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Naked Weapon
cast: Maggie Q, Daniel Wu, Anya, Andrew Lin, Almen Wong, and Jewel Lee

director: Tony Ching Siu-tung

88 minutes (18) 2002 widescreen ratio 16:9
Hong Kong Legends DVD Region 2 retail

RATING: 8/10
reviewed by Jeff Young
Subgenre exploitation is perhaps what Asian cinema does best today. Ever since Hollywood technical craftsmanship and higher production values were added to the enterprising daredevil approach of intrepid Hong Kong directors, the actual imaginative content of eastern movies has gradually slipped away. This is partly because the bigger budgets mean fewer risks can be taken with original material yet, in return, many Asian films of the post-1997 era have superior visual effects, classy cinematography, and a final polish that a majority of HK action films from the 1980s and early 1990s lack.
   Charlene (Maggie Q), Katherine, alias Katt (Taiwanese model, Anya), and Jing (Chinese Wu Shu champion Jewel Lee) are all highly trained assassins - dubbed 'China Dolls' by CIA investigator Jack Chen (Daniel Wu, from Purple Storm) who pieces together the scandalous international puzzle of kidnapped daughters and missing orphan girls with their reappearance, six years later, as sexed up killers trained by femme fatale Madame M (Almen Wong). Jack, of course, is secretly in love with Charlene, and tracks her down to Hong Kong, where she's visiting her mother, only to find that she's now in danger from her employers...
   Shot in English, from a screenplay by Wong Jing (director of the infamously camp Naked Killer, 1993), Naked Weapon (aka: Chek law dak gung) basically revisits the ultra fashionable 'battling babes' pictures of 10-20 years ago, such as Teresa Woo's Iron Angels (aka: Angels, 1988), Deadly China Dolls (1990), The Avenging Quartet (1993), and just about any Hong Kong contemporised action film with Japanese actress Yukari Oshima or Chinese starlet Moon Lee. The basic themes of Naked Weapon are patently similar to the unsophisticated plotlines of those cheaply made 1980s' action flicks. The influence of wire-master Ching Siu-tung's own The Heroic Trio (1992) is also noticeable, but the chief inspiration for Naked Weapon is undoubtedly the aforementioned Naked Killer.
   On many levels, this is just too fanciful to take seriously as drama - in spite of its torturous contests between homicidal teens, a risible scene that sees all three heroines being drugged and gang raped (an ordeal which they survive, apparently unscathed... eh?), and attempts to underscore the life-or-death sisterly friendship of Charlene and Katt, in much the same unimaginative way as Hollywood's traits of male-bonding occur in brothers-in-arms situations. This certainly isn't another feminist themed movie like Thelma & Louise, okay?
   Although there is one exceptionally well-choreographed shootout featuring Charlene and Katt versus a small army of armed bad guys, two of the later fight sequences - including Charlene's showdown with top villain, Ryuichi (Andrew Lin) - favour digital effects work, with flesh-shredding shards of broken glass, and the overly familiar low-flying acrobatic overhead leaps visually enhanced by impressive CG-erased wirework (see those Charlie's Angels flicks), over genuine any martial artistry. So, the director's unfortunate choice of empty spectacle over authentic physicality is largely detrimental to the film's sense of stylised reality, making this an uneasy mix of tough girl films like French director Luc Besson's Nikita (aka: La Femme Nikita, 1990) or The Long Kiss Goodnight (1997), with Matrix styled super-heroics thrown in good measure. Still, fans of girls with guns movies shouldn't complain. Naked Weapon is out on DVD now, guys. Go buy it. Take it home. Watch it repeatedly in slow motion. Until Quentin Tarantino's epic Kill Bill arrives on disc, this will do nicely, thank you.
   The Platinum Edition DVD is a two-disc package with a shiny card slipcase. It features a digitally re-mastered anamorphic version enhanced for widescreen TV, Dolby digital 5.1 and DTS audio options in Cantonese (with English subtitles) or English, and a commentary track with Hong Kong cinema expert Bey Logan and leading lady Maggie Q.
   The extras disc boasts four hours of exclusive bonus featurettes, including: A Day In The Life Of Maggie Q (spotlight on the model turned actress), The Naked Truth (making of the movie), Dark Avenger (interview with Andrew Lin), Deadly China Doll (interview with Anya), Young And Dangerous (interview with co-star Monica Lo), The Black Widow (interview with Almen Wong), Naked Weapon Location Guide presented by Bey Logan, animated photo gallery of promotional artwork and 'conceptual shots' of Maggie Q, Mission Data Files with biographical notes, and a selection of trailers.
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