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23 September 2008, 2pm at Orchard Cineleisure KBox

It takes a certain clout to be a studio’s first choice to headline a big-budget action movie. More so if the studio is no less than Warner China Film, the Chinese-based arm of Warner Bros.

But that was what director Benny Chan was. He had liked the Hollywood movie “Cellular” and so when the studio contacted him about doing a possible remake of it in Hong Kong, he immediately said yes.

Don’t think however that his version “Connected” was simply a slavish copy of the original. Quite the contrary, in fact, as Chan revealed that much thought and hard work went into revamping the Hollywood version into a Hong Kong movie.

For one, Chan, who co-wrote the screenplay, wanted to make the characters more real and believable than the Hollywood original.

“In the Hollywood version, the main character is a slacker. But Louis Koo’s character, Bob, is instead a typical Hong Kong guy- always busy,” he explained. What would make such a guy put down everything and help a total stranger in need was what he was interested to explore.

Even so, it took time for him to convince himself of the plausibility of such a scenario. Why believe someone else who asks for help, especially if you don’t even know that person?

“The original had the character believing quite immediately what the stranger on the other line said,“ Chan elaborated. “But to make it more genuine, I created Louis Koo’s character in such a way that he was initially sceptical of what the other person said. So it was subsequent events that slowly convinced his character that it was all true.”

There were other elements that he also added into his version “Connected”. For one, the message of helping others in need is something that he wanted to emphasize. In line with this vein was also a stronger human element in the story, which he did by injecting the possibility of a romance between Louis Koo’s character and Barbie Hsu’s character.

The director whose name is probably now synonymous with Hong Kong action movies has much praise for his lead actor, Louis Koo, whom he describes as “very hardworking”. Because Louis and Barbie’s scenes were filmed separately, there was a need to reshoot some of Louis’ scenes so that his expressions would be more appropriate vis a vis Barbie Hsu’s.

In fact, Louis Koo was the director’s first choice to play the role of Bob, a role he described as the most difficult in the movie. The two had struck up a good working relationship while on the set of their previous collaboration Rob-B-Hood and Chan had promised Koo that they would work together again.

Indeed, if Louis Koo has aspirations of becoming a Hong Kong action star, he has hedged a most wise bet on director Benny Chan. After all, Connected looks set to be another sure-fire action hit and the newest addition to Chan’s resume of successful big-budget action movies. It may not be too far-fetched to say that Benny Chan probably is the closest thing that Hong Kong has to Hollywood’s Michael Bay.

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"Connected" opens on 1 October and is reviewed here

Report & Photos: Gabriel Chong & Richard Lim Jr
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