Action Friday

Audiences in both Los Angeles and New York can enjoy the pleasures of two Asian films in cinemas beginning today.

So Close

SO CLOSE is simply fun fun fun.

Lynn (Shu Qi) and her younger sister Sue (Vicky Zhao Wei) are anything but ordinary thieves. Lynn is the cool and calculating operative with split-second timing and an icy assassin’s heart. Sue remains behind the scenes to man a bank of computers and monitors that allows her to guide her sister’s actions. Sue wants to get in on the action, but Lynn feels her younger sibling is far too emotional and impulsive to join her in carrying out their detailed plans. Hong Yat Hong (Karen Mok) and her partner Mark (Michael Wei) are hot on their trail. Hong Yat Hong is trained in forensics and recently returned to Hong Kong from a further training stint in America. She has an impressive set of instinctual investigative skills, which are needed to track down Lynn and Sue. The sisters are well versed in computer technology, and expert in covering up their activity.

The team may finally be broken up thanks to a long-simmering romance between Lynn and old friend Yan (Song Seung Hun) that has finally come to a boil, causing Lynn to contemplate retirement. Before that happens, though, one more job is carried out, and that leads to deadly results, a reshuffling of loyalties, and more broken glass than you can fit in the back of a dump truck.

Sometimes it’s best to simply lay back and let pleasures wash over you. Such is the case with SO CLOSE. It’s 95% pure-cane sugar candy, leavened by 5% emotional surprise. Cagey veteran scribe Jeff Lau constructs a series of outlandish sequences that cagey veteran director Corey Yuen proceeds to smash apart with his own brand of virtuoso bravado. The three cherries on top are the luscious Karen Mok, Shu Qi, and Vicky Zhao Wei.

Together, the creative talent breathes life into the corpse of the “Girls With Guns” sub-genre of action films — which Yuen practically invented in 1985 with YES, MADAM! (starring Michelle Yeoh), and which Lau cannily subverted in 1988 with OPERATION PINK SQUAD. Forget about surface comparisons to CHARLIE’S ANGELS — these ladies take a back seat to nobody. And forget about logic — this film follows the course of least resistance, which means it’s aimed straight at your pleasure center. Never has so much sugar been so good for you.

Millenium Actress

Director Satoshi Kon’s previous film was PERFECT BLUE, a brilliant paranoid extravaganza about a young pop singer who quits her popular girl group in order to become an actress. A devoted fan is none too happy about the woman’s career change. In MILLENNIUM ACTRESS, the director again considers a story from the viewpoint of a devoted fan and an actress, but with much different results.

A major film studio in Tokyo is being torn down. That inspires the hiring of a filmmaker, Genya, to make a documentary about the studio’s most famous star, Chiyoko. Chiyoko retired from the business and has lived in seclusion for more than 30 years. Genya and his trusty cameraman track her down, and she agrees to an interview. As Chiyoko recounts her career in the film business, and recalls key moments in her films, Genya and his cameraman find themselves thoroughly involved in her flashbacks.

The film has a playful sense of humor and reveals a sentimental heart. As the story skips across the decades, the animators illustrate a huge variety of styles and eras. Sometimes it’s difficult to follow the flow of time, but it’s best just to sit back and enjoy the ride. This is a wonderfully entertaining movie.

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