Thursday, September 19, 2013

Naked Soldier

Naked Soldier
Director: Marco Mak

Action Choreography:  Corey Yuen Kwai, Yuen Tak

Year: 2012

How about that. I’ve actually gotten around to a Hong Kong film that is relatively contemporary in which I did not have to wipe away the dust and spider webs as I do when I come back to my apartment in Brooklyn after being away for months. I have to admit that it helped that the word “Naked” was in the title. With Hong Kong films you can rarely go wrong when this is the case. You have the Naked Poison films that seep with sleaze like a slow dirty oil leak, Naked Party that was a libidinous tour through the sexual perverted peccadillos of the Japanese and most famously there were the two Girls with Guns films, the classic Naked Killer and it’s decade later semi follow-up Naked Weapon.  Now another ten years has passed and along comes Naked Soldier that is fortunately very much in the mold of those two latter films and like them was produced by the cherubic Wong Jing, who never tires of throwing this sort of entertainment with little merit at an audience. Thank God for that.

Wong Jing though always has to keep a steady commercial eye on what the Mainland censors allow so Naked Soldier avoids the seamy sexual undercurrent that made Naked Killer such a hoot, but he partly makes up for this with a barrage of action scenes that begin during the opening credits and continue through much of the film. In fact, this is close to a fan boy wet dream delight and should be watched with a tissue box at hand. It has pretty much everything you can ask for these days – stunning female killers who would look as much at home on the pages of Vogue as they do with a gun in their hands or a blade clenched in their teeth, action choreography by two of the legends of this art form (Corey Yuen and Yuen Tak) and a rugged looking Sammo Hung who if Hong Kong had a Mount Rushmore would be right in the middle. Admittedly, the actresses are probably not exactly trained martial artists but then neither were Chingmy Yau and Carrie Ng from Naked Killer. They just looked really good killing people and so do these actresses. Can’t that be enough some times?

In particular though for me, it is just such a pleasure seeing Sammo dominate a film like he does this one.  No one runs as consistently through the history of the Hong Kong action film as Sammo does and no one deserves more credit for it being what it is and has been. Beginning as an action choreographer for some of the King Hu films, then many of the Angela Mao films as well as some of his own films he helped take martial arts to another level of speed and complexity. He directed a number of the classic films of the 80’s and brought martial arts into the modern age with films like Eastern Condors, Millionaire’s Express and Dragons Forever. His collaborations with Jackie Chan are well known already but much too often he is seen as Jackie’s sidekick when he actually deserves much more of the credit. In the late 90’s and early 2000’s though it looked for a while that Sammo was perhaps fading into the sunset because of age and injuries as did his friend and cohort Yuen Biao. He showed up with his own U.S. TV series Martial Law and though I admit to enjoying it, at the same time it felt like a step closer to the old folk’s home (but saying that why isn’t this available on DVD?). But beginning in 2005 with SPL Sammo and his career have felt revitalized and though he was generally a co-star he made clear that he still has a lot of moves left to show the young guys. And here in Naked Soldier he is in fact the lead in the film and it warms the cockles of my heart to see it.

Lung (Sammo Hung) leads a police raid to confiscate a huge supply of illegal drugs and in response to this a group of assassins led by Madam Rose crash into his home and shoot him, kill his family and kidnap his young daughter Wen-ching. Madam Rose has the annoying habit of taking young girls and after brainwashing them trains the girls to be assassins. She renames Wen-ching Phoenix and she becomes her star student over the next fifteen years. As I am watching this I can’t help but notice how the actress who plays Madam Rose looks so much like a young sexy Ellen Chan, one of my favorite actresses from the late 80’s to the mid-90’s. But when I see the credits scroll at the end of the film lo and behold it is Ellen Chan. Whatever help she is getting from a doctor or from magic pills or from the blood of virgins I want some of it badly. She looks amazing for a woman closing in on fifty. She looks amazing for a woman closing in on thirty. Hell, she just looks amazing.

So fifteen years after the slaughter of Lung’s family, Madam Rose gets a contract to kill a number of crime heads and sends out her three top feline killers to do the job – Phoenix (Jennifer Tse), Selina (Ankie Beike) and Ivy (Lena Lam). The kills are all done with style and more than a splash of blood. And they are kind enough to pose occasionally during their ill deeds to look directly at the camera and make it melt just a little bit. Interpol suspects that Madam Rose is behind the killings and Inspector Sam Wong (Andy On) brings on Lung as a consultant. Needless to say he does much more than consult. Chock full of action and glamour, the film is lots of silly fun and gives us the bonus of Anthony Wong showing up for the final fifteen minutes as a strutting posing drug lord who basically steals the show along with his two gay killer henchmen. Also rather fun is Kang Jia-qi who plays Lung’s adopted daughter and who acts so cute that she looks like she should have been a third Twin but who has a few kung fu moves of her own.  Now the actress who plays Phoenix, Jennifer Tse, turns out to be the sister of Nicholas Tse, meaning of course that she is the daughter of the 1960’s film heartthrob Patrick Tse. Where have they been hiding her all these years? I don’t know if she can act her way out of a soggy sand trap but her lean chiseled features are lovely to behold. The fact that she looks a lot like her brother and that I find her so attractive is though a bit unnerving! What can I say, I am a sucker for these kind of films and though Naked Soldier is no Naked Killer by a long stretch, I still hope to be around in ten years for the next installment.

My Fanboy Rating: 7.0
The Trailer for Naked Soldier

Dinner at Sammo's House with Sammo and  Kang Jia-qi

And for old time's sake, the trailer for Naked Killer