Special ID (2013) – By Duane L. Martin

Zilong Chen (Donnie Yen) is a Hong Kong cop who’s been undercover in the world of gangs and organized crime for the past six years. During that time he’s made both friends and enemies, but all respect him in one way or another, be it for his honor or his skill at fighting. Unfortunately, he’s not the only gangster around.

When a friend and protege named Sunny cuts a deal with another crime boss named Brother Kun to get some documents from him that he can use to blackmail a billionaire, instead of making the deal as originally planned, he kills Brother Kun and steals the documents, which causes the big boss, Changmaoxiong, to come up with a plan to kill him, either through the use of an assassin who’s looking to avenge Brother Kun, or by setting Chen and Sunny against one another.

Chen ends up in Nanhai on the mainland to work with their police in an effort to bring down both Sunny and Changmaoxiong. He’s partnered with an insanely beautiful partner named Jing Fan who’s the all business and by the book type. She doesn’t appreciate Chen’s style of police work, but in the end it takes the combination of both of their efforts to bring down Sunny and Changmaoxiong.

You know, I’ve really come to enjoy watching Donnie Yen in films. There’s something about him that’s really likeable in an understated way. He doesn’t have the boyish charm of Jackie Chan or the self deprecating humor of Stephen Chow, but he’s likeable in an everyman sort of a way that’s really endearing.

I read some bad things about the production of this film before I actually watched it, and going in I was expecting it to be a trainwreck. Apparently one of the original lead actors left the film because they screwed him over on his contract and kept changing the script, so there was a lot of public back and forth about that and they had to change things and bring in other people to work through it all. The end result of that, I’m happy to say, is that the film wasn’t a trainwreck at all. Actually, I really enjoyed this one.

There are three things I enjoyed in this film more than anything else, and one particular scene that just didn’t work at all. I’ll start with the bad scene so I can finish off with the good stuff.

There’s a scene where Feng has to shoot an assassin who’s got Chen down on his knees with a gun to his head. She kills the guy, and then later she’s sitting up on the rooftop crying about it and feeling horrible. Chen comes up to comfort her and starts talking about how life is full of experiences and is meant to be lived and this and that. None of it made any sense. First off, she’s literally a marksman with a gun and is a tough as nails cop, but then all of a sudden she kills someone and she’s falling apart over it? That didn’t make sense at all, and then all the stuff he was telling her while he was trying to comfort her made even less sense. Now mind you, this is only one scene, and it’s the only scene in the entire film that didn’t really work for me. That said, let’s move on to the good stuff.

First off, the relationship between Chen and Fang is contentious enough to be entertaining, but not enough to become annoying. His likeability combined with her stubborn, bull-headedness creates a dynamic between the two that’s enjoyable to watch.

Then there’s the action, which comprises the last two things I really enjoyed in this film. First off, the fighting is real. There’s none of this wire fighting BS you see in so many other films that just makes everything look cartoonish and ridiculous. When they fight in this film, you feel like you’re really watching a fight. They struggle with each other and sometimes the moves seem awkward or uncertain, and that adds a realness to it that is so much more intense than watching some perfectly choreographed fight scene with people flying through the air and causing ridiculous amounts of damage to everything around them. I can honestly say, at least to the best of my knowledge, that I’ve never seen fights in any film like this that looked as real life as the fights in this film did. That’s not to say they’re not exaggerated at times, but in general they’re realistic and will have you on the edge of your seat at times because of it.

The last thing I want to mention, just because it was just so absolutely amazing, is the action sequence at the end where Fang jumps off an overpass, onto the top of a bus and then jumps off of the bus and lands on the roof of the SUV that Sunny is trying to escape in. Eventually she ends up inside the vehicle and the two of them have one of the most amazing fight scenes I’ve ever seen while they’re flying down the road at top speed. The cramped space inside the vehicle made the fight just an absolute nail biter, and it was something I can’t recall ever seeing before. I’m not talking about just a push and shove fight here. I mean she was full on fighting with him in whatever way she could, and he was trying to fight her off while keeping the vehicle from crashing. It was just an amazing sequence that just by itself is enough reason for you to see this film.

For special features, this new release from Well Go USA contains a making of featurette and the film’s trailer.

Do yourself a favor and check this one out, and don’t go into it with any assumptions, because there’s a lot about this film that’s way different than what you’re used to seeing.

If you’d like to find out more about this film, you can check out its page on the Well Go USA website here, and if you’d like to pick up a copy for yourself, you can get the blu-ray or DVD from Amazon, or from any of the other usual outlets.