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The Gratuitous B-Movie Column: Special ID

January 9, 2021 | Posted by Bryan Kristopowitz
Special ID

The Gratuitous B-Movie Column Issue #582: Special ID

Donnie Yen December: Week 4

Hello, everyone, and welcome once again to the internets movie review column that has never been forced to go undercover in order to bring down the whole operation and send the Big Boss to the slammer, The Gratuitous B-Movie Column, and I am your host Bryan Kristopowitz. In this issue, issue number five hundred and eighty-two, Donnie Yen December concludes (in January!) with the action flick Special ID, which was released in the United States in mid-March 2014.

Special ID


Special ID, directed by Clarence Fok, stars Donnie Yen as Chan Chi-Lung, a badass Hong Kong cop who is deep undercover in the triad gang led by Cheung Mo-Hung (Collin Chou).After a botched multi-gang meeting makes Hung suspicious of Lung and Lung tells his superior, Captain Cheung (Ronald Cheng), that he’s tired of being an undercover cop, Lung is sent to mainland China to infiltrate and investigate one of Hung’s businesses there, something called a “special identity” business (I’m not entirely sure what that means). Hung’s mainland business is run by Sunny (Andy On), a ruthless thug who has history with Lung (they were best friends back when Lung started his undercover assignment and Lung essentially helped Sunny become a better criminal).

Now, Lung’s presence on the mainland disturbs female officer Fang Jing (Tian Jing), as she believes that Lung has been undercover for far too long and become a criminal himself. Jing just doesn’t trust Lung at all. Lung tells her, repeatedly, that she has nothing to worry about, that he wants to take down Sunny as much she does, but Jing can’t get beyond Lung’s past. And while all of that is going on, Lung worries about his mother Amy (Hee Ching Paw), who he has a special bond with. Lung is terrified that his job will eventually lead the criminals he pursues right to her (there’s a truly uncomfortable scene where Hung cuts Amy’s hair and it’s implied that Hung is just moments away from cutting her or stabbing her with scissors).

And while all of that is going on, Daofeng (Hanyu Zhang), is a mob assassin or something that’s looking to take out Lung because he knows that he’s a cop.

I’m going to assume that the criminal scheme that Lung is investigating in mainline China means something to local audiences in Hong Kong and China. I really don’t understand it at all. I also don’t understand Hung’s big scheme in trying to figure out whether or not Lung is a cop. In fact, Hung isn’t much of a main villain or criminal mastermind. Until he explained what he was actually doing I totally forgot that he was a big deal villain in the movie’s story. And the whole Daofeng story isn’t very engrossing because he isn’t in the movie very long. You see him, some stuff happens, and then he gets killed.

Now, what does work in the movie is Lung going up against Sunny and Jing’s mistrust of Lung. A majority of the movie is spent on those two things, but when the story shifts to Hung and Daofeng the story loses momentum and becomes immediately less interesting. Lung’s relationship with his mother probably wouldn’t work with any other actor as the star, but Donnie Yen makes it work because he makes you really feel his pain when he thinks his mother is in danger. And Donnie Yen really seems like he could be Hee Ching Paw’s son.

The movie’s fighting sequences are all quite good. The opening fight, where Lung fights off multiple rival triad gang members after a tile game meeting goes badly, is one of those cool escalating deals where the scope of the fight gets larger and larger with each minute. And the final brawl on a bridge between Lung and Sunny is truly brutal. There’s also a fair amount of suspense involving multiple cars falling off the bridge and crashing into structures underneath and nearby the bridge. When will that car explode? Yen once again directs the martial arts sequences and shows that he’s a master of action. Why doesn’t he direct full movies anymore? According to imdb he hasn’t directed a movie since 2004.

Special ID also has a very cool car chase sequence that, like the martial arts sequences, escalates as it goes on and features some insane looking stunt work (Bruce Law is credited as the movie’s car stunt coordinator). The big jumps and leaps that Jing completes, while obviously aided by wires, are very impressive.

The movie likely needed more action, either one more fight or another big action sequence. I’m not sure which one it should be or where it should be in the movie, but it does seem to be missing something. The movie probably could have done more with the air gun sequences on the roof of Lung’s China HQ building. Apparently air guns like the one Lung uses in order to keep up his gun shooting skills are illegal in China and Jing gives Lung endless shit for it. Why don’t we see how good Lung is with an air gun, and why the hell doesn’t the air gun play into the final fight between Lung and Sunny? It does appear at the end of the movie, but not in the fight. What the hell?

