This movie was an easy sell for me. Lisa tried to read me the back of the box. My memory of this is something like "blah, blah, Michelle Yeoh, blah, blah, costumed crimefighter, blah, blah..."
"Lisa?", I said, "You had me with 'Michelle Yeoh.' I mean, dude, she can kick higher than her head.
It therefore comes as no surprise to me that the first scene of the movie includes Michelle Yeoh, as Silver Hawk, kicking a guy behind her -- kicking over her own head. And that's just an opening.
I mean, it's got all the basic conventions for a modern martial arts film. Martial artists remove all the guns from people's hands at the beginning of fights, at which point they're forgotten or "gone from the field", plot serves as a frame for really wacked out fight scenes (in this case, the hockey mooks and bungie chord mooks were particularly impressive) , the villain, no matter his background, is also the strongest fighter (except posibly the heroes) in the movie, etc.
But it's also very clearly science fiction. Not just "this is skiffy because of the heroine's crime fighting gadgets and the villainous semi-unbelievable wacky scheme" science fiction, but clearly set in the near future. There's an early scene where Lulu Wong (Michelle Yeoh) is playing a video game on a plane...using a projected-in-air keybard coming from her seat, and while the bits of impossible tech beyond the gimmick itself - AI, image projection that can use a non-flat surface like your hand, probably some other sf touches that I missed, and, of course, the main gimmick. It's not amazingly good SF--but still. And it's a comic-style costumed crmefighter movie, and one that rises from the pack, at that.
I've grown to expect mild disappointment from "costumed crimefighter" films coming out of HK -- they tend to have cool martial arts, but mediocre superheroics (certainly, I found _The Heroic Trio_, also with Michelle Yeoh, disappointing and ultimately forgettable, though far from unwatchable). This movie stands well above the pack, though -- the angst is very much comic heroic angst, the martial arts are well integrated into the heroics, the heroine has a background very much like a (much) less angsty batman, and the plot is very much the kind I'd expect in a comic book -- with only the flashback sequences (and the training scene cliche) being more of a martial arts story... and both fit very well into the heroics here. They've got an origin story, cop vs crimefighter tension, a strongly themed heroine, cloak and microchip stuff from multiple sources, a heroine balancing (or failing to balance) her surface and heroic identities, bald-faced lying to preserve a secret ID, and trademark gadgets that get used over and over again (as well as others that only get used once).
Is it cheesy? Sure; it's an HK heroic flick without Hollywood gloss (not that you could tell by the 100% glass&metal villain's lair...and if you think that glass isn't going to get smashed up, you're in for a shock). But a lot of fun. And the acting is good, the characters smart, and the action over the top.
And hey, it's Michelle Yeoh! She can kick higher than her own head!