li Yaci (Ma's daughter), Wang Yong (Chi-keung's younger brother), Wang Siqin (Chi-keung's wife), Zhang Chenlin (National Taiwan University librarian).