Donnie Yen does his usual great job as Chan Chi-Lung. Decked out in street gang clothes and covered in tattoos, he definitely looks the part of a criminal. When he shifts into cop mode (or, really, “undercover cop who is talking about his undercover cop status” mode), his performance changes slightly. It’s fascinating to see that change happen. Yen also does a fine job with the fight sequences, all of which he choreographed. The guy is just awesome.

Tian Jing does a great job as Fang Jing, Lung’s sort of partner when he goes to the mainland. She plays the by-the-book cop perfectly, but she also shows that she isn’t a robot and has a personality. She also does a great job with the fight and stunt sequences she’s called on to do. She’s clearly the real deal. And am I the only one mesmerized by her hairdo?

Andy On is appropriately sleazy as Sunny. When you first see him you’re not quite sure how to take him, mostly because you don’t know who he is. When you find out, though, you wait in anticipation of his next atrocity. Sunny is charismatic in an evil kind of way, which explains why his henchmen follow him. On also shows that he can go mano e mano with Yen, which is what you want in this kind of movie. The eventual final fight has to be plausible.

Ronald Cheng does a nice job as Lung’s sort of goofy captain Cheung. The man knows how to make a pair of glasses work to his advantage. He isn’t doing comedy exactly but it’s damn close. Hee Ching Paw has a few nice scenes with Donnie Yen as his character’s mother Amy. You totally buy them as mother and son. She also knows how to make getting a haircut seem unsettling.

Hanyu Zhang does an okay job as Daofeng, although I wish he was in the movie more. You really don’t get to know him, and the movie could have used more of him, especially towards the end. Why can’t Donnie Yen fight two guys?

And Collin Chou is just okay as the big villain Cheung Mo-Hung. He isn’t given enough to do and, as I said, I forgot that he was meant to be a big villain in the movie. His barber scene is the best thing he does in the movie.

And what the heck is the deal with the music by Peng Dou? Shouldn’t it be more driving and less, well, smooth jazz inspired? None if it feels right for this kind of movie.

Special ID is pretty good for what it is. It should have been faster and its story should have been streamlined, but it’s still a solid enough action flick. Donnie Yen knows how to kick ass, and for that we should all be thankful. The guy is just awesome.

See Special ID. See it, see it, see it.


So what do we have here?

Dead bodies: At least 15.

Explosions: One.

Nudity?: None.

Doobage: A weird opening theme, gangs playing tile games, weird laughing, a guy with a Mohawk, multiple table breaks, Donnie Yen sitting on the floor and still fighting a guy like a pro, an involuntary split, a big foot chase, a surprise birthday party, a family talk, a really small aluminum can, a serious beating, shovel to the head, burying multiple dead bodies in a big hole in the woods, barber hooey, a flashback to six years ago, a pool hall brawl, talk of the mainland, fender bender hooey, a pretty sweet apartment, diner hooey, a play fight, business talk, sniper attack, a one-on-fifteen martial arts brawl, some serious attempted knife assaults, a guy gets thrown out a window, back up hooey, police interrogation, 4 gallons of water, talk about evidence, multiple nice roof moments, air rifle hooey, a foot chase, leaping, repelling, attempted strangulation, bullet to the head, more air gun hooey, basketball to the head, a special tattoo, another flashback, dead bodies thrown into the ocean, a brief bathroom fight, telephone to the head, piggyback hooey, an awesome car chase, total sidewalk destruction via truck, a pretty good hanging off the side of a truck stunt, a fight inside a truck, a misuse of cruise control, truck flying off a bridge into a scaffolding and then exploding, a mega fight, attempted metal bar assault, choking, a shirt that looks like a giant red bandana, and a happy ending followed by a weird talk about “seeing the better side of the world” or something.

Kim Richards?: None.

