Naked Weapon
Chek Law Dak Gung
review by Gregory Avery, 4 April 2003

With a burst of semi-automatic gunfire, the girls at Madame M's school for assassins are roused from their sleep and given one of their final assignments: kill the girl next to them, and drag the body outside as proof! The poor girls don't have much choice: if they don't comply, they'll be shot themselves. This, plus some later shenanigans in a cage, reduce the number of the graduation class, who have spent the last six years being shown and training in the finer aspects of mayhem, from forty to three, and all I could think was, that's an awfully low rate of return.

Naked Weapon has been promoted as being a sequel of sorts to the 1992 Hong Kong thriller Naked Killer, which, even before it arrived in the U.S. around 1995, garnered something of a reputation for its perverse combination of sex and violence. In that film, beautiful young women were running around all over the place knocking off men and doing so with an unusual amount of relish: in one scene, the Hong Kong police find the body of one of their victims, but they can't account for all of the body parts (some of which turn out to be hidden in the draperies). The killer girls are part of a "sisterhood" who have dedicated themselves to their craft, and, in Naked Weapon (which was written and produced by Wong Jing, who also wrote and produced Naked Killer), the girls who are taken to a remote island and who make up the last of Madame M's new class of assassins-in-training are introduced to their classmates with, "These are your sisters." (Which makes turning the girls against each other -- even if it is in line with Madame M's stated objective of "survival of the fittest" -- seem even more bizarre.)

But Naked Weapon doesn't quite have the same loopy quality that gave Naked Killer its air of being the ne plus ultra of what David Denby (in his review of La Femme Nikita) termed "nihilistic mannequin chic". The new picture is more slick, at least in terms of having higher production values, and a lot more impersonal, particularly in the outrages it attempts to perpetrate -- when the three girls who survive Madame M's course in how to become killing machines are drugged and then have big, burly men force themselves upon them in order to further learn how to become desensitized and use their bodies as "weapons", it simply seems like an excuse to get a gang-bang scene into the picture -- and, if you can believe it, a rather half-hearted attempt at that. (Despite the violence, the sex and nudity in the film are actually less bad than what you'd see in an average HBO "Tales from the Crypt" episode.)

Charlene (played by Maggie Q) and Katt (played by Anya) go globetrotting through the major cities of the world wearing stylish outfits and bumping people off -- all of whom are famous or gangsters, the picture informs us, and some of whom are actually identified for us before they bite the dust -- in lethal ways which include the use of stiletto heels and sunglass lenses. Charlene and Katt also make a pact to look out for each other -- they haven't been totally dehumanized! -- which includes a hair-breath escape from a sleazy narcotics king's headquarters in Spain (also one of many instances in the film where the plot giddily unravels into nonsense). The third graduate girl, Jing (played by Jewel Lee), unfortunately proves to be too schitzy to be trustworthy (although if you've been through what these girls have been through for the last six years, you'd probably be a little schitzy, too). When Charlene makes an attempt to visit her mother (Cheng Pei Pei) in Hong Kong, which is a no-no, she crosses paths with C.I.A. agent Jack Chan (Daniel Wu), which is when, an hour in, the movie finally breaks through to the loony level. A Japanese gangster shoots Charlene with a dart filled with an aphrodisiac, and she and Jack end up on a beach, where, as the surf rolls in and out, she says it's alright for him to have sex with her after he hits himself on the head several times trying to stop himself. In the morning, he wakes up and finds a farewell note stuck in his shoe.

Trying for an anything-goes atmosphere, the filmmakers put in such devices as having Jack and Charlene stuck in the back of a refrigerated truck transporting ice cream, pointing guns at each other until it gets too cold to hold their arms up, and the director and action choreographer Tony Ching Siu Tung (whose recently worked on Zhang Yimou's historical action epic Hero) stages some titanic fight scenes, including a climatic one where Charlene visualizes instructing herself, "Let your heart become water", before massively vanquishing her opponent (done, Matrix-style, with plenty of suspended-second moments where the camera circles around the actors as they perform unreal moves).

The film was also made in English, leading to some stunningly stilted exchanges, including one between Jack and Charlene, which occurs while Jack is ferrying Charlene's mother, piggyback, to the hospital (it's just down the road, so they decide not to call for an ambulance): She: "You're a good guy." He (sounding like an abashed Jack Gyllenhaal): "The last time you said that, you hit me with your gun."

Maggie Q, Anya, and Daniel Wu all have previous experience as professional models, so they all look great. The most stunning, though, is the girl who figures in the six-and-a-half minute prologue, sashaying into someone's apartment in Rome while wearing the shortest silver-lame cocktail dress I've ever seen. Alas! it's the last time we see her or the dress -- with the level of extreme action and oft-times punishing soundtrack, it's thwack, thwack, thwack for the rest of the picture.

Directed by:
Tony Ching Siu Tung

Starring:
Maggie Q
Anya
Daniel Wu
Jewel Lee
Aimen Wong
Cheng Pei Pei
Andrew Lin

Written by:
Wong Jing

Rated:
NR - Not Rated.
This film has
not been rated.

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