Special ID / Special Identity 特殊身份 (2013) – Hong Kong

Review by: Andrew Chan FCCA AACTA FIPRESCI
Review Date: 20th October 2013

Directed by: Clarence Fok
Starring: Donnie Yen, Tian Jing, Andy On, Colin Chou, Ronald Cheng, Terrence Yin

In cinemas Hong Kong from 19th October 2013

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Donnie Yen is back, but not necessary with the expected results. Despite his improved acting range in period films like “Ip Man”, Yen is back to his trademark overacting in director Clarence Fok’s latest action blockbuster – “Special ID”. The good news is that “Special ID” remains largely entertaining for most of the duration, but in many ways it remains a huge pile of mess. In saying that, “Special ID” delivers plenty of “Flashpoint” style action without the substance of “SPL” and a story that is as nonsensical as most of Yen’s 90s action flicks. Still, there are moments to be excited about and namely most of the fight sequences, however the ending drags on and on and by the time Andy On is finally defeated (as expected, good guys wins, bad guys loses – Mainland Censorship), the audience already had enough.

The film is about Donnie Yen and so is the main focus, but unlike Jet Li, Yen always overacts and while some blame should be attributed to the lame and corny dialogue, there are times, when his expression is largely out of place. Having said that, Yen as usual provides outstanding physical presence and is always impressive whenever a fight is around the corner. One cannot stop laughing thought at the lame and cheesy manner that the small romantic sub-plot between fresh faced Tian Jing and Yen. Not only does it seem forced, but every interaction is left with a cheesy laughter. Tian Jing does well as the cliché female madam cop and shows some good moves of her own. Unfortunately nothing is known about her character and the scene when she cries after killing someone is largely unconvincing. We have now seen Andy On’s fighting style, but offer nothing to his villainous role and at times feel rather out of place than lethal. His fights with Yen is at times borderline boring to watch and one cannot help but think why the hell, Collin Chou is wasted as the triad boss role, who is criminally underused in fight scenes. Chou vs Yen would have been interesting, but somehow it just never happened. As for Ronald Cheng, he is neither funny nor serious and tend to just appear here and there for next to no reason at all. Perhaps the best acting once again alludes to Yen’s mum (played by the always brilliant Paw Hee-Ching)), who despite limited screen time provides one of the better scenes in the well-acted hairdressing scene.

All in all, “Special ID” is really not that special, the action is ordinary, the story is ordinary, the direction is bluntly average and the acting is borderline bad. Still, with period martial arts film dominating the Hong Kong cinema scene, it is refreshing to see some modern day action movies. While Unbeatable uses MMA to tell a story and tale, “Special ID” as expected goes the opposite route namely using action to disguise a lack of story. Yen is always entertaining to watch and the action on display is fun to say the least. Yes, “Special ID” is far more like “Flashpoint” than “SPL”, but when you start calling a pile of mess, being entertaining. Then Special ID is not entirely bad afterall. (Neo 2013)

I rated 6/10

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