Silver Hawk
Hong Kong 2004
Directed by Jingle Ma.

Michelle Yeoh's career has always been of great potential badly spent. She just seems so great -- she's got the moves, the acting ability, the looks -- but when it comes right down to it, her movies are often atrociously bad. Perhaps it comes from always being told how great you are and dating/marrying producers. When your husband keeps putting you into films as the star, no matter what, it seems you've got the world at your feet. But the real result is that you are never in a really great movie. Like Jet Li and Jean Claud Van-Damme, always being the star means always being relegated to second tier flicks that have been tailored to you by committee, rather than crafted by an artist. (Jet Li has broken out of this a couple times, first in LETHAL WEAPON 4, then in HERO -- both of which has helped his career enormously compared to one man shows like THE ONE).

Michelle, for her part, took a supporting role in TOMORROW NEVER DIES, and it catapulted her career into the stratosphere. A second supporting role, in CROUCHING TIGER, HIDDEN DRAGON, I think has made her one of the signs of the zodiac.

Alas, she was disappointed with the roles Hollywood offered her, all dragon ladies or kung fu girls, all stereotypical. And sure, that's probably true, that's probably all she got offered. So she goes back to Hong Kong, to make her own films, for worldwide export: the "Jackie Chan" model. And the result is catastrophe. Films that are not popular either in Hong Kong or abroad. First there was The Touch, which was bad enough. Now here comes SILVER HAWK, and with it, a shovel to bury her career with. Imagine if she stayed poking around Hollywood a bit, instead. She would have fared better than Chow Yun-fat, who doesn't care to work too much anyway. What would have done her career better -- ten minutes of screen time in, say, OCEAN'S ELEVEN, or appearing in every frame of her own disasterously uninvolving SILVER HAWK. (Note: She wasn't offered anything in OCEAN'S ELEVEN: that was Jet Li's missed opportunity). Somebody needs to stop letting her manage her own career.

Summarizing the plot of SILVER HAWK hardly seems worth the effort. But she is a rich superwoman who hides her identity (think: Bruce Wayne), but has no inner turmoil, and just loves a good fight (think: I'm supposed to be interested in this character?). She saves a baby panda bear in a pre-credit sequence to establish her righteousness and let her play with a panda. Richie Jen is more of a teddy bear, playing the cop sent in to try and track down the vigilante, not because she is breaking laws, but because she makes the police look bad. Naturally, they fall for each other, and eventually have to face the villain together in his underground lair (yawn) which is inexplicably but conveniently wired with a self-destruct mechanism that brings the whole place down around their ears in the climactic finale (double yawn). Unbelievably, around twenty minutes of the film take place in a big empty silo, where Michelle is lured and attacked, first by four guys wearing bungee chords, and later by a team of rollerblading hockey players. With the metal walls of the silo, the chrome underground lair, and Michelle's silver costume, the picture is almost monochromatic.

Aside from the occasional moment of campy charm, about the only thing this picture has going for it is Michelle Yeoh, who looks as good as ever, and is brimming with talent, energy, and enthusiam. She is every bit as good as the art-house darling Maggie Cheung, and twice the talent of Zhang Ziyi. Yet their careers are soaring while Michelle flops about like a fish in a net. Once again, she is all potential and no payoff.

Rating: Marginally Recommended (Marginally Recommended)

Posted by Peter Nepstad on December 21, 2004.

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