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Silver Hawk is the latest superhero comedy from Hong Kong that raises a few serious questions. Firstly, was cinematographer turned director Jingle Ma taking his job seriously when he decided to helm this project? Did anyone proof read the script to make sure it made sense? Lastly but most importantly, what substance was Michelle Yeoh partaking in before slipping into that frightful costume? Before seeking any explanations, it would be advisable to understand the premise.

Silver Hawk
Film
To her friends and admirers, Michelle Yeoh is Lulu Wong - a beautiful billionaire heiress who leads a glamorous lifestyle and is constantly pursued by men. However when bad guys are up to no good, she transforms into Silver Hawk – the masked superheroine with a love for gadgets and kung fu. Trouble arises when skinny bald villain Alexander Wolfe (played by Luke Goss) kidnaps Professor Ho Chung, inventor of a new AI gizmo that can read the user’s mind and subsequently predict the best course of action. By employing this breakthrough technology with the SZ 9000 mobile phone headset, Wolfe plans to brainwash the public into following his commands.

It is up to Silver Hawk to stop this bald psycho before he turns everybody into brain-dead slaves. However the task is not going to be easy with Inspector Richman hunting down the mysterious Silver Hawk. Richman and Lulu were originally childhood friends at the Shaolin martial arts school. However he has no idea that the person he is hunting is actually his best friend in disguise. Throw in a random comic relief in the form of a computer genius and a few ‘Final Fantasy style’ henchmen played by Michael Jai White and Bing Bing Li, and we more or less have a plot. Whether it makes sense or not is entirely debateable.

The story takes place in the futuristic metropolis of Polaris – a city inhabited by Far East Asians who speak in bizarrely mixed accents and love technology. In fact, the entire film has been extravagantly decorated to highlight technological evolution. However the common viewer should be able to notice how much of a farce these inventions are. The professor’s AI headset is laughably useless with no scientific principals behind it. The SZ 9000 is nothing more than a lazy mobile phone that projects the image onto the user’s hand. On the subject of mobile phones, a few Nokia models have been advertised throughout the movie – achieving nothing but emphasising some of the ugliest phones in the world. Even the costumes, hairstyles and background have been given a metallic finish to create the illusion of a sophisticated future that will obviously never happen.

Silver Hawk
Jingle Ma shot Silver Hawk separately in English and Cantonese; Momentum Asia has provided the English language version. Evidently, the director wanted to make a Hong Kong title but market it internationally, which is quite a bold yet difficult strategy. The idea of a ‘general’ Asian city has been used before – both Moon Child and Swallowtail and Butterfly utilised familiar multicultural settings but the artistic integrity of the latter triumphantly illustrates a convincing location in a not too over-the-top manner. Moon Child would have succeeded if it were not so insultingly terrible and homoerotic. In the case of Silver Hawk, Jingle Ma has envisioned a world that despite being a ridiculous fantasy, is mildly appealing. There is an undeniable romance with Asian cinema that has been accelerating in recent years; the city of Polaris is perhaps a metaphor for the merging of Eastern and Western lifestyles. To be precise, it is perhaps how the West would image an Asian city to be like.

The actions and intentions of the characters are utterly unrealistic and irrational. For instance, why is the chief investigator of the police an incompetent moron who, despite his extensive training in martial arts, still fights like an amateur? Is there any tactical advantage in suspending a henchman on a bungee chord during a fight? Why do certain characters keep disappearing? The answer is simple: it’s a movie and these days filmmakers can get away with just about anything – even if it means providing no explanation as to why the main heroine is called “Silver Hawk”. The idea of following the plot makes about as much sense as keeping track of the points on Whose Line is it Anyway. In other words, the director has wholeheartedly diverted attention on creating harmless entertainment with an easy to digest structure. All that is logical has been swept under the rug in favour of action, humour and style.

