From an original script by Larry Cohen script, this is a Hong Kong remake of US thriller, Cellular (2004). Grace (Barbie Hsu) is kidnapped by a gang of villains, led by the ruthless Fok (Liu Ye). While being held prisoner, she rigs a damaged phone to call a random number and contacts unwary good guy Bob (Louis Koo), who soon involves a police officer, Fai (Nick Cheung) – actually a top detective just demoted to duties as a traffic cop. While Bob tries to keep in touch with the distraught Grace, using a faulty mobile phone with a bad connection, there’s a well-staged chase sequence that leaves a car teetering on a cliff edge.
For his next dirty trick, evil Fok kidnaps Grace’s young daughter from school, but heroic Bob pursues them, only to discover that the bad guys are crooked Interpol agents, abusing their authority to act with extralegal force, making Bob’s rescue of hostages – in trade for an incriminating video – at the airport, far more difficult than he had expected. Shoot-outs are hectic, plot twists rather more than simplistic cat ‘n’ mouse standard, and there’s plenty of inventive stunt work, particularly during the showdown at a warehouse.
Lucky accidents and fluke coincidences might appear to undermine story credibility and coherence, but the sheer pace of action skates over any critical objections and so we are carried along for a wild ride. The happy ending does not weaken this drama or its conclusion, although it’s no surprise that Bob warns Grace, “don’t call me for help again.” As hinted at by the social themes of Cohen’s script, what this movie aims for, but, with its genre focus on thrills and chases never quite achieves, is how telecoms networks have ironically disconnected societies and fragmented urban communities, keeping many relationships at a distance.
Nowadays, a great many ‘conversations’ that once required face-to-face meeting, take place via phone-links (we have all experienced the social oddity of talking to someone on a mobile – perhaps arranging a meeting, just before seeing the one you’re speaking to is already nearby). The ‘relationship’ forged between desperate Grace, and trusting, caring Bob, is obviously a curious by-product of modern technology. We might not question the veracity of human motivations and moral anxieties detailed by this ‘storyline’, but we are likely to doubt whether such compassionate action is actually realistic, if given a hypothetical situation of this extreme nature for ourselves to respond to. Would you hold the line or break the connection? What does your answer to that loaded question say about you as a moral person and sympathetic individual?
Connected (aka: Bo chi tung wah) is actually a fine remake. Co-writer and director, Benny Chan, marshals the conceits and disclosures of the fast-moving narrative just as well as he handles the frequently exhilarating action sequences. Since working on some 1990s’ TV projects, Hong Kong features like Big Bullet (1996), and the offbeat millennial Gen-X-Cops films, Benny Chan moved into the big time when he teamed up with Jackie Chan for knockabout comedy Who Am I? (1998), continuing the two Chans partnership in belated yet ace sequel, New Police Story (2004).
After helming brooding crime drama, Divergence (2005), Benny Chan’s directorial range of skills has broadened considerably, and his assured handling of both thrills, good humour, and some – admittedly cloying – sentimentality in Connected is quite impressive, even if his orchestration of urban action with cops and crooks lacks the supreme polish of John Woo’s classic works. Chan’s new sci-fi superhero movie, City Under Siege, which stars Shu Qi and Aaron Kwok, sounds like fun.