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Connected

Touted in China as the first Chinese remake of a Hollywood movie -- well, officially, anyway -- "Connected" is a pretty straight-up version of Kim Basinger starrer "Cellular," Kowloon-side.

With:
With: Louis Koo, Barbie Hsu, Nick Cheung, Liu Ye, Gong Beibi, Eddie Cheung, Fan Siu-wong, Flora Chan, David Rock, Robbin Harris, Daniel Whyte, Ankie Beilke. (Mandarin dialogue version, plus English)

Touted in China as the first Chinese remake of a Hollywood movie — well, officially, anyway — “Connected” is a pretty straight-up version of Kim Basinger starrer “Cellular,” Kowloon-side. Tight direction by action specialist Benny Chan (“Gen-X Cops,” “Divergence”), and a natural Hong Kong propensity toward the more outrageous, result in the unlikely elements of the original Los Angeles-set pic seeming more acceptable in its Asian setting, making this a good latenighter for fests and likely a robust Asiaphile item on ancillary. Pic opened well in Hong Kong, though less well in China (where “Painted Skin” ruled the roost), in late September.

Only major changes are making the Basinger character — here called Grace Wong, and played by Taiwan actress Barbie Hsu — into a widow with a young daughter, and the guy who helps her out via a cell phone connection into a harried father with family problems — rather than a young jock.

Plotline shadows the original closely, with Grace suddenly kidnapped by thugs (led by Mainland thesp Liu Ye), who demand she hand over some “stuff” her younger brother has. Locked up in a shack, Grace manages to repair a smashed phone there and call the outside world.

Her call is picked up by Bob (Louis Koo, usually playing matinee idols), a stressed-out hubby whose wife (Hong Kong-American thesp Flora Chan) is leaving that afternoon with their young son. Desperate to see his son at the airport, Bob is still persuaded to help out the tearful Grace — starting with him trying to persuade a passing cop, Fai (Nick Cheung), to help, and then leading to Bob being hunted by the police for a variety of legal infractions.

Comic side of Bob’s exploits — from a well-staged car chase to his desperate holdup of a cell phone store to get a charger for his mobile — is nicely played by Koo with bespectacled desperation. Nick Cheung, as the cop who’s given a hard time by his distrustful superior (Eddie Cheung), contribs a cool, calm perf that balances Koo’s sweaty loser, while Liu, in shades and white-dyed hair, is just generically evil.

Distaffers have less to do, with Hsu mostly acting tearful, and Mainland actress Gong Beibi in for one scene as the cop’s wife. Ankie Beilke is briefly explosive as one of the bad guys.

Pic dips marginally in tempo in its midsection but recovers for its airport finale and subsequent plot twists (which also parallel the original). Widescreen lensing by Anthony Pun is tops.

Connected

Hong Kong-China

Production: An Emperor Motion Pictures (in Hong Kong)/Polybona Films (in China) release of an Emperor Motion Pictures (H.K.)/Beijing Armor Entertainment, China Film Group, Warner China Film HG (China) production. Produced by Albert Lee, Benny Chan, Kevin Yung. Executive producers, Albert Yeung, Nathan Chow, Han Sanping. Directed by Benny Chan. Screenplay, Alan Yuen, Chan, Xu Bing, based on the 2004 film "Cellular": story, Larry Cohen, screenplay, Chris Morgan.

Crew: Camera (color, widescreen), Anthony Pun; editor, Yau Chi-wai; music, Nicolas Errera; production designer, Yee Chung-man; art directors, Ben Lau, Leung Yue-min; sound (Dolby Digital), Sam Wang; action director, Li Chung-chi; assistant director, Tong Ka-wai. Reviewed at Star City 1, Oriental Plaza, Beijing, Sept. 30, 2008. Running time: 111 MIN.

With: With: Louis Koo, Barbie Hsu, Nick Cheung, Liu Ye, Gong Beibi, Eddie Cheung, Fan Siu-wong, Flora Chan, David Rock, Robbin Harris, Daniel Whyte, Ankie Beilke. (Mandarin dialogue version, plus English)

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