Donnie Yen returns to MMA with this action packed cop film that seems to have something missing, but does have some nicely done action sequences and a nice villain turn for the “Onimal”.
Yen plays Chen Zilong, a Hong Kong policeman who has spent the last eight years undercover in the Triad gang run by Cheng Mao-Xiong (Collin Chou). Xiong has informed Chen that an old protégé of Chen’s, “Sunny” Luo Zhi-Shi (Andy On), may be responsible for the murder of a fellow Triad and may have some information on some wealthy millionaires and has asked Chen to investigate. In a coinciding twist, Chen has been asked by his superior, Captain Zhang (Ronald Cheng), to go to Mainland China to investigate Sunny.
Upon arrival in China, Chen finds himself partnered with local no-nonsense cop Fang Jing (Jing Tian). Fang doesn’t approve of Chen’s approach to things, especially when he sets up a meeting with his former protégé. When a deal is about to be made between Sunny and Chen, one of Sunny’s men is killed off and Chen becomes the suspect. When the police get involved, Chen learns something more dangerous, a secret that can destroy the eight years he has spent as an undercover police officer.
After making police thrillers SPL (2005) and FLASH POINT (2007), action hero Donnie Yen delved into more period pieces and comedies. What should have been a welcome return to the kick-butt cops vs. gangster genre is perhaps known more for its troubled production. The story is quite well known to fans these days. Mainland actor and martial artist Vincent Zhao was to have played the villain, but he and Yen apparently had gotten into differences, forcing Zhao to leave the set. In addition, filmmaker Tan Bing slammed Yen for apparently taking his film ULTIMATE CODEBREAK, which was to believe to have co-star both Yen and Jackie Chan, and making it this very film. The story prompted Yen to seek legal action against the filmmaker.
While it should be great to see Yen return to a major kick-butt role and that of a deep undercover, there seems to be something missing. Or even, something that should not be there. Ah, it seems like Yen wanted to add a bit of comic relief in certain scenes. Perhaps Yen’s foray into comedy films (ALL’S WELL ENDS WELL 2011 and 2012) may have been an influence in using it, but it was absolutely unnecessary. The only other major flaw of the film is that of Jing Tian’s Mainland cop, who until her final action scene is not very convincing. It is as if one is watching a bad rehash of Michelle Yeoh’s role in POLICE STORY III: SUPERCOP (1992).
Where Vincent Zhao left, enter Andy On as the replacement. Having worked with Yen before on THE LOST BLADESMAN (2010), On truly makes the role of the evil Sunny Luo his own. It seems the “Onimal”, an American-born Chinese star who started his career a decade ago, has truly improved himself in the game and he is perhaps the breakout of this film. He truly embodies Sunny as a devious gangster who thrives for his own power. In addition, On has truly proven himself over time in the action department and he truly delivers here.
This brings us to the overall action. Yen and his stunt team, notably former on-screen villain and real-life best friend John Salvitti, truly make the action the highlight of the film. In the film’s opening fight sequence, Yen takes on veteran martial artist and former Jackie Chan stunt team member/bodyguard Ken Lo. Lo, at fifty-six, stills holds his own as a former Muay Thai champion, using flying knees and kicks against Yen’s MMA style of combat. Add Hong Kong stunt legend Bruce Law, whose car stunts in this film are great to see. Especially in the final act, where despite some obvious wirework for a certain jump, sees Jing Tian in her best action set piece of the film. While many may feel disappointed that Yen doesn’t get to go toe-to-toe with Collin Chou (who plays gang leader Xiong) in the film, they will not be disappointed with Yen’s final showdown with On.
SPECIAL ID is not an exciting action film from Donnie Yen due to some unnecessary comic relief and Jing Tian’s bad redux of Michelle Yeoh’s SUPERCOP character. However, Andy On’s villain turn and the action are pluses of the film. Worth a rental and judge for yourself.
Andy On • Collin Chou • cops • Donnie Yen • gangster • Special ID (2013)