Dubbed the first Chinese remake of a Hollywood blockbuster, Connected (保持通話) takes its story from David R. Ellis’ Cellular, and was shot by Hong Kong’s foremost action flick director, Benny Chan (陳木勝).
With a top-notch cast led by Nick Cheung (張家輝), Louis Koo (古天樂) and Liu Ye (劉燁), Chan proves that movies translated from West to East can be attractive to local audiences brought up on the fine tradition of Hong Kong action cinema.
Fast-paced and dynamic, the film wastes no time in introducing its female protagonist Grace (played by Taiwan’s Barbie Hsu, 徐熙媛). A widowed electronic engineer, and mother to a daughter, Grace finds herself in a car crash, then kidnapped by some gangsters involved in a murder that her younger brother had witnessed and recorded on camera, and locked up in a hut.
Cut to Bob (played by Louis Koo, 古天樂), a single dad who works a dead-end job as a debt collector and can barely keep his family together. On his way to see his son off at the airport, Bob receives a phone call from Grace, who drew on her engineering know-how managed to put a smashed phone back together but could only dial a random number.
Believing Grace and her family are in mortal danger, Bob takes the information to the police only to be told the call was as a phone prank. He then takes matters into his own hands.
Enter detective Fai (played by Cheung), a former rising star of the force who fell from grace and was demoted, who launches a one-man investigation.
The Hollywood transplant has been renovated in a quintessentially Hong Kong style. The elements are all there: well-executed fight choreography; adrenalin-stimulating car chase sequences; the timeworn plot of good guys versus corrupt cops; and of course, a dash of Hong Kong-esque humor. The film’s production values are unquestionably high and slick, exemplified in the scene where a crane shot swoops down on Koo who is trapped in a car that dangles on the edge of a cliff.
Though not without a few far-fetched plot devices, the action thriller coaxes viewers to suspend disbelief with a bevy of characters that have well-developed motivations and personalities. Liu makes a charming and slightly psychotic villain. Cheung, a favorite supporting actor in Hong Kong, shines as a family-man police officer who clings to virtues that no longer apply to the contemporary world. Koo turns in a convincing performance as an unlikely hero who struggles to be a good father and helps to soften the film’s hard edge with a father-and-son subplot drama.
As with most action movies in which the female lead serves as an eye-pleasing prop, Hsu is easily overlooked amid the strong male cast. Apparently, the star needed more practice and training to master her craft than her costars. Perhaps she should seriously consider shedding the pretty-faced pop idol look next time she plays a character who is kidnapped and tortured.
DIRECTED BY: BENNY CHAN (陳木勝)
STARRING: LOUIS KOO (仔天樂) AS BOB, BARBIE HSU (徐熙媛) AS GRACE, LIU YE (劉燁) AS THE KIDNAPPER, NICK CHEUNG (張家輝) AS DETECTIVE FAI
RUNNING TIME: 110 MINUTES
LANGUAGE: IN MANDARIN AND CANTONESE WITH CHINESE AND ENGLISH SUBTITLES
TAIWAN RELEASE: TODAY