January 21, 2014
I am not really a big martial arts movie fan, but I enjoy watching a good one when I get the chance. "Special ID" is the only other Donnie Yen film I have seen after the phenomenal "Ip Man" and its lesser sequel. I was curious to watch Donnie fight in the modern setting. This film definitely confirms his excellence in martial arts choreography and execution -- from the quiet discipline of wuxia before to rough and rugged mixed martial arts this time.
The story is common and predictable, Chan Chi-lung (Donnie Yen) is an undercover Hongkong cop who gets sent to China to help corner an up-and- coming crime boss, Sunny (Andy On), with whom he was close to in his previous assignment. There were no really big surprises or twists in the story. But of course, we do not typically watch these types of films expecting a profound lessons, but it is mostly for the exhilarating action scenes. And in this aspect, I thought "Special ID" delivered big time.
It was cool to see a different Donnie Yen as a brash and reckless cop, which was totally in contrast with his elegant, subdued character in "Ip Man." His range of fighting skills were all very exciting to watch in those incredibly and impossibly choreographed fight and car chase scenes. Be they in enclosed spaces or in wide-open areas, Donnie Yen is exhilarating to watch.
Andy On plays a very convincing new debonair crime lord from the US. He figures in a very long climactic scenes of car chase with fighting (yes, while driving), followed by an intense scene of bloody hand-to-hand combat on a bridge under construction. He was able to match the grace and flow of Yen's movements yet their scenes come across as gritty and realistic.
As Yen's Chinese female police partner Fang Jing, pretty actress Tian Jing was made to mouth some pretty cheesy lines. But when it comes to her action scenes, her awkwardness disappears. She was unexpectedly awesome in her parkour scenes jumping and running across rooftops, and of course, her major fight scene set unbelievably within the confines of a moving Land Rover!
Reviews from many die-hard martial arts film fanatics have been harsh, calling this film a miss in Donnie Yen's filmography because of its sloppiness. However, for the casual viewer who only watches martial arts films occasionally, I do not see anything wrong with the action sequences I saw here in "Special ID". While they may miss the mark for bonafide MMA connoisseurs, for an ordinary guy like me, those action scenes and stunts were quite breathtaking and very entertaining. 7/10.