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.
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".
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.
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.
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!'
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
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.
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