In a world where a villain tries to rule the world by using a head-mounted device that reads people’s thoughts, a masked hero must arise to answer the call of justice. This hero with the alter ego as a rich bon vivant may need more help this time though. When the villain is employing a squad that includes a bunch of hockey-themed thugs, you are going to need one or two sidekicks.
Shockingly, this isn’t a Joel Schumacher Batman movie. It’s director Jingle Ma’s superhero in a silver trench coat, Silver Hawk. She’s part 90’s American toyetic superhero and part Japanese tokusatsu motorcycle throwback. But since this is Hong Kong… some of the major characters were also trained at a Shaolin Temple.
The most shocking part is that it’s none other than Michelle Yeoh who’s under that ugly mask. This was 2004. Yeoh was something of an international star already. Surely she’s above doing a role that reminds me most of the misbegotten 90’s low-budget TV action show M.A.N.T.I.S.
The movie starts off promising enough with Yeoh (playing the masked hero Silver Hawk, whose alter ego is rich philanthropist Lulu Wong) jumping the Great Wall on a motorcycle to bring some panda poachers to justice. RADICAL! Surely it’s a promise of some over the top comic book craziness and campy adventures, right?
Unfortunately, the rest of the movie does not quite match that initial campy high. It kills me to say it, but this is a movie that could’ve used a healthy dose of that much maligned Schumacher neon. Everything is filmed in sterile whites and grays, and most scenes seem to have been filmed in the same drab Shanghai convention center. And the plot is, more or less, generic technology cautionary tale #264.
Michael Jai White is in the movie, too, but rather than do the logical thing and cast him as the main baddie (which went to the permanently glowering Luke Goss), he’s relegated to the thankless role of silent henchman. Come on, Jingle Ma! You had Black Dynamite! Sadly, most of the fights are nothing spectacular, and White doesn’t look like he’s having much fun… like he just found out his appearance in Kill Bill Vol. 2 got cut or something. White and his fellow henchwoman strike Power Rangers poses and Cirque Du Soliel acrobats drop from the ceiling and flip around as if we were supposed to find that threatening in the least.
However, Yeoh dishing out high kicks while using a motorcycle as a pommel horse? Still pretty magical.
Silver Hawk is a movie that is ripe for MST3K-style riffing. I’m not even sure how much of it is meant to be taken seriously. I wish I knew more about Jingle Ma to make a judgment call here. His wiki entry doesn’t even list Silver Hawk as one of his movies. A man of mystery, he is.
In general, it’s often a little confusing as to what is to be taken tongue in cheek and what is supposed to be consumed soberly when it comes to Hong Kong movies of this era, since they can pivot from one extreme to another rather abruptly. Superintendent Rich Man (seriously), played by Richie Ren, is something of a comedy role. He’s surrounded by giggling female police lieutenants and does a goofy pose that he thinks is super masculine. This is the intentionally humorous part.
He also has spent the entire movie trying to bring Silver Hawk in for her criminal vigilante antics. He also has known Lulu Wong when they were kids at the aforementioned Shaolin temple. (Which he wouldn’t have figured out if she hadn’t tapped him on the nose a certain way like when they were kids.)
In one scene, he’s trying to figure out Silver Hawk’s secret identity. He looks on his screen, and sees Lulu’s photo in front of a magazine cover. He drags and drops a photoshop, available on a Silver Hawk fan site, of Silver Hawk’s jacket onto Lulu’s photo. It fits! Dramatically, he clicks on to the mask, and slowly drags it onto the face… when he has a dramatic, unironic flashback of a mask that he gave to his young friend, Lulu Wong!
Hello Mister Rich Man. You could have figured it out earlier. She gave you all the clues!
The worst part? The villain also figures out Silver Hawk’s secret identity, but only through using a complicated biometric algorithm that hacks into security cameras. Because he apparently didn’t have access to a stack of magazines and a public fan site devoted to his hated enemy. I’m guessing he had to stay on-brand. In a haunting precursor to Terminator Genisys, our villain is trying to control people’s minds through the newest cellphone. Its predictive algorithm means that if can basically read your mind, and … this can also be reverse engineered to control your thoughts somehow. Can Silver Hawk save the day with both criminals and the law hot on her tail?
Silver Hawk is in no way a must-see movie, and apparently it didn’t do so good in its home market, either. It’s predictable, corny, and a little out-of-date compared to other movies coming out of Hong Kong at the time. But, it’s got the great Michelle Yeoh delivering kicks and punches as a superhero. Surely that’s piquing your curiosity.
Silver Hawk is currently available for streaming on Amazon Prime.