SPECIAL FEMALE FORCE (2016) review

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Wilson Chin’s Special Female Force is a loose remake of Wellson Chin’s (not the same guy) The Inspector Wears Skirts, following a dozen sexy young women who enter a stringent boot camp where they bond in the hardships of training and flirt with the male team, before being thrust into their first mission, to stop a terrorist – who twenty years ago decimated the previous iteration of the Special Female Force – from spreading a deadly virus. Tiny subplots from the original films (there were four of them) also crop up, like the male instructor’s crush on the female one (Ken Lo and Jade Leung step in for Stanley Fung and Sibelle Hu), but on the whole Wilson is largely rebooting Wellson’s concept, while adding an unfortunate layer of teary drama on top of it. The Inspector Wears Skirts were no masterpieces, but they knew their place and remained jokey displays of eye-candy with some hard-hitting action thrown in. Special Female Force is plagued by tragic subplots that lead to cringe-worthy moments of tone-deaf emotional acting from the main cast. Philip Ng has a few scenes and a few spin kicks as an ungrateful boyfriend, in another soap-worthy little nugget of plot.

The comedy still has the upper hand, but is so bland and broad that it grates as much as the drama. Joyce Feng ably fills Sandra Ng’s shoes as the “unattractive” and goofy member of the team, while Mandy Ho is a passable substitute to Kara Hui as the more spunky and athletic teammate. The rest of the team (and the dozen more actresses in the boot camp) are mostly interchangeable beauties who are constantly overshadowed by their cleavages and whose behinds have much more bounce than the plot. The action is forgettable, though the finale has an enjoyable relentlessness to it, with a fine bout between Mandy Ho and Hidy Yu (whose short but charismatic turn makes her the most memorable actress in the film) the only scene where the brutal delights of the Girls With Guns sub-genre are close to being recaptured.

The excellent and all-too-rare Jade Leung has lost none of her steely beauty and understated charisma, but she gets precious little to do. What film gives you protracted over-edited Jeana Ho fights but lets Jade Leung walk around sternly? There’s more than enough fresh talent today for a revival of the Girls With Guns. Zhang Lanxin, Xu Dongmei, Juju Chan, Jing Tian, Jiang Luxia and a few others carry a lot of promise and just need the right vehicles. But casting models as inexperienced in acting as they are in fighting, putting them in bikinis or short shorts and ogling them for 100 minutes will not resuscitate the genre.

Long Story Short: Lazy plotting, cringe-worthy drama, broad comedy, forgettable action, interchangeable actresses, but lots and lots of eye candy. *1/2

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