Killer Imports: Silver Hawk

Killer Imports is a regular feature on Film Junk where we explore foreign-language films from around the world that haven’t yet had their chance to shine.

Silver Hawk is a superhero movie based on a comic book. I have never seen the comic book, so I don’t know if the filmmakers have adhered to it. The movie stars Michelle Yeoh who gained some renown for her stint as a Bond Girl in Tomorrow Never Dies. She probably caught the attention of the Bond producers from her role in the Jackie Chan film, Supercop. She was the older female lead in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. She also did some non-action acting in Memoirs of a Geisha. She had a small non-action acting role in Jet Li’s Fearless, but her part was cut in the North American version because she was in the framing story that dealt with a bid to include Wushu, a form of martial arts, in the Olympics.

(North American distributors tend to shorten Asian movies by removing the non-action scenes that they think will bore a North American audience. This is somewhat ironic because Jackie Chan’s complaint about Hollywood producers is that they like to break up action scenes with talking scenes. Jackie may have been referring specifically to the Rush Hour movies in which the talking scenes are the comedy provided by Chris Tucker. Perhaps then it’s understandable to insert these talking scenes that American audiences might enjoy although I have yet to find someone who enjoys Chris Tucker’s humor.)

An older film she made in 1987 called, Magnificent Warriors, was released in North America after she gained some renown. So Michelle Yeoh has been making action films for a while. She also had the notoriety of doing many dangerous stunts. Silver Hawk was made in 2004 by her own production company, Mythical Films, so she probably thought the character of Silver Hawk was a suitable role for her. The previous film she did to this was The Touch, which I believe was an Indiana Jones type adventure. That film didn’t do so well at the box-office, and truth be told, neither did Silver Hawk. And I don’t believe either of the films was released theatrically in North America even though Silver Hawk was shot in English.

I think I’ve had the Silver Hawk DVD in my collection for over two years, and I had not bothered watching it. Michelle Yeoh had done an earlier popular, superhero type film called The Heroic Trio, which I didn’t enjoy as much as some other people did. So I guess I didn’t have much incentive to watch Silver Hawk since I hadn’t read or heard anything about it. So what made me decide to watch it? Well, I recently bought another copy of Silver Hawk which had a different cover than the version I already had in my collection. I thought I already had the film, but the different cover made me think it might be a sequel or a different version. Both DVDs are legitimate releases, but the last one I bought I think is a European edition. I watched both versions at the same time and they were identical.

Silver Hawk is a well made film. (I’m going to use “Silver Hawk” to refer to the movie and Michelle Yeoh’s character. Hopefully, you’ll know which one I’m talking about based on context.) Wisely, the film opens with an action sequence that was shot nicely. The director, Jingle Ma, has directed several Jackie Chan films including his breakout hit, Rumble in the Bronx. His latest movie, Butterfly Lovers, starring Charlene Choi of Twins fame, has been getting bad reviews. I should mention that critics haven’t been kind to Silver Hawk either.

There may have been a separate action director, or maybe Michelle Yeoh’s fighting skills are the reason, but in any case, I liked the action. Silver Hawk even wears a cape. I have always thought that the Batman films had pretty terrible fight scenes. I think Batman’s costumes are kind of clunky, and I’ve always thought that a person can’t really fight with a cape on, but Michelle Yeoh has proved me wrong. Granted that the fight scenes in Silver Hawk aren’t realistic, but it’s their balletic nature that I appreciate.

I’ll admit that I haven’t seen The Dark Knight yet. From the clips I’ve seen, the movie seems kind of ordinary and I sort of know what happens based on what I’ve overheard. People are saying that it’s the movie’s dark nature that makes it so appealing. Well, the movie Silver Hawk is totally angst-free. Silver Hawk enjoys crime fighting, and is totally fine being single and care-free. Her day job consists of modeling. And in her spare time, she enjoys jumping her motorbike over structures like The Great Wall of China. She doesn’t take great pains to hide her secret identity. Her speaking voice is the same whether in costume or not. And she even fights in the same style with her street clothes on, not bothering to conceal her fighting abilities.

The main criticism of superhero movies where a superhero is introduced is that time has to be taken telling the origin before we get to see the superhero in action. Silver Hawk dispenses with an origin story. There are brief flashbacks that give the back story behind the relationship between Silver Hawk and the police superintendent / love interest (Richie Jen). These flashbacks also explain Silver Hawk’s martial arts abilities. Since her abilities are natural, then I think it was smart of the scriptwriter to not elaborate on her origin.

There is a moment where the question of Silver Hawk’s vigilantism comes up. Unlike Batman, we don’t know why she assumed the Silver Hawk identity to fight crime. From the flashbacks, we are led to believe that her disregard of authority has made her not take the same path as the police superintendent. And her strong sense of justice has led her to fight crime.

(In Canada, there was a recent incident where a convenience store clerk took it upon himself to prevent his store from being robbed. A robber had come in brandishing a knife. The store clerk pulled out a knife and challenged the robber to a knife fight! I don’t know if this was a Crocodile Dundee moment, but the robber decided to flee. Well, the convenience store clerk ended up getting fired! Apparently, the convenience store franchise’s policy is to acquiesce to robbers. In this case, the robber was not aggressive and the franchise owners thought that the clerk’s actions could have escalated the incident to be violent. I don’t think the clerk was brought up on any criminal charges.)

