Review by: Monkey Fist
SCUM Rating: ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆
During the 80s and 90s, Donnie Yen’s had some hits and misses with the movies he’s starred in. Over the last couple of years, I was glad that he was finally getting the recognition he deserves with films such as Sha Po Lang (SPL), Ip Man, Flashpoint and Wu Xia. I guess what made these films stand out, at least for me, was the fact that the plots and action sequences were neatly intertwined and coherent, which were evidently lacking in his earlier works (Eg. Asian Cop High Voltage). Unfortunately, Special Id seemed to be heading towards that direction. It was basically trying too hard to tell a straight-forward tale but ends up in a muddled mess. The same can be said about the soundtrack as well…the incessant loud guitar riffs during the fight scenes were simply jarring, to say the least.
Since SPL, I felt that Donnie’s taken the fighting genre to another level with the introduction of MMA techniques and made the action more believable and realistic. In Special ID, it is apparent that Donnie’s integrated the urban environment into the fight choreography. The fights were set in tight spaces and narrow hallways, showcasing the physical precision it required from all the stunt performers. The group fights look convincing. Everything looks less staged and the moves don’t land as cleanly, giving a gritty sense of realism.
For the first fight scene in the gambling den with Ken Lo (also seen in Jackie Chan’s Drunken Master 2), I thought it was unnecessary to feature Ken as a clumsy and idiotic fighter. If you’ve seen him in Drunken Master 2, he is anything but that. It would have been better if it was given a more edgy and intense treatment, like how Donnie dealt with Yu Xing in Flashpoint (the fight in the street market). It would have been great if his character was portrayed as a thinking hero versus one who’s all brawn and no brains. This formula would have worked in the 80s though.
It was unfortunate that Collin Chou’s role was heavily under-utilised in this instalment. It’s actually a cheap marketing ploy to tease the martial arts film fans that there is going to be a fight at some point in the story. Collin and Donnie have fought before, so as fans we expect there will be something that will at least try to top the Flashpoint fight. But sadly, that didn’t happen. After that, I was struggling to stay awake for the final showdown with Andy On, which was not as intense as Flashpoint’s finale or even SPL’s duel between Donnie and Wu Jing.
In conclusion, if you are seeking for some high-octane action film with a decent plot, I would recommend Flashpoint or even the South Korean film The Man From Nowhere where the heroes and villains were given dramatic touches, which created proper stakes and made the audience care about the characters. Special ID, on the other hand, has zero developed characters, plot or any sense of consistency.