Connected (Hong Kong, 2008)

A Benny Chan actioner, in turn a remake of David R Ellis’s 2004 film Cellular, Connected stars Louis Koo who plays Bob, an average Joe whose life is turned into a deadly race against time to save a kidnapped stranger (Barbie Hsu) and her family when she happens to connect to his number using bits and bobs of a smashed telephone she manages to put together whilst in captivity. As things escalate, a down-on-his-luck policeman played by Nick Cheung  gets mixed up in proceedings and becomes tangled in a deadly game of his own.

Having on board a gung-ho Louis Koo and former Jackie Chan Stunt Team leader Nicky Li, director Benny Chan is assisted in making Connected for the most part, roll from set piece to set piece at a blistering rate.  Chan, known for creating fluffy genre pieces such as Gen-X-Cops (1999), Heroic Duo (2003), and recent Jackie Chan efforts, sews some wonderful comedic scenes together with ample amounts of action but never at the sake of pace, which pushes the film to stay exciting for nearly all of its almost two hour running time.

The director, who usually pulls out the aces for the action and leaves a lot to be desired for everything else, here balances action with a very tight narrative, keeping up well with the turbulent moment of time these characters share. With the story unwinding at 100 miles per hour, there’s not a lot of time to tend to backstory.  However, what’s here is nice and adds to the overall satisfaction of seeing the film through the dab of characterisation present going a long way and never becoming suffocating.  That’s a job left for the abundant tension and driving run-and-chase feel of Connected.

Amidst the narrative comes some terrific scenes for action junkies.  Amongst them, a stunning car chase which seems to get better and better and with no CGI in sight.  The energy is real and satisfying and works well within the constant motion the film supplies. Louis Koo, who seems to mature more and more with each role is at ease with both the physical side of his character and juggling the emotional aspects, stemming from the strenuous relationship with his son and his courageous debt to a helpless stranger. Barbie Hsu, on the other hand, doesn’t quite reach the same potential, but is solidly adequate in a role which is also quite dramatically tough.  It is, however, Nick Cheung who steals the show once again with another standout three-dimensional role, Yu, who is somewhat of an underdog living with past glories when we first meet him, but is given a stab at redeeming himself as events of the film unravel.

Connected isn’t perfect.  There are some leaps in logic here and there and although we are given fleshed-out protagonists, the bad guys are as cliché as possible,but Johnnie To productions aside, Benny Chan has manged to produce one of the most exciting Hong Kong thrillers of recent times.

Tom Kent-Williams is a writer, reviewer and co-host at the Podcast On Fire Network currently residing in Birmingham, England. He has been in love with Asian cinema since seeing Akira for the first time and has a slight man-crush on Chow Yun-fat. Hong Kong cinema floats his boat big time, along with synthpop, classic gaming and cups of tea in large mugs.