Special ID movie review

As a huge fan of Donnie Yen and especially his hi-octane contemporary action movies, I have been impatiently waiting for the release of Special ID.

Numerous changes in the script and lost of the main villain made its mark on the movie. First of all Vincent Zhao who supposed to go head to head with Donnie in the film in the final fight was kicked off the set after having conflicts and has been replaced by Andy On.

For those of you who don’t know Vincent Zhao is best known playing the Chinese folk hero Wong Fei-hung in the Once Upon a Time in China film and television series. He is the youngest member of the Harbin Wushu team, maintained high academic standards, and in 1990, he was accepted by Beijing Sport University to study martial arts. Throughout his university career, he joined many national championships, winning first place titles and gold medals for the National Junior Championship, the National All-Around Championship, and also the National Martial Arts Championship. He was also qualified to be in China’s national martial arts team, and his classmates gave him the nickname Kungfu King.

The numerous trailers for Special ID promised amazing action built primarily on the MMA style choreography with kung fu flair created by John Salvitti and Donnie Yen which worked on Flash Point before… The result is a beautiful combination of brutal styles but not quite as satisfying as I had hoped.

Special ID features plenty of floor work, grappling and choke holds and it adds an authenticity to the fight sequences that are refreshing and dynamic, but the final fight could be better… (no spoilers)

Covered in tattoos, gambling, chain-smoking and even mentoring his own gang Donnie looks stunning as Detective Chen Zilong, a deep undercover cop in Hong Kong’s triad societies. But despite this brutal look Detective is a devoted mummy’s boy with soul searching issues… who can kick the crap out of a huge gang of street thugs. Donnie deserves commendation for his bravery to tackle roles against hero type he plays so well.

Andy On plays antagonist Sunny with posturing bravado and really fits this role what means he is becoming more and more competent on the screen even having much less time than Donnie. Despite adding Collin to the cast as the head of the mafia clan Donnie’s Zhilong is infiltrated into, there is no match-up between Donnie and Collin Рwhich in itself is already a disappointment.

So you wouldn’t see something similar to where Donnie goes up against Wu Jing in S.P.L. or against Collin Chou in Flash Point.

Film crew tried to bring a bit of humor and drama to the script riddled with bullet holes, but in the end it became a total mess as it happened with Tsui Hark’s Unbeatable. A really good idea to create an Asian MMA drama movie similar to Warrior with Tom Hardy turned out to a clumsy mix of drama, comedy and very well choreographed fights.

Different subplots (probably incarnation of the previous scripts) ruined all the storytelling and add unnecessary scenes to well-made action. If I only could delete nonsensical filler between action beats such as useless police talks, phone calls to mother and pseudo-romantic scenes this could be a very dynamic movie instead of 100-minute run time mess.

The most quality scene is extended fight between Donnie and Andy On’s entire gang in, through and then outside of a restaurant, watch it!

Not all Donnie movies are good, after successful Ip Man in 2008, he made decent wu-xia films such as 14 Blades, The Lost Bladesman and Bodyguards, and Assassins, but raised the bar with the Legend of Chen Zhen and Dragon. The last contemporary action Flash Point was made in 2007 so fans have been waiting for 7 years for something truly amazing but…

Special ID is not a solid movie such as SPL or Flash Point, there’s nothing too mind-blowing in it, but if you’re in the mood for a fun action film highlighted with MMA-kungfu fight scenes and an impressive car chase, this is definitely worth the ticket price.

Big thanks to Magnum Films for tickets.

  • watch now Watch Special ID

    Agents are turning up dead. His days are numbered. Desperate to protect his family and his life, Chen must risk everything to protect the Special Identity he never wanted – before it’s too late.