Gratuitous: A street market montage, Donnie Yen, gang members shoving game tiles into people’s mouths and forcing them to then eat the game tiles, a guy wearing an Ohio State shirt, Donnie Yen sitting down but still fighting a guy like a pro, talk of duty and helping out young people and whatnot, a surprise birthday party, Donnie Yen wearing a paper crown, a really small aluminum can, dead body burying, mainland China, Donnie Yen using a tablet, BBC World News on the TV, spiffy food eating, Donnie Yen having to fight 15 guys, Donnie Yen fucking around with an air gun in order to practice his gun shooting, guys doing shots, attempted basketball, talk of being men of honor, Donnie Yen smoking a big cigar, a brief bathroom fight, an escalating car chase, a shirt that looks like a giant red bandana, and a happy ending followed by a weird talk about “seeing the better side of the world” or something.

Best lines: “Lucky moron!,” “I didn’t say I’d let you go,” “Forget your money! Save up to buy a new car,” “Help those scumbags?,” “Hey, hands off my Ma!,” “Mom? Do you know what I do?,” “Now find your shoe!,” “You bastard! Do you know what you’re doing?,” “Does this stay between us or just me?,” “Almost scared me,” “Ice it. It will help with the swelling,” “I’m out. I want to be a cop,” “Hey! Go and chase girls somewhere else? Don’t you know the law?,” “Time for lunch now?,” “I deserve respect! Got it? Yes, madam,” “Good evening. Scram!,” “Do you have any money or not?,” “Never turn your eyes! Remember what I taught you? Did you get slow on American food?,” “I like my food hot. D you, Sunny?,” “Hands up!,” “Don’t be impetuous!,” “Ma, do I look like a thug to you?,” “Life is living,” “Oh, come on! What’s wrong with honor?,” “If I ever find out that you betrayed everyone you love will suffer,” “You researched my tattoos? Seriously?,” “You filthy pig! This is the end for you!,” “If you’re going to arrest me get it over with! I’m trying to pee here!,” “I heard a rumor that you’re snitching on me,” “This is where it ends for you! You die here!,” “Brother, you’ve got lots to learn,” and “I see you’ve become a housewife.”

Rating: 7.5/10.0


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Things to Watch Out For


Love and Monsters: This new sort of post-apocalyptic monster adventure comedy movie looks kind of good. The reviews I’ve read for it have been split, with some people really liking it and some people outright despising it. I can’t say that I’m enthused with the presence of Dylan O’Brien, but having Michael Rooker in the cast can only be a good thing. And who knows, maybe it’s way better than I assume it is. I mean, you have to have hope when it comes to these kinds of things, right? Anyone out there see this?


Savage Streets: This is a brand new Blu-ray edition of this bonafide cult classic from the fine folks at Code Red and it’s chock full of special features (multiple commentary tracks. Multiple interviews, an isolated music track, and more). Linda Blair acts as a vigilante, taking out the scumbags that raped her sister and killed her best friend, a kind of Death Wish sequel starring the woman from The Exorcist (but, you know, not really). Sleazy and violent, it was directed by the now late Dany Steinmann, who directed Friday the 13th Part V: A New Beginning right after this. I’m surprised that Savage Streets isn’t a bigger deal in the B-movie/cult movie world. I mean, it is kind of a big deal, but it could be bigger/more prominent. Will this new Blu-ray finally get the movie more recognition? I guess we’ll have to wait and see.


Triggered: This appears to be some sort of horror comedy deal about a group of friends that go out into the woods to party and end up trapped in a horrific scheme where they all have bombs strapped to their bodies and have to figure out how to get the bombs to stop. Low budget, high concept horror comedies are often hard to pull off, and this one looks no different. Does it work? I’d like to find out. I like rooting for movies like this one. Definitely worth a rental, mostly to see if the comedy aspect of the story works. I’m sure the horror elements work fine. That’s rarely the problem with horror comedies, at least that’s my experience.


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Well, I think that’ll be about it for now. Don’t forget to sign up with disqus if you want to comment on this article and any other 411 article. You know you want to, so just go do it.

B-movies rule. Always remember that.

Special ID

Donnie Yen– Chan Chi-Lung
Tian Jing– Fang Jing
Andy On– Sunny
Ronald Cheng– Captain Cheung
Hanyu Zhang– Daofeng
Hee Ching Paw– Amy
Collin Chou– Cheung Mo-Hung
Zhigang Yang– Captain Lei Peng

(check out the rest of the cast here)

Directed by Clarence Fok
Screenplay by Tai-lee Chan and Kam-Yuen Szeto

Distributed by Well Go USA Entertainment

Rated R for violence and language
Runtime– 99 minutes

Buy it here