- Asian Cinema


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Bo chi tung wah (2008). Directed by Benny Chan. Louis Koo, Barbie Hsu, Grace Wong, Nick Cheung, Liu Ye.

The Americans have made their share of remakes based on Asian films, so it seems only fair the Asians should return the favor and have a crack at a Hollywood film. "Connected", the Asian version of the 2004 action movie "Cellular", is by no means the first Hong Kong remake, but it is one of the best.

Single mother Grace suddenly finds herself in the middle of a sinister plot, when her home is invaded by determined thugs who kidnap her and stash her in a shed somewhere in the country. They're looking for something, but she doesn't know what it is. When she's alone Grace manages to fix a broken phone and blind call a random cellphone. On the other end of the line Bob picks up. He's on his way to the airport to say goodbye to his son and has no time for Grace's troubles, however, he quickly realizes that this is not a prank call, and that he is this poor woman's only chance of rescue.

Enter disgraced cop (is there any other kind in Hong Kong?) Fai. After he crosses paths with Bob, he begins to suspect something is very wrong. While Bob tears up the streets of Hong Kong trying to help Grace, Fai investigates the case off duty, but they are both running our of time. The bad guys threaten to kill Grace's daughter and her brother if they don't get what they want.

I must admit I found the Hollywood original, "Cellular", thoroughly enjoyable and it seemed ideal for a foreign remake. The core story in "Connected" is virtually identical to the original, but once director Benny Chan has added his inventive camerawork and good sense of rhythm this almost feels like a new film. Chan even makes the gags from the first film work a second time simply by giving them a Hong Kong spin, like the inevitable scene where the cellphone runs out of battery.

The centerpiece of the story is an exhilarating car chase in which Bob, in an effort to keep up with the bad guys, races through the streets smashing dozens of cars, damn near takes down a building, and creates havoc everywhere he goes. Fantastic good old-fashioned Hong action. The final showdown at the airport - always a great location - puts the final cap on this entertaining, beautifully shot action flick, and believe it or not, the ending actually made me tear up a bit. I must be getting old. Either that or Hong Kong cinema is actually in the process of revitalizing itself.

David Bjerre
January 5, 2009