[Contains stock boat-race footage and SPOILERS!!!]
Naked Weapon (2002) opens with a trio of CIA operatives staking-out a fancy hotel, waiting for a sexy-lady-assassin to off one of its residents, so they can track her back to her boss, the elusive ‘Madam M’ (Almen Wong). But the hit-girl botches her escape, and gets gunned down by her target’s bodyguards… enabling M to flee the scene, undetected, after offing two of the Agents, as well as her own operative! Shortly thereafter, Madam M starts kidnapping athletic teenage girls from around the world, and spiriting them away to her island hideout, where they undergo a sadistic training regime, which culminates (six years later) in a Battle Royale-esque death-match, to determine who will be her new go-to hit-girl. In the end, she’s so impressed by the strength, skill and determination demonstrated by the final three survivors (Maggie Q, Anya Wu, Jewel Lee), that she allows them all to live to serve her. Yay? Not really, no… because she then completes their training by drugging them, and having them gang-raped by high-fiving lunkheads, so that they won’t value their bodies, or let their pesky virtue prevent them from seducing male targets. A THOUSAND TIMES “FEH!!!” M then sends her violated victims out into the world, to ply their trade as sexy-lady-assassins…
Silly old me assumed that the second half of the movie would see the disgruntled graduates getting their revenge on Madam M for being such an abusive beeyotch… maybe after an accidental reunion with a long-forgotten family member, or an unexpected meet-cute with a hunky CIAgent perhaps…? But that’s not what happens. Instead, the super-villainess who’s evaded capture by American Intelligence for nearly a decade is taken out by some random gangster, who’s angry about his partner being snuffed by one of her hit-girls, and strings the already-dead M up from the ceiling of his nightclub, before chasing Q’s character down and fighting her to the death in a dockyard. Dude doesn’t even show up until 23 mins from the end of the movie, but we’re supposed to care about him just because he kills the heroine’s gal-pal in front of her? Seriously!? That’s nothing compared to the years of pain and horror that Madam M inflicted on them both, but she’s written out in the lamest way possible, thus preventing the audience from enjoying any kind of cathartic release! A THOUSAND TIMES “GAH!!!”
Sigh… to be fair, the fight scenes look awesome, and the cast act their socks off… it’s just the atrocious dialogue and plotting that make this movie such an aggravating chore to sit through. That said, I’d be willing to bet that it played a big part in landing Q the lead role in Nikita, since it draws so heavily from the same well. Sadly, her DVD commentary here was recorded years before being cast in her signature TV show, but she still had more than enough distance from the project to be able to effectively and insightfully critique it, and bemoan the way that women are represented in this sort of trash/exploitation cinema. Apparently she insisted on having an American script doctor flown in to try and knock the script into shape… and she fought tooth and nail to excise any gratuitous sex and nudity, while trying to invest the central relationships with some genuine heart and soul. I dread to think how much worse the whole thing would have been without her integrity and determination to produce a piece of work the cast could actually be proud of… so, I’m glad she was eventually rewarded with a more dignified star vehicle, that actually allowed her to demonstrate her full range as an actress.
The second disc of the special edition I bought featured lengthy interviews with several key cast members… including Monica Lo, who plays the short-lived comic relief in the training camp sequences, and makes for a very animated and amusing interviewee, bless her. Hong Kong cinema’s gain, is Canadian comedy’s loss! There’s also a half-hour long “Day in the Life” featurette, following Q as she trains, heals, relaxes, and flirts with the camera (at one point she even sings viewers a love song!) Along with the commentary track on the first disc, this snapshot of Q’s off-camera life makes this a pretty essential purchase for her fans… which is more than I can say for the movie itself!
Note: I’ve chosen to ignore the love story between Q’s character and the hunky CIAgent who’s pursuing her, largely because the dialogue and set-ups are so awful I was cringing through most of their scenes together (the one where they jog to a hospital while he gives her dying mother a piggy-backing ride was a particular low-point). Still, it’s worth noting that the actor playing Q’s love interest, Daniel Wu, was an actual ex-boyfriend of hers… which made their romantic scenes together uniquely challenging to film. After seeing/hearing everything Q was put through for this shoot, both physically and emotionally, no one can say she doesn’t suffer for her Art!