Michael Jai White
Hong Kong Super hero kung-fu action
Trivia This movie was shot simultaneously in English and Cantonese. Cool eh?
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Silver Hawk (2004)
10th Aug 05
Lulu Wong is a successful businesswoman by day but by night, when the silver mask goes on, she becomes the secret protector of Polaris City, Silver Hawk. Loathed by the police for her interfering ways (and her ability to bring to justice the criminals that evade them), she is loved by the people for her unrelenting fight against crime, Silver Hawk becomes the only one who can take on the evil megalomaniac Fierce Wolf threatening to take over the world...
You don’t get many Asian superhero movies. With the exception of The Black Mask and this flick, I can’t think of any more. But there’s no surprise really, Asian fantasy fiction tends to focus on the retelling of stories about legendary kung-fu masters and such, whereas the proliferation of manga across the continent (i.e. Asian stylized comic books) tends to concentrate on either school girls or giant robots, or school girls that pilot giant robots, but rarely guys in capes that wear their pants outside their trousers.
So you could argue that it’s a surprise to see Michelle Yeoh – probably the most famous woman in Hong Kong cinema right now – taking on the role of a 40s crime fighter, updated to the present day. But then again just look at the US box office at the moment - Fantastic Four and Batman Begins are still in the top ten, and both Spiderman 3 and X-Men 3 are in production. Maybe Hong Kong cinema’s just trying to get itself a piece of this superhero action at the worldwide box-office. And why not? That would certainly explain Silver Hawk being shot simultaneously in Cantonese and English.
Anyway, you know what you’re getting from the word go with Silver Hawk, as it starts with Silver Hawk jumping the great wall of China on a futuristic motor bike (you know, with cool chrome bits and rockets sticking out of it) and then chasing down a bunch of bad guys in a van who have stolen – get this – a panda. After a brief chase Michelle Yeoh knocks the living daylights out of the kidnappers via the medium of Hong Kong style super hero kung-fu (i.e. capes swishing while punches connect, a touch of slow-mo in the right places and a little CGI’d wire work for good measure). In fact, she beats them up so good that when she tells them to get up for “ten minutes more” the bad guys promptly cuff themselves! That’s the kind of movie this is then – flashy, fun, but a little bit silly.
Silver Hawk is only half of this character’s life, though, as by day she’s also sexy celebrity millionairess Lulu Wong. So she lives a secret double life, dividing her time between working as a highly successful businesswoman of some sort and fighting crime as the Silver Hawk. This being Hong Kong and the near future, she’s got that cool sci-fi bike I was telling you about, plus the martial arts skills obviously, but she’s also equipped with a barrage of high-tech equipment, although mainly communications devices and bugs. Actually, the use of bugs (on phones, bike, cars, etc) has never been done so many times, and is integral to the plot of this movie, which revolves around the abduction of a prominent telecommunications scientist. He’s created some kind of groundbreaking Artificial Intelligence technology that looks set to revolutionize the world of communications, so his disappearance is a real mystery. This prompts Silver Hawk to get right on the case, and it’s not long before she follows the trail (by using those bugs I mentioned) back to Alexander Wolfe (Luke Goss), a bionic-armed super-villain with his sights set on world domination (don’t they all?). By employing the new A.I. technology, Wolfe plans to brainwash the world’s population via their mobile phones – sinister stuff I think you’ll agree.
Also in the picture is newly appointed police detective Rich Man (Richie Ren) who, coincidentally, is a long-lost childhood friend of Lulu's. Their back story at some kind of massive kiddie kung-fu school is actually quite a bit of fresh air, explaining both Rich Man’s brash and arrogant exterior and Lulu’s need to hide behind a mask, through the exceptional talents of the child actors someone found to play them both circa aged eight. Thirty years on or so neither has changed, especially Rich who still uses the same obnoxious greeting, so when he tries it on Lulu as a sort of chat up line she recognises him straight away (prompting her to plant a bug on him, of course). She then goes on to have quite a bit of fun teasing him as to her identity because, of course, for all her heroics, Silver Hawk is still a vigilante and therefore operating outside the law. And that’s not all she has to deal with, bringing Wolfe to justice proves far from easy. Before she can get to him, Silver Hawk must first take on Wolfe's accomplices – a deadly duo of assassins, a team of bungee-jumping swordsmen and a horde of rollerblading nutters.
Directed by Jingle Ma (the guy who bought us Tokyo Raiders amongst other things), Silver Hawk is a tonnes-of-fun oriental action-adventure that, while never really hitting any dizzying heights of greatness, never really disappoints either. The acting from everyone is suitably over-the-top and has a touch of tongue-in-cheek-ness about it (except for Luke Goss who seems to be playing the whole thing straight, ironic considering he’s the one with the robot arms) and the kung-fu is impressive, but in a very theatrical balletic way. All in all it’s a bit like watching a live action video game, which is not necessarily a bad thing, although with movies like Ong-Bak pushing the action trend away from wire work and CGI and back towards brutal live action, there’s no wonder this flick bombed at the Eastern box-office last year. Still, if you like Michelle Yeoh, lengthy over-the-top super hero kung-fu action and movies involving hi-tech bugging devices, you’re in for a treat.
No pandas were harmed in the making of this movie.
Versions A few international releases, although the Momentum Asia disc released in September 2005 will be the most comprehensive.
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