Silver Hawk
In the case of the martial arts choreography, the work is certainly more established than the average Hollywood effort but is hardly groundbreaking material. Wires and CGI play an ample role in polishing the stunts and slow motion photography is slightly overused in capturing the aerial work. Silver Hawk is persistent in selling its political correctness. As such, the violence is incredibly mild – keeping blood restricted to minor scratches and knocking out villains instead of killing them.

As previously mentioned, this review is concentrating on the English language version. Whilst the lip movements definitely match, the dialogue still has a dubbed feel to it. Even Luke Goss appears not quite present, but that may be due to his acting more than anything else. The conversations are much westernised and sound amusing amongst the rainbow of accents. Everyone provides an exaggerated performance, keeping emotions and feelings vividly explicit for the audience to understand. The humour is typically Hong Kong but is universal enough to be appreciated worldwide.

Upon reflection, it seems that Silver Hawk’s target audience are those in their early teens. We are taking about the Saturday morning generation, who are fixed on Toonami and Nickelodeon. Ironically the imitable actions have warranted a 15 certificate from the BBFC, limiting the age group most likely to benefit from the movie. Mature viewers may struggle to find the attraction, especially as this film hardly stands out from regular Hong Kong titles. There is a certain curious factor however, if only to see Yeoh running around in tight pants and a ridiculous helmet. In all honesty, Silver Hawk has the potential to be a guilty pleasure but it depends on how far the audience is willing to go in shutting down all levels of consciousness.

Video
Silver Hawk is presented in an anamorphic widescreen format, maintaining an aspect ratio of 2.35:1. The film has been given a sort of silver-blue tinge, thus manipulating the colours to make everything look more futuristic. In effect, this has resulted in rather pale shades being applied to the background and skin tones. Conversely, the blues are simply exquisite, radiating with immense strength and density but at the expense of some noticeable colour bleeding. Moreover, the contrast balance is purposefully strong, as a lot of the outdoor locations are masked by whiteness. I have a feeling that this is Jingle Ma’s cost effective technique in creating the future – somewhere behind all that murky nothingness is the bustling city of Polaris.

The transfer does not really provide a healthy colour transition; chunky blocks and pixilation appear when the image should be considerably smoother. In addition, the picture is not particularly sharp and motion blurring is fairly persistent as a result. Examining Bing Bing Li’s hair, it looks like she has a florescent afro after all that running around. At least the blacks are wholesome and there are plenty of details in the shadows to follow the onscreen movements. The transfer in general is perceptible but there is definitely room for improvement.

Silver Hawk
Audio
Silver Hawk contains English audio in Dolby Digital 5.1 and DTS 5.1. The only way to hear the Cantonese version would be to import the HK disc. The Dolby track is a lovely piece of work, fully engulfing the audience in a fury of effects and music. The dialogue is clear and is mixed well with the mellow dance soundtrack. Ambient noise is plentiful, ranging from rainfall to combat scenes – everything is professionally encoded to recreate the fast paced environment.

The DTS mix is slightly more aggressive and widens the dynamic range between dialogue and everything else. The opening battle on the Great Wall of China really does give the subwoofer a gigantic workout. Aside from the tremendous LFE channel, even the rears exhibit subtle echoes from the ballads and dialogue to enhance the home cinema experience.

Extras
The only supplements are trailers (for Silver Hawk and Born to Fight) and a photo slideshow, containing production slides as well as conceptual artwork. This is quite disappointing; I would like to hear an explanation from the filmmakers as to what possessed them to work on this project.

Silver Hawk
Overall
Despite the embarrassingly cheesy dialogue that makes the Power Rangers look like Shakespeare, not to mention the silly costumes, hairstyles and useless inventions, Silver Hawk still manages draw curiosity and can be strangely enjoyable if the motives and actions of the characters are left unquestioned. Though hardly original and groundbreaking, the action is nevertheless entertaining and the disc pushes the limits of surround sound technology. Not exactly Yeoh’s finest work but hardly a disaster, Silver Hawk flaps its wings somewhere in between.


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