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COWEB (China)


Genre: Action
Starring: Jiang Luxia, Sam Lee, Eddie Cheung, Kane Kosugi, Andy Taylor
Director: Xiong Xin Xin
Rating: PG
Year Made: 2009







Languages: Mandarin
Subtitles: English/Chinese
Aspect Ratio: 16:9 Widescreen
Sound: Dolby Digital 5.1
Running Time: 1 hr 38 mins
Region Code: 3
Distributor: InnoF
orm Media




Mandy slaves away at two jobs struggling to support her family while dreaming about resurrecting her father's martial arts academy, a once famous school now forgotten since an accident took his leg. When Mandy rescues wealthy businessman Ho Kwan from muggers he offers her a job as his bodyguard and she agrees when he also offers to supoort her family and restore her father's academy. Before long, kidnappers appear and despite Mandy's efforts, Ho Kwan is abducted but not before he slips Mandy a box. Upon investigating, Mandy learns that Ho Kwan was kidnapped by ruthless gambling impresario Sung. The box contains a key to a mainframe that controls online betting on fights to the death and in order to reach Ho Kwan, Mandy will have to join the tournament and gamble with her life.


The first we heard (or to be more precise, saw) of this movie, "Coweb", was on this Code 3 DVD. Our interest was piqued- where did this action film come from? Why did we know so little of it? We were especially interested when we saw on the cover that none other than Xiong Xin Xin was the director. To our knowledge, we had not known of the veteran as a director (and we were right, this is his first feature film)- though our deepest impression of him was as the character Clubfoot Seven in Tsui Hark’s "Once Upon a Time in China".

But as the movie opened, what hopes we had of this direct-to-DVD release were quickly and firmly dashed. "Coweb’s" first scene is of the death of a young martial arts instructor’s father under rather suspicious circumstances. This opening is portent of many things to come. First, the numerous fade out, fade ins used throughout the movie. Used judiciously, such a technique could enhance the impact of a certain scene; used ad nauseum as in "Coweb", they are simply annoying.

Second, the just as frustrating visual trick of rewinding the last few seconds of the film then playing it back again, complete with a red 'REC' sign at the top right hand corner. Yes, we get the idea that someone is watching, that someone is recording what is going on. There’s scarcely a need to use the same gimmick over and over again. Third, the badder than bad sound design- and we’re not just talking about the added bone-crunching sound effects. Whoever was behind the soundtrack of this film clearly has not watched an action movie and how the music is supposed to build tension, not deflate it entirely.

Last and perhaps most inexcusably, the lazy camerawork of the fight sequences. If there is one reason why audiences are watching this film, it’s because of the fights. How exciting the fights actually are doesn’t really matter when the cameraman appears to be so afraid of getting kicked or punched that he places the camera a convenient distance away and doesn’t even bother to zoom into the action. We were almost ready to say 'bring it up close, dammit!'

Like most action films, one does not expect a 'wow' plot for "Coweb" to work; one looks forward rather to a multitude of action sequences designed to make us go 'wow' and at most a serviceable plot to get us from one fight to another. It seems the Thais have understood such expectations- hence the formula de rigueur of films like "Ong Bak", "Tom Yum Goong", "Chocolate" and "Muay Thai Fireball". A less than satisfactory plot aside, Xiong Xin Xin’s fight choreography in "Coweb" unfortunately suffers from being too choreographed and not enough of the 'wow' spontaneity that made the above-mentioned Thai action films such a thrilling experience.

Perhaps the only bright spark that "Coweb" has is its newcomer Jiang Lu Xia, a finalist from Jackie Chan’s China-based reality TV series The Disciple. Don’t judge her by her small build- she has the agility and ferocity of that similarly not to be trifled with Thai breakout star from "Chocolate" and certainly deserves a much better film to showcase her talents and abilities.

So we’re here to tell you that "Coweb" did not turn out to be the kick-ass action film we expected from Xiong Xin Xin. What prowess he may have behind the camera remains as yet hidden we hope to believe. Except for its star Jiang Lu Xia, "Coweb" is a disappointing effort through and through. No wonder we had heard so little of it before- such embarrassments are better off left unsaid and untold.



No less than three times did we spot the "Innoform Media" logo appear during the movie- this is probably the first and we hope the last we’d seen of such an occurrence. The Dolby 5.1 audio track comes only in Mandarin and is just as uninvolving as the movie itself.



Review by Gabriel Chong

Posted on 19 October 2009


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This review is made possible with the kind support from InnoForm Media


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