Wednesday, 20 January 2010
Directed by: Benny Chan
Screenplay: Benny Chan, Alan Yuen, Xu Bing
Starring: Louis Koo, Barbie Hsu, Nick Cheung, Ye Liu
Now Hollywood has been remaking hit Asian films for some years now, mainly in the horror arena with such titles as Ring, Dark Water and even A Tale of Two Sisters being remade for the American market. Well, Hong Kong has been doing the same thing for years as well: remaking hit Western films for the Eastern market. Everything from The Bodyguard to Leon has been remade and Connected follows suit, itself being a remake of the not-so-well-known but underrated flick Cellular. Based on an original story by the great Larry Cohen (It’s Alive, The Ambulance), Cellular was a short and sharp B-movie thriller starring Kim Basinger, Jason Statham and William H. Macy. Buoyed by slick direction, a neat concept and thrilling momentum it’s an overlooked gem that is worthy of a peak. Hong Kong director Benny Chan sticks pretty close to the original in his Hong Kong remake, delivering plenty of tension and some decent action thrills.
Grace Wong (Hsu) is a hot shot electronics designer who is kidnapped by a mysterious gang, lead by the vicious Fok (Ye). It seems her brother has a video incriminating Fok and his gang in illegal activity and they want it back. But they don’t know where Grace’s brother is, so they hold her hostage hoping he will come out of hiding and return the tape. Thrown into an abandoned shack, Grace rewires a broken phone and calls the first person it will connect to. That unlucky fellow is Bob (Koo) a lowly debt collector who just happens to answer his ringing phone. Despite his suspicions of the phone call he agrees to help Grace and the two, along with a kindly police inspector (Cheung), team up in a bid to save Grace and her family.
While some of the settings, outcomes and actions of the characters are altered slightly, Connected is pretty much a straight remake of Cellular: same setup, same characters, even some of the same set pieces. While this may prove an exercise in redundancy to some (or those who have seen Cellular) Connected is still a full throttle thriller and an exciting interpretation of a cool concept. It may take a modicum of self disbelief (again, what action movie doesn’t?) but the idea of a hostage randomly calling a stranger to help her and said stranger helping her is a novel one and spun out for all its worth. Chan (New Police Story, Invisible Target) directs with an assured hand, gets the best from his cast and despite a few laps in intensity, keeps the tension and momentum building. Hsu does well as the increasingly stressed Grace, spending many of her scenes talking into a broken hand set but still coming across believable. Koo (Flashpoint) is excellent as the put upon Bob, an ordinary man thrust into extraordinary circumstances and while he is the hero, still remains a normal man just trying to do the right thing. Cheung is also good support as the detective who figures everything out way before anybody else and realizes Bob may need some help.
Chan does over egg the melodrama a little with a subplot about Bob also trying to get to the airport to see his son off. This strand is milked a bit too much to show the flaws in Bob's character and is maybe an unnecessary addition to all the other things he has to contend with. Still, it’s only a slight mar as action, drama and tension are all mounted well and even a bit of light relief is thrown in for good measure: the filmmakers knowing how high concept the film is. Chan is certainly known for his action films but wisely reins it in a little here. There is still plenty of action but it is more evenly spaced throughout the film, Connected being more of a tense thriller that an outright action film. The action and stunts are expertly staged (by Jackie Chan Stunt Team alum, Nicky Li), maybe a little over the top in relation to the rest of the film, but nevertheless exciting and well executed. Plus, Connected gets extra points for staging a car chase involving a ridiculously coloured Ford KA and still making it thrilling. Cool.
While Cellular was not necessarily crying out for a remake, Connected is still a thrilling interpretation of its story with added Hong Kong style action and another great flick from the always reliable Benny Chan.