Ten years after his sex 'n' action cult classic "Naked Killer," prolific multi-hyphenate producer Wong Jing has come up with another exercise in high-gloss, low-taste tease that looks set for vigorous ancillary action among Hong Kong buffs. A kick-butt distaff actioner, centered on an elite team of sexy assassins, "Naked Weapon" is classy trash of the highest order, shot in English with a cast dominated by Amerasians and fight sequences that rival some of Hong Kong's best. Pic tanked locally last November but in the West could drum up some perky niche business theatrically in the hands of devoted distribs.

Ten years after his sex ‘n’ action cult classic “Naked Killer,” prolific multi-hyphenate producer Wong Jing has come up with another exercise in high-gloss, low-taste tease that looks set for vigorous ancillary action among Hong Kong buffs. A kick-butt distaff actioner, centered on an elite team of sexy assassins, “Naked Weapon” is classy trash of the highest order, shot in English with a cast dominated by Amerasians and fight sequences that rival some of Hong Kong’s best. Pic tanked locally last November but in the West could drum up some perky niche business theatrically in the hands of devoted distribs.

As with “Naked Killer,” Wong has passed the helming reins to someone else, in this case action maestro Tony Ching Siu-tung, who most recently choreographed “Hero.” Ching brings a no-holds-barred, balletic-kinetic feel to the fights that makes no concessions to gender – in the same way as fellow H.K. action director Corey Yuen, whose similarly full-on female fight fest, “So Close,” this follows hard on the heels of.

However, the two pics have a very different feel: where “So Close” tried hard to construct a reasonable narrative, “Naked Weapon” has almost none at all, with style being everything. Latter also shows a sheer delight in transgressing taste boundaries that’s intoxicating on its own level.

After an intro in which a sleek assassin (Marit Thoresen) dispatches a man in a Rome hotel room, watched by both her boss, Madame M (Almen Wong), and the CIA, pic gets down to business post-main titles as CIA agent Jack Chan (‘Frisco-born Daniel Wu) investigates the kidnapping worldwide of 40 girls, all aged 13 and with martial arts or sporting backgrounds. Turns out they’ve all been snatched by Madame M and taken to a tropical island to be forcibly trained into killing machines.

Six years later, the pubescent pugilists have turned into glamorous babes in tanktops and shorts, among who are former gymnast Charlene Ching (American-Vietnamese actress Maggie Q), one-time kickboxer Katt (American-Taiwanese thesp Anya) and all-round hard nut Jing (real-life wushu medallist Jewel Lee). Katt is rather, uh, “devoted” to her friend Charlene, which brings an extra edge to a ferociously staged, eight-minute cage fight in which only the strongest is allowed to survive.

In fact, all three survive and, after being drugged and gang-raped by Madame M’s muscular guards, are offered a lucrative five-year contract in her employ as professional seducer-assassins. As rich men and gangsters start ending up dead, Jack realizes Madame M is back in business. Tracking Charlene down to Hong Kong, where her mother (veteran Taiwanese action star Cheng Pei-pei, from “Crouching Tiger”) thinks she’s dead, Jack finds his professional detachment seriously challenged by Charlene’s well-honed skills.

Film is basically a collection of very slick set pieces, decorated with enough shower scenes, crotch shots and incipient lesbianism to rank as a male-fantasy classic, despite the total absence of revealing nudity. With English dialogue that seems to be cut-and-pasted from comic strips, it’s the action sequences and thesps’ charisma that carry the movie, along with Johnny Choi’s high-gloss lensing and tight-as-a-thong editing by ace cutter Angie Lam.

Thankfully, Ching’s semi-traditional martial arts choreography is up to the task, re-establishing him in one swoop as a leading practitioner. Though the leads do a good amount of their own stunts, doubling is also seamless; and it’s good to see Lee, after a host of small roles in Z-grade pictures (billed as Lei Fei), showing off her genuine skills more extensively.

With Wu relegated to a reactive role, it’s the babes who carry the picture, with former model Maggie Q burning up the screen as the svelte but doubting Charlene. As her lovelorn buddy Katt, Anya makes a fine screen companion, fire to Charlene’s ice. Cheng (dubbed) is solid as Charlene’s mom, and Wong (a relative veteran of such fare) coolly matriarchal as Madame M, with a wisp of irony.

Pic was entirely shot in Hong Kong and the Philippines. Original title literally means “Naked Special Agents.”

Naked Weapon

Hong Kong

Production

A Media Asia Distribution release of a Media Asia Films presentation of a Jing's Prod. production. (International sales: Media Asia, H.K.) Produced by John Chong. Executive producer, Wong Jing. Directed by Tony Ching. Screenplay, Wong Jing.

Crew

Camera (color), Johnny Choi; editor, Angie Lam; music, Chan Kwong-ming, Ken Chan; production designer, Choo Sung-pong; art director, Wong Ching-ching; costume designer, Lee Pik-kwan; sound (Dolby Digital/DTS Digital), Tam Tak-wing; sound designer, Kinson Tsang; action director, Ching; stunt co-coordinator, Lau Chi-ho; digital visual effects, Asia Legend; visual effects, Leo Lo, Ringo Lee; assistant director, Sylvia Lau. Reviewed on videodisc, London, Jan. 16, 2003. Running time: 90 min.

With

Maggie Q, Anya, Daniel Wu, Jewel Lee, Cheng Pei-pei, Almen Wong, Andrew Lin, Monica Lo, Benny Lai, Dennis Chan, Marit Thoresen, Kwok Kai-yan, Renee Nichole Rommeswinkel, Mo Ka-lai, Agustin Aguerreberry. (English dialogue)

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