AKA: Zhang Wu Shuang, Po Wang
Director: Hung Yan Yan
Writer: Sunny Chan Wing Sun
Producer: Joe Ma Wai Ho, Eddie Chan Shu Chi
Cast: Jiang Lu Xia, Sam Lee Chan Sam, Eddie Cheung Siu Fai, Kane Kosugi, Mike Moeller, Edison Chen Koon Hei
Running Time: 87 min.
Going at least as far back as Cheng Pei-pei in 1966′s “Come Drink With Me,” the martial arts genre has a long history of powerful women who can kick just as much ass as their male co-stars. Part of the appeal of these films is watching a diminutive or unassuming-looking gal who is assailed by dozens of opponents, only to overpower them all with a with a flurry of martial arts moves.
However, there’s been something of a void in the action world for a tough-as-nails female star ever since Michelle Yeoh stopped riding motorcycles onto moving trains. That’s partially why the 2008 Thai action flick “Chocolate” and its pint-sized JeeJa Yanin made such a big splash.
Released a year later in 2009, “Coweb” feels very much like Hong Kong’s answer to “Chocolate.” It debuts a new female action star of its own: Jiang Luxia, who is similarly young, petite, and does most of her own stunts. As a national Wushu champ, Luxia is the real deal. She also made a name for herself via YouTube videos, was featured on Jackie Chan’s reality TV show in Hong Kong, and teaches female self-defense classes.
Luxia is cute, she can fight, and she isn’t afraid to be kicked out a window. What more could any action movie fan ask of a starlet? As such, I really wanted to like this movie. Unfortunately, “Coweb” disappoints on almost every critical levels.
There are numerous fight scenes from start to finish, but the choreography and stunts just aren’t hard-hitting compared to what we’ve seen come out of Thailand. An over-reliance on wirework and slow-motion detracts from some of the fights, which most people will probably say go on for too long anyway. It doesn’t help that the best fight might actually be the very first one: a protracted battle that sees Luxia fighting an enraged gweilo through a restaurant kitchen to the point where she’s whacking him with frying pans and tossing chili peppers.
“Coweb” was obviously a low-budget affair. Every scene in this movie that isn’t about fighting simply depicts Luxia sitting somewhere and talking, or walking somewhere and talking, with her co-star Sam Lee (remember him?). A good chunk of the story is revealed through text messages and web surfing, which is not visually interesting at all and another surefire sign that the “Coweb” filmmakers were strapped for cash.
At least the movie builds to a decent conclusion: a lengthy fight between Luxia Jang and Kane Kosugi. Diehard martial arts fans, or people who just like 80’s B-movies, might recognize the name Kane Kosugi from back in the day. When he was just a little kid, he was starring in his dad’s ninja exploitation flicks like “Revenge of the Ninja” and “Pray For Death.” Now he’s all grown up and a talented performer in his own right.
So “Coweb” is not a great movie; to be honest, I’m not sure it was meant to be. At most it’s a demo reel for Luxia to display what she’s capable of as martial artist and stuntwoman. In that regard, the film is a success since I can’t wait to see what she does next.
HKFanatic’s Rating: 6.5/10