Director: Chung Wing Chow
Starring: Max Mok, Aaron Kwok, Yukari Oshima, Dick Wei
Back in 1991-92, I was venturing into a Korean owned video store that among other things, was renting recent (at the time) Hong Kong movies (unfortunately with Korean subtitles that sometimes obscured the English ones). For a mere buck, I was able to keep the film for a week. Not a bad deal. So each week for a couple of years, I rented three movies per week and copied them onto a 6 hour blank vhs. A good way back then to increase my collection, especially since I was on a strict budget (and let's face it, I'm ALWAYS on a strict budget). At the time there were quite a few films I never heard of that I took a chance on because of a certain actor ot actors in them. This one, Close Escape I rented because it co-starred Yukari Oshima, probably the best fighting femme in '80s Hong Kong cinema. I figured, "what the heck. even if it turns out to be bad it still stars 'The Osh' and that's certaintly worth a buck...".
The plot; a man named Lam dying of cancer, needs to raise money so that his younger brother, Wai Leong can complete medical school. His way of raising said cash is to join a gang that is planning a diamond heist. During a dispute, Lam is killed but not before he successfully hides the stolen jewels. Wai happens on the scene and is promptly framed by the gang for the murder (yep, things are not going too well) and finds himself on the run. Realizing that he had been given counterfeit jewels, the enraged gang leader sends an assassin after Wai, who by this time has aligned with a police detective friend.Wai also runs into a female Japanese reporter named Miko whom after initially distrusting, eventually finds himself falling for.
Yep, the plot is a convoluted and only semi involving pot boiler. Aaron Kwok and Max Mok were the two main stars and they were (as usual) fine, but nothing special. I never found either actor to be particularly compelling and if I end up watching a movie featuring either, it's for reasons other than that they are in it. This film truly comes to life when Yukari Oshima enters the picture. 'The Osh' is always incredible, whether the film itself is or not. Her role as the reporter/plant/love interest here is one of her best. She gets to be tough and vulnerable and pulls both off with conviction.
'Close Escape is directed by Chung Wing Chow who does a decent job of keeping the proceedings moving along. What this film benefits from in a big way is the action choreography from none other than 'Venom Mob' alumni Kuo Chui (aka Phillip Kwok). Kuo was one of the Shaw Brothers' top fighter/stuntmen in the latter half of the '70s. His fight and stunt work behind the camera matches what he had previously done in front of it and then some! The action that takes place during the second half is absolutely terrific with the finale being one of the best I have ever seen, rivaling the best of Sammo Hung's and Yuen Kwai's output. Dick Wei appears in the film as a villainous henchman and he has never been tougher or more menacing. His climatic bout with Yukari is positively brutal, rivaling his work in 'Yes Madam' and hers in 'Angel' (yes, THAT good as the clip I added below will attest to).
Close Escape is one of those films where you will need to be patient with a fairly slow and workmanlike first half. If you do, then you will be well rewarded with some incredibly hard hitting action and a top notch 'Osh' perf.
*** / ****