Ever wonder why there are so few remakes of American films by foreign filmmakers? Hollywood churns out five remakes per week, but the favor is rarely returned. Are the rights too expensive? Is it a judgment call on the quality of our homegrown films? Are they taking a moral stand against remakes in general? I don’t know the answers here people, but it’s interesting to think about nonetheless.
Not coincidentally, here’s a look at a new DVD release for Benny Chan’s Connected! It’s a Hong Kong action film based on the 2004 Chris Evans/Kim Basinger thriller Cellular. That film was arguably better than its pedigree and plot would suggest, and that trend continues here. Director/co-writer Chan has made some minor changes and improvements in character and events, but the core story about a woman in need of a hero and the stranger forced into the role stays the same.
Grace Wong (Barbie Hsu) is a single (and insanely cute) mother who drops her daughter Ting off at school one morning, but is t-boned afterward on the way to work by some baddies in an SUV. They kidnap her, kill her housekeeper, and toss her in a shack in the middle of nowhere before demanding she tell them where “it” is. She has no clue what exactly “it” is so they threaten to pick up little Ting after school to help jog the woman’s memory. Grace is able to cobble together pieces of a broken phone and restore it to partial functionality. She gets a dial tone with no way of choosing who she calls but soon gets an answer from Bob (Louis Koo). Bob has problems of his own including an un-fulfilling job as a debt collector, a son who sees him as a failure, and a bad habit of being a pushover who never finishes a damn thing he starts. Grace tries to convince him of her situation, but Bob thinks she’s a prank until he overhears the baddies kill someone in the background. Now he’s in a race against time to save Grace and little Ting from the bad guys.
And that’s just the first ten minutes.
The movie is off and running from that point forward with gun fights, car and foot chases, and more. Bob unwittingly enlists the aid of a disgraced cop (are there any other kind in Hong Kong?) and soon we’re flipping back and forth between the two of them and Grace as the three narratives converge. There are some interesting and humane character touches but this is an action film first and foremost. The car chase is spectacularly exciting and messy with an incredible amount of vehicular carnage on display including a stretch going the wrong way on a two-lane highway. There’s the expected scenes of Bob rushing to charge the cell phone battery, but they’re done creatively enough.
But like many Hong Kong action directors, Chan loves his melodrama. The addition of a son for Bob is an inspired move as it makes his personal dilemma that much more engaging, but the drama gets a bit overplayed during an airport scene towards the end of the movie. We get it… Bob really wants to see his kid. The music and the tears on his face remind us for several minutes straight that he’s making a really difficult decision here. And as good as the action is throughout the movie the finale does suffer a bit of its own overkill. A fight in an airport warehouse that starts on the ground floor suddenly appears to be eight stories up in the air, and when they toss in some obvious wire work the scene fails to live up to earlier action standards.
Benny Chan is one of the brighter stars in Hong Kong’s recent resurgence towards the top of the action scene. He’s been around for a while and makes as many stinkers as not, but films like New Police Story, Invisible Target, and (yes even) Jackie Chan’s Robin-B-Hood are kinetic pulse burners that excite and entertain in equal measure. They’re just a hell of a lot of fun, and sometimes that’s really all you want in a movie.
Connected comes to DVD courtesy of UK label CineAsia in a two-disc Ultimate Edition. It’s a region 2 release so a multi-region DVD player is required to play it in the US. There appears to be an odd glitch on disc one’s menu screens that makes it difficult to know which item you’re selecting. The digital marker that highlights your selection is misaligned or missing all together. The menus on the second disc are clearly visible and work perfectly.
Disc one contains the film, over forty minutes worth of extended and/or alternate scenes, outtakes, and the film’s teaser and trailer. The scenes are mostly additional dialogue, and none of them would have really enhanced the movie. The outtakes are criminally brief, as in less than a minute, but the second (of two) is actually very funny.
Disc two features an interview gallery, a twenty-minute making of, and a long five-part behind the scenes featurette. The interviews each run five to ten minutes and include Chan, Koo, Cheung, and the adorable Hsu. They offer insights and anecdotes for the film and their characters, but Koo is especially interesting as he discusses the difficulties in remaking the original. “Guns are illegal in Hong Kong… we’re not exposed to guns.” This statement is undoubtedly true, but at the same time I’m hard-pressed to think of more than a couple Hong Kong films that don’t feature a stylish gun battle or two.
Connected is a fun and entertaining action thriller that never strives to be anything more than that. The performances are solid across the board, Hsu is freaking cute as hell, and the action scenes are beautifully executed. Currently there is no domestic DVD available.
Connected streets on 9/20 and is available from AmazonUK.
Related Topics: Home Video