The past few years has seen an explosion in super hero films in the United States. At times, it seems as if every other movie being announced is based on a comic book. It would appears that the appeal of super heroes isn't exclusive to the U.S., as Silver Hawk comes to us from Hong Kong. Featuring a motor-cycle riding vigilante, the movie contains all of the trademarks of a modern super-hero film, including the clichéd ones which can sully the presentation.
Silver Hawk is the alter-ego of Lulu Wong (Michelle Yeoh), a famous and wealthy woman (she's either a model or a singer, I'm not sure) who spends her free time fighting crime. When Lulu dons her silver helmet and cape and leaps upon her motorcycle, she proves that she is better than the police at catching criminals. While on a plane, she meets an old friend, Rich Man (Richie Ren), the new superintendent of police for Polaris City. Man tells Lulu that he intends to catch Silver Hawk. Once in Polaris City, Man and Silver Hawk butt heads several times.
While this is going on, evil industrialist Alexander Wolfe (Luke Goss) is attempting to obtain the new AI technology created by Professor Ho Chung (Daming Chen). When attached to a human, the Professor's micro-chip can monitor their bodies and predict their needs. Wolfe wants to use the chip as a mind-control device in order to enslave the world. When Wolfe kidnaps Professor Ho Chung, and a personal friend of Lulu's, Silver Hawk and Rich Man must team up to save the world.
From what I can gather through internet research, Silver Hawk was supposed to be a big deal when it opened in Hong Kong in January, 2004. While the movie has a very slick look, the hackneyed and dry story stymie the film and the result doesn't feel very special at all. At the core, the Silver Hawk character is essentially a female version of Batman, as she's a rich person who has access to high-tech gadgets and who feels a need to be a vigilante. But, unlike Batman (and most notably, Batman Begins), we are given no idea as to why Lulu fights crime, save for the fact that she's good at martial arts. There are flashbacks to Lulu's childhood, but through these all that we learn is that she's always defended the weak and that she's always been a good fighter. (And as with any film in this genre, the audience can't help but wonder where Silver Hawk gets all of her gear and why no one has realized who she really is.)
The first half of the film is somewhat interesting, but Silver Hawk really takes a turn for the worst when the Wolfe character is introduced. He is your typical "James Bond"-lite villain with vague aspirations for controlling the world. With his bald head and sliver trench coat, Wolfe could be the villain from any number of movies and there's nothing to set him apart from the pack. Morris (Michael Jai White) and Jane (Bingbing Li) are Wolfe's two main enforcers, and they too have a very familiar, if not stereotypical look. There isn't a single original idea in Silver Hawk and when the scene arose which reminded me of Strange Brew of all things, I knew that this was a film which needed rescuing.
And yet, no one comes to its aid. Michelle Yeoh (who also served as producer on the film) has great screen presence, but as she's given so little to work with, there's not much she can do. Richie Ren reminded me of an Asian Jimmy Fallon and his character became annoying very quickly. Director Jingle Ma served as cinematographer on several Jackie Chan films and he proves here that he knows how to shoot an action scene. But, he also proves that he doesn't know how to pace one. The film's centerpiece, a fight between Silver Hawk and a group of thugs on bungie cables, goes on far too long and is frankly, quite silly. There is also a fight scene at the end, involving Silver Hawk, Wolfe, and Man, which goes on far too long. The movie does feature some amazing sets and locations, which are dominated by a very futuristic glass and steel look. American audiences who became enthralled with Michelle Yeoh in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon probably won't find much to like in Silver Hawk. Nor will those looking for a unique Hong Kong film. This is a very pretty, yet very "by the numbers" Asian entry which features a dull story and mediocre action.
Silver Hawk flies onto DVD courtesy of Screen Media Films. The film has been letterboxed at 1.78:1 and the transfer is enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs. The image is clear, showing only a small amount of grain. The picture isn't 100% sharp though, as it goes quite soft at times. Director Jingle Ma has given the film a very deliberate look, as it's filled with silver, greys, blues, blacks, and whites. There are no reds or greens in the film. However, the attempt to emphasize this look on this DVD has made the image overly bright, causing a "white out" effect at times. There is no overt artifacting, but there was some noticeable enhancement problems.
The screening copy of Silver Hawk used for this review contained only a Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track. The track offers clear dialogue and sound effects with no overt distortion. The surround sound and subwoofer effects are good -- when they are present. The surround speakers are terribly quiet during the non-action scenes. The dynamic range could use some tweaking, as the sudden explosions were far louder than the dialogue. According to IMDB.com, the film was shot simultaneously in English and Cantonese. The dialogue track used for this transfer seemingly combines these two elements, as the bulk of the film is in English, but the flashbacks are in Cantonese and use English subtitles. The scenes in English definitely have a dubbed feel to them.
The screening copy used for this review contained no special features.
Asian films are still very hot in the U.S., so it's no surprise that Silver Hawk has come to DVD in Region 1. What is surprising is how dull this Silver Hawk truly is. As a Michelle Yeoh vehicle, it will surely lure viewers in, but those looking for a unique Hong Kong thrill ride should let this bird fly free.