Dirs: Tony Ching, Siu Tung. Hong Kong. 2002. 92mins.

It has been exactly 10 years since Naked Killer's man-killing vixens attained cult status, a decade in which Hong Kong cinema has seen more than its share of ups and downs, mostly downs. Producer-writer Wong Jing's much-awaited English-language follow-up demonstrates that the great advance in computer-generated special effects has not led to a corresponding leap in creativity. These ladies, naked or otherwise, can fight rings around their predecessors, but the outrageously hilarious tackiness of the earlier opus is somehow lost in this higher-priced sequel. The film performed dismally at the Hong Kong box office, failing to reach US$100,000, less than 10% of Naked Killer's $1.2m gross despite the considerably lower ticket prices of 1992. International prospects seem equally slim.

Although the "Naked Killer sequel" label may gain Naked Weapon an entree to territories where the original did well, inevitable comparisons between the two will lead to poor word of mouth. Hawaii-born Eurasian model Maggie Q possesses looks and personality, but needs a stronger vehicle than this to make an impression on cinemagoers, cult or otherwise.

It is not that Naked Weapon doesn't provide its share of lowbrow titillating frolics, but the perverse merriment of Naked Killer is occasionally replaced with a perversity that is truly perverted, along with a certain awkwardness in its "serious" moments that is more funny-embarrassing than good old fashioned trashy fun.

Naked Weapon's evil mastermind is Madame M (Alman Wong), a voluptuous assassin who abducts 13-year-old girls to turn them into heartless killers. The feminists who delighted in Naked Killer's all-female gang will be dismayed by Madame M's remote isle where hunky men are in charge of drilling the lasses, in more ways than one. The whole idea of mass kidnapping and forcing teenagers to kill their best friends is extremely distasteful and detracts from the fantasy aggression that made Naked Killer a guilty pleasure.

More enjoyable are the ultra-violent exploits of Madame M's most successful disciple, Charlene (Maggie Q), who along with two lesser pupils, Katt (Anya) and Jing (Jewel Lee), uses her considerable assets as an assassin for hire. With Tony Ching, one of Hong Kong's most famous martial arts choreographers, in the director's seat, it's not surprising that Naked Weapon is chock full of explosive mayhem. Alas, after a while the sequences have a numbingly repetitious quality, and the obvious use of CGI detracts from the semblance of reality that made pre-computer action pictures crackle with excitement.

If the kicks, slashes, and blood-letting are more than up to standard (the opening pre-credit scene alone racks up a death count of eight), the same cannot be said for the dramatic portions. Daniel Wu appears ill at ease in the role of Jack, a CIA agent who unwittingly falls for Charlene. A subplot involving Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon's Cheng Pei-pei is handled with far too much gravity. Only Andrew Lien, as a deranged Japanese killer, is allowed to pull out all the stops and display the totally over-the-top quality that might have endowed Naked Weapon with a force so lethal even critics would have been rendered powerless.

Prod co: Jings Production
HK dist:
Media Asia
Int'l sales:
Media Asia
Exec prod:
John Chong
Wong Jing
Choi Sung Fai
Prod des:
Choo Sung Pong
Angie Lam
Chan Kwong Wing
Action chor:
Tony Ching, Siu Tung, Ken Chan
Main cast:
Maggie Q, Anya, Daniel Wu, Jewel Lee, Cheng Pei-pei, Andrew Lien