We never see Silver Hawk’s crime fighting lab. She doesn’t seem to have any assistants. When Silver Hawk needs to locate someone with only an image of the person, she enlists the computer skills of her fan club president! He’s even capable of fending off the bad guys in a fight. We never find out how she accessorized her smart BMW bike with missiles and assorted gadgetry. She says she doesn’t read or do research, but maybe she was being coy. We do get to see her closet which seems to be filled with assorted Silver Hawk costumes. This made me think that it would take a female superhero to introduce the idea of having an assortment of different outfits. I’m so used to a superhero having one distinctive costume.

This movie was filmed in English, but it has an Asian sensibility. Silver Hawk’s mother seems to be trying to marry off her daughter, but dating is apparently something that gets in the way of crime fighting. When she excuses herself to get ready for a night out with her date, she leaves her date sitting for hours while she slips out to fight crime! (She can get away with this, because all men know how long it takes for women to get ready.)

Even when her cousin is kidnapped, Silver Hawk doesn’t get too worried. She seems pretty confident in her abilities, smiling and goading her opponents. She does get more serious when she encounters the main bad guy played by Luke Goss, who was in Blade 2. Silver Hawk’s plot plays like a James Bond movie from the 70s. Along with the villain dreaming of world domination, there’s a chrome and glass, evil lair. Need I not say what happens to it at the end of the movie?

Surrounding the bad guy’s desk is about two dozen LCD monitors. Production designers seem to think that surrounding someone’s desk with monitors makes it impressive. I think it’s funny that every time we see the monitors, the monitors are all displaying the same image.

Goss’s main henchmen are a man, played by Michael Jai White of Spawn fame, and a woman, played by a Chinese actress who I recognize, but I don’t think she’s well-known. Her wig is a different color in each scene she is in. They don’t speak at all. I’ve never seen henchmen exit a movie the way the two of them did.

Silver Hawk tries to add some variety to the fighting, and it’s best not to try to make sense of it all. Silver Hawk has a battle with guys on bungee cords within a fighting arena. Also in that arena, there are guys on roller blades with metal hockey sticks!

There are no fat or ugly people anywhere in the movie! The police superintendent has a bevy of female officers that are all equally slim and lovely. Even in crowds of people or as background extras in restaurants, everyone is pretty. Come to think of it, even the streets are nice and clean. This is not Gotham City.

After an action scene in which Silver Hawk rescues some panda bears, she is seen playing with a rescued panda. Recently, there was a news story about a panda bear biting and grabbing hold of a person who had entered its zoo pen in China. The panda bear wouldn’t let go and I think a zoo person had to use a crowbar to pry the panda bear’s jaws open! I guess a tranquilizer shot would have taken too long to take effect. Apparently, in the past, other people have climbed into the panda bear’s pen and had a similar thing happen. When Silver Hawk is playing with the panda, the panda constantly had its jaws around her arm. Panda bears are cute and cuddly, but dangerous!

Overall, there are some goofy moments and the acting is non-existent or undemanding at best. The plot is straight-forward, and executed fine with simple dialog. The humor is strictly family friendly as is the overall tone of the film. I think the only blood comes from the lip after a punch in the face. For me, I admit the fighting got kind of boring towards the end of the film.

In reviewing films, I hesitate to give star ratings, because in my case, I tend to be highly subjective, with my mood affecting how receptive I am to a film. I recommend Silver Hawk if you’re in the mood for some fun action, you want to turn your brain off, and you like to see a woman in control of her life.

  • cronenfly

    holy shit i have seen this movie! it was terrible!! But it was entertaining to watch. Thank you reed for reminding me of this movie, it gave me a good chuckle.

  • cronenfly, it’s good to know that these films aren’t totally obscure to Film Junk readers!

    I’m hoping to write entertaining reviews that people will read even if they have no intention of ever getting a hold of the movies to watch. If my reviews are memorable enough, maybe people will come across the movie in a bargain bin and be reminded of what I said.

    Your comment reminds me of Goon’s comments about Gran Torino. It’s too bad that what critics consider to be “high art” is so boring. I recently watched Fellini’s 8.5, I mean 8 1/2. Ha ha. I should review it and give my uneducated, ignorant opinions about it. Nowadays, I’d rather watch a Michael Bay film. :-)

  • Sean

    Just wanted to point out that Jingle Ma did not direct Rumble in the Bronx but it was Stanley Tong who also directed Police Story III: Super Cop. Other than that, great review, it’s better than the film itself.

  • Oh, thx for the correction, Sean. Jingle Ma was the cinematographer on “Rumble in the Bronx.”

    I guess people had higher expectations for this movie than I did. But I guess that doesn’t explain why impartial critics hated this film as well. Ha ha. I only have my review as an explanation of why I liked this film. It was probably a mistake to post this review that is so contrary to popular opinion. I’m guessing that most people who happen to watch this film based on my recommendation will not like this film and then think I have no credibility as a film critic.