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Imagine my surprise when “Naked Weapon”, a movie written by Jing Wong, the man behind such lackluster fare as “The Duel” and “High Risk”, turned out to be one of the more entertaining films I’ve seen in a long while. The movie, about young girls abducted (some lured by promises of wealth) into the training camp of one Madame M to be her next elite international assassin, is a Chicks Kick Ass flick in the vein of “Charlie’s Angels”, but with the sensibility of a Playboy Wet and Wild video, and the balls of Hong Kong action films like Tsui Hark’s “Time and Tide.”
I wouldn’t go so far as to call “Naked Weapon” great, but it certainly exceeded my expectations. (Which, if you know my low threshold for all things Jing Wong, is quite a feat.) The film opens with CIA agent-in-training Jack (Daniel Wu) on assignment somewhere in Europe. Jack and two fellow CIA agents are tracking one of Madame M’s killers in hopes the female assassin will lead them to Madame M herself. (All of Madame M’s assassins are drop dead gorgeous females who use sex as a weapon, although they can kill whole battalions and still look like supermodels in the process.) The surveillance goes wrong and after a firefight, Jack is the only survivor.
With her latest assassin dead, Madame M pursues new recruits, and finds two in Charlene (Maggie Q.) and Katt (Anya). Charlene is the daughter of a wealthy socialite, but Katt is a street urchin who boxes grown men (and beats them) for her daily meals. For Katt, Madame M’s vicious training island, where armed men stands guard and recruits are weed out by way of execution on a daily basis, is her ticket off the streets. Charlene, who was abducted, longs for home. The two girls, both 13, become close friends, forming a bond that hints at being something more. Fast-forward 6 years later, and Charlene, Katt, and another girl emerges as the 3 survivors of Madame M’s 6-year long boot camp. (All the other recruits have perished during the “training” process.)
“Naked Weapon” is half exploitation and half balls-out action. Director Siu-Tung Ching handles both angles exceptionally well. The movie looks great, and leads Maggie Q. and Anya are more than easy on the eyes. The women have all obviously gone through extensive training and as a result execute their martial arts move with credibility and flair. The movie moves well, and the action comes fast and furious. In-between bloody confrontation between the sexy assassins and their targets (and their targets’ hundreds of faceless bodyguards), Ching and producer Jing Wong puts the trio in tight-fitting outfits, all the better to show every inch of their lean and hard bodies, making “Naked Weapon” a triumph in more ways than one.
If there is one fumble it has to be the movie’s first Act, which takes place on Madame M’s island and involves the girls’ training. There are a number of miscues here, and for a moment I feared “Naked Weapon” would become another silly Jing Wong movie, filled with blood and guts, grossly bad acting, a barely serviceable script, and unbelievable plot contrivances. Fortunately the first Act ends with an exciting free-for-all inside a cage that Madame M uses to weed out the remaining survivors, and the rest is all gravy.
The rest of the film looks like a glitzy music video, and Maggie Q. and company struts around in revealing clothes while taking out victims left and right. Daniel Wu’s Jack also re-enters the picture, but he’s only a side character. The women are the real stars here. Wu’s Jack is something of a klutz, and in a funny scene he loses his gun while leaping over a wall. Hey, Jack, your shoulder holster has a fastening thong that goes over the gun for a reason, buddy. The romance between Jack and Charlene is a little silly, but thankfully it’s barely touched upon, although the filmmakers couldn’t resist giving us a gratuitous nude scene involving Maggie Q. and ocean water. (Not that I’m complaining, natch.)
“Naked Weapon” is not what you would call “grounded in reality.” Its action sequences are highlighted with extreme wire work and director Ching pulls out all the stops, employing everything from stop-motion to freeze frame to fast-motion to achieve one exciting action sequence after another. The movie works, is sometimes funny, but mostly plays out as a (mildly) serious action film.
Siu-Tung Ching (director) / Jing Wong (screenplay)
CAST: Maggie Q …. Charlene
Anya …. Katt
Daniel Wu …. Jack
Jewel Lee …. Jing
Pei-pei Cheng …. Faye
Almen Wong Pui-Ha …. Madame M