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Review: Little suspense, but plenty of kicks in 'Special ID'

Review: Little suspense, but plenty of kicks in 'Special ID'
The poster image for "Special ID."

Hong Kong filmmakers have tried — and largely failed — to duplicate the success of "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon," so more appear to be looking to thriving film industries in Japan and South Korea for inspiration. The Donnie Yen vehicle "Special ID" supplies the proof.

Director Clarence Fok Yiu-leung has here co-opted South Korea's messy fight choreography as seen in the noted 2003 thriller "Oldboy" as well as the cartoonish, multi-culti lowlifes that populate the bulk of Japanese filmmaker Takashi Miike's canon.

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Yen stars as Chen Zilong, an undercover cop who infiltrates the Hong Kong underworld, "Infernal Affairs"-style. He resolves to unravel the master plan of his former protégé Sunny (Andy On), who is slaughtering his way to the triad's top ranks. There's little suspense to speak of but plenty of roundhouse kicks to keep you shocked and awed.

The lens work by "Crouching Tiger" cinematographer Peter Pau looks super slick; and the film's conformity to trends in regional commercial cinema yields respectable results. But "Special ID" truly comes alive when it busts out the good ol' fashioned Hong Kong daredevil stunt work. The pièce de résistance has to be the breathtaking fight involving Yen, On, Jing Tian (as Chen's buddy-cop partner Fang Jing) and two moving SUVs. Chop-socky is still kicking, indeed.

"Special ID." MPAA rating: R for violence and language. Running time: 1 hour, 39 minutes. Playing at Laemmle NoHo 7, North Hollywood. Also on VOD.

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