Silver Hawk

UK release date: Mar 26 2008

cast list

Michelle Yeoh
Richie Ran
Luke Goss
Michael Jai White

directed by
Jingle Ma

Film fables based on the heroics of cartoon characters have, in recent years, become a Hollywood staple. But how many of these all-conquering idols are female? How many of these films give equal weight to character development as to death-defying set-pieces?

Silver Hawk begins with a bike leap over the Great Wall of China by a silver-caped, masked figure – and the scene is set for an opening vignette about a kidnapped panda. Single-handedly, the vigilante crusader races up to a truck carrying the rare bear, uses her impressive martial arts skills to overpower a bevy of bad guys (with a little help from her even more impressive bike) and rescues the captive bamboo-eater. Playfully, she asks her opponents to fight her for a few more minutes – a request that is met by trembling and whimpering. But who is this vision in bacofoil?

Like all cartoon heroes, from Superman to Spiderman, Silver Hawk leads a double life. Her alter-ego is the glamourous model Lulu Wong, who is introduced to a tedious professor of Trotskyite aspect by her matchmaking aunt. But it transpires that the good professor’s phone chip invention has come to the attention of arch-baddie Alexander Wolfe (Luke Goss), who promptly kidnaps the prof with the intention of using the device to brainwash the world through mobile phones and take over the planet. This is clearly a situation that requrires a superhero…

Through a series of flashbacks we get to see Lulu’s formative years in a martial arts school, attended also by Rich Man (Richie Ran), a boy of many words and poses whose martial arts actions are overshadowed by Lulu’s own, but whose kindliness and charisma endear him to the girl.

Back in the present, Rich Man is a braggart police superintendent charged with tracking down and arresting the vigilante Silver Hawk. But it soon becomes apparent that the vigilante and the cop must unite to fight the greater evil of Wolfe and prevent him from realising his dastardly vision.

Michelle Yeoh, also executive producer, clearly relishes her role as action hero. She’s all smiles during fights and looks stunning in her role as Lulu Wong. She and Richie Ran enjoy endearing chemistry throughout, having lots of fun despatching baddies – who appear on rollerblades and bungee ropes and even with bright blue hair – along the way.

Luke Goss, formerly of boyband Bros, is building quite a niche for himself in action films since his Blade II debut. He certainly looks the part of the arch-villain, albeit an urbane English one, and only comes unstuck when he mumbles, or raises his eyebrow a few too many times as if in tribute to Roger Moore. Brits as baddies in Hollywood are nothing new, and it seems that China’s film studios are now set to follow suit. But please, let such baddies in future be able to utter English clearly and keep their eyebrows under at least some control.

There’s more than a hint of The Matrix about the fight scenes and long coats (worn by all three of the main characters – but cartoon characters do have a history of cape-wearing), not to mention the advertising. And at times the theme music sounds suspiciously similar to that of Mission: Impossible. But director Jingle Ma well holds the story together, never rushing the action or leaving flab lying around, and acquits himself admirably.

In all, Silver Hawk triumphs over evil and cliche alike to produce a surprising cinematic experience – and one of the better cartoon-hero films this reviewer has seen. Whether it’ll do much for mobile phone sales is another matter…

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