Naked Weapon (2002) is a Wong Jing production, the man behind some of the early 90's biggest HK hits from the God of Gamblers films to his seminal exploitation ode Naked Killer to which Naked Weapon is sort of a twisted half-sister, similairly themed, nearly-sequel. Like Naked Killer, Naked Weapon exists in a reality where female assassins hold their own in the criminal underground. Beautiful, deadly women, slight shades of lesbianism, cover girl affluent glamour, and lots of ass kicking.
The mysterious Madam M (Almen Wong- Her Name is Cat) abducts athletic girls from all over the world, traps them on an island, and forces them to train as assassins. The six year brainwashing course includes firearms, culture, martial arts, makeup, computer skills, runway walking, and spine snapping. The final trial pits the girls against each other and results in less than a handful surviving, including two who have befriended each other, Kat (Anya- Tsu Hark's Vampire Hunters) and Catherine (Maggie Q- Gen Y Cops).
Catherine and Kat are unleashed on the world, fulfilling their contracts, collecting blood money, doing hits around the globe. CIA agent Jack Chen (Daniel Wu- Purple Storm) has been tracking Madam Wu for years and finds the connection between the missing girls and this stable of vixen assassins. Jack crosses paths with Catherine, and she breaks the rules and tries reconnect with her mother. However, Madam Wu's girls are in trouble from a jilted, revenge seeking colleague of one of their targets.
The director was Ching Sui Tung, one of the men who helped spawn HK's new wave fantasy action genre with the Chinese Ghost Story trilogy, Swordsman 2, and Duel to the Death. I won't say this is the highest caliber of work in his resume but it has to beat the Steven Segal movie I hear he's recently helmed. Naked Weapon makes no qualms about being a crowd pandering work of glossy action and exploitation. Aided by some decent wirework and passable CGI, his always outlandish action is pretty slickly executed. Though, it is pretty telling that the only real martial artist in the film, Daniel Wu, barely does any fighting.
Unfortunately the film cannot fully commit to its exploitation tone and doesn't wallow in sleaze like Naked Killer did. While there are some brief flashes of flesh and tasteless cruelty, Naked Weapon pulls punches and has long lagging moments of unconvincing romance and heart between Catherine, Jack, and Catharine's poor mom (veteran actress Chang
Pei-Pei in a thankless role). The whole love story angle is ill-conceived and badly written. Its strained interjection even pauses the film when Catharine's mom is severely wounded and bleeding to death so Catherine and Jack can engage in some flirtatious banter. If the script would have stuck to a no-brain exploitation artiface instead of sappy subplots, they could have made a more shamelessly fun flick.
The DVD: Hart Sharp Video
Picture: Non-anamorphic Widescreen. The print is very pleasing. The cinematography has all the flash the story deserves, including lots of slow motion glamour poses and the flashy wide-angle action Ching Sui Tung is knwon for. Fleshtones and color are rich. Contrast is adequately deep. It is a shame that the transfer isn't anamorphic. This is the kind of movie that shows the leaps and bounds HK film has made in the past few years to improve the quality of their films to a more clean Hollywood looking level.
Sound: DD 5.1 English language and English dubbing with optional Spanish subtitles. Like many recent HK productions, Gen X Cops for example, the film was made intentionally for a wider audience. Thus, the majority of the film is in English. The sparse moments when Cantonese was spoken has been English dubbed. The actors command of English ranges from perfect (Maggie Q, who was raised in Hawaii by her Caucasian father and Vietnamese mother), to shaky (Daniel Wu), to completely overdubbed (Chang Pei Pei).
Effects and musicwise the film also has quite a bit of punch, though, I'm gonna' complain. Unfortunately they chose a really blaring "whoosh" noise for the action scenes. Someone slo-mo kicks- "Whoosh!" Someone regular speed punches "Whoosh!" A table smashes- "Whoosh!" The noise is used on everything with little discrimination so it ends up being generic. It's a minor compliant, but it ended up still sticking in my head days after watching the film.
Extras: Chapter Selections— Photo Gallery— Trailer— "Making Of" Featurette (23:13).
Conclusion: A very middle of the road HK action film. Unfortunately it doesn't fully revel the exploitative excesses that could have made it more than just an Asian flavored amalgam of La Femme Nikita and Charlie's Angels. The transfer doesn't live up to the HK or UK releases, which transferred the slick productions elements in better packages (anamorphic, more sound options). Thus, this edition is a perfect weekend rental for HK action fiends looking for a lightweight 90 mins of entertainment.