Friday, March 10, 2017

Naked Weapon (Hong Kong, 2002)

So many a film that we review positively or mildly positively here at A Wasted Life are preambled with the statement, "Check in your brain at the door." But since November, 2016, we have come to realize that that is a preamble not needed for a good percent of our reading public, namely a mass number of those found inhabiting the swathes of land somewhere between the countries of Mexico and Canada, as they seem to be lacking any brains in the first place. So, when it comes to the following film, we feel it necessary to clarify that only the rest of the world need to check their brain in at the door to be able to enjoy Naked Weapon; everyone else, well, the babes are hot and the action chorography flawed but not too shabby and the dialogue more intelligent and realistic than anything the new President of the USA might have to say. What else do you really need to know? That Obama bugged Trump Towers? That our (your?) new president is the epitome of honesty and only has your best interests as an American in mind?

In any event, the rest of this review is for the rest of the world, those who have something to check in at the door. (Although, considering how long Berlusconi lasted in Italy, and the rise of Duterte in the Philippines, Wilders in the Netherlands, Le Pen in France, and the AfD in Germany, it could be that brains are relative all over the world.)

Naked Weapon was written by Hong Kong prolific assembly line scriptwriter/director Jing Wong, a man with more film credits than facial hair, and to say that the script is a bit generic and flawed is an understatement. It is episodic, massively illogical, and full of holes, but for that it zips along quickly enough, trying hard to make sure that the viewer never really has enough time to do much more than giggle over this or that inanity before the next distraction arrives. And face it, as any film with a title like Naked Weapon is apt to have, the movie has a lot of distraction, even if it isn't always as naked as the title promises.

The true saving grace of the movie, however, aside from the babes, is the professional direction of Tony Ching Siu Tung, a name some might remember for the two Hong Kong masterpieces A Chinese Ghost Story (1987 / trailer) and A Chinese Ghost Story II (1990 / trailer), and the re-warmed dud that is A Chinese Ghost Story III (1991 / trailer). The man can make a bad film, as evidenced by the last of the three just named, but much like the far more renowned Ronny Yu, when he wants to he can truly make trash fun.

Naked Weapon is a fine example of technique over content, for it is much better made than it is written: the smooth flashiness of the editing and pictorial compositions, the clarity of the blocking, editing and cinematography, and the overall aesthetic presentation ensures that style carries the film wherever the story development verges or dives headlong into stupidity. It also helps that Tony Ching Siu Tung is as equally experienced as a fight choreographer, so the action is often wonderfully graceful and extreme and fun to watch.
Naked Weapon, on the whole, is actually is extremely low on blatant nakedness — not that one would expect that by the opening sequence, in which a hot but almost anorexic babe assassin (Marit Thoresen) shows a lot of skin in the sex scene preceding her assassination of some bag guy bigwig by ripping his spine out. She almost escapes, but in the end she, along with two white guy CIA agents who manage to pull her from her burning car, is killed in a hail of bullets shot by her own boss, Madam M (Almen Wong of Her Name Is Cat [1998 / trailer]), as she drives by in a limo. A third CIA agent, the Asian American Jack Chen (Daniel Wu), survives unharmed so that there is both an authority figure around to spend the next decade hunting for Madam M and, also, to have a heterosexual love interest for Charlene Ching (real-life vegetarian Maggie Q of Priest [2011 / trailer]) who, for a lack of a better description, ends up being the Final Girl.

If the concept of a mysterious head of an assassin ring hanging out close enough to a contracted assassination to actually kill her own best (but caught) killer as she drives by in a limo doesn't make one go "Huh?", Madam M's next action might: she proceeds to kidnap some 40+ sporty young (as in pubescent) girls from across the globe, dragging them off to her idyllic paradise island where she spends the next six years training them to be killers. But before you think she might be planning to expand and go global by having 40 "naked weapons", after six years of training she goes all Hunger Games on them and tries to have them whittle each other down to one naked weapon. Madame M finally settles almost against her will on the final three, Charlene Ching, Katt (Anya Wu of Mysterious Island [2011 / trailer], 2002 [2001 / trailer] and Vampire Hunters [2003 / trailer]) and Jing (Jewel Lee), as by now Charlene & Katt are scissor sisters and not only won't kill each other, but are more than a match for Jing. Later, as an award for correctly naming the respective county, vintage and vineyard of the different red wines each gal is drinking at their "survival celebration", Madame M has the three girls gang-raped. (OK, that isn't really why she has them gang-raped, but the two scenes are closely enough linked that it almost seems like that.) In any event, now they are ready to go to work as loyal naked weapons for Madame M…

So much of that described above hits so high on the implausibility scale that to point any of it out is rather redundant. But then, it isn't really as if plausibility ever begins to raise its head anywhere in Naked Weapon. The inane storyline, however, does supply an oft-laughingly ridiculous and always absurd framework to a lot of well-choreographed martial arts violence, an occasional shock, and graceful bullet ballets executed — once too often in slow motion — by three hot babes that all rate 100% Hot Tamale on the White Male's Yellow Fever Scale.

Many more contrivances occur throughout the movie so that the narrative can continue, but little of it is all that logical. But Naked Weapon never stops looking good, no matter how questionable the plot development is — and it does get questionable, none the more glaringly and wrongly so as the events that lead to Charlene doing the pelvic thrust with Jack at the beach while Katt is held captive by the big bad guy, a revenge-driven yakuza boss named Ryuichi (Andrew Lin of The Coffin [2008 / trailer] & Carpooling Shock [2013 / trailer]). Obviously enough, two girls never walk off into the sunset together in movie's like this.

If you are one who prefers content over style, Naked Weapon is not for you. Likewise, despite the title and exploitive possibilities innate to the whole set up, Naked Weapon never truly wallows in its exploitive elements and thus is surprisingly tame (other than for the rape scene, that is). A little more gratuitous nudity, and perhaps a half-naked fight or two, would have definitely helped here. (Naked Fist [1981 / trailer], anyone?) Likewise, it is a bit of a shame that the only true humor of the movie always seems unintentional — god knows that the movie has enough cheese factor with which it could have played. Likewise, while the movie is well shot and the fights well choreographed, sometimes the wirework nevertheless gets redundant and the sock-em chop-em interludes too long. Just how often can two people in mortal combat go flying gracefully through the air without actually hitting each other?

In the end, Naked Weapon, as a low-substance high-style movie, is a painless diversion with hot babes that passes by quickly and painlessly enough. There are many better movies out there, and yitloads of worse ones. But if you have the choice between watching this movie or re-watching one of Tony Ching Siu Tung's earlier classics, well, the obvious choice does not fall in favor of Naked Weapon.

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