While recent Chinese and HK action films are going through an early 90s revival, some film like to travel back even a little further. Coweb is not unlike HK action films coming from the late 80s, updated to match modern standards. Whether you believe this is a welcome genre reconnaissance or a boring retelling of times past is entirely up to you.
Coweb might be Xiong's first directorial effort, he's not exactly new to the film scene. For years he dabbled in acting and stunt coordination in some of HK's most prolific action films and built quite a name for himself. For Coweb he called on Jiang Lui Xia, a fresh martial arts talent discovered by a Jacky Chan hosted reality show and on her way to revive the female ass-kicking in action films. This makes Coweb a good companion piece to Pinkaew's Chocolate.
If you want a good storyline Coweb is not your film. The setup is cheap and doesn't even try to engage the audience. All it does it build up an excuse for several bouts of martial arts battles to be fought. The "big twist" can be guessed after a good 10 minutes into the film and the filler in between the bouts is a complete bore. Add some shabby acting performances in supporting roles and you might wonder why I even bothered reviewing this one.
Coweb is a film which caters to a pretty specific audience. It doesn't bother with many a thing people look for in a good film. The core of Coweb is the sequence of fighting bouts and luckily that's where it excels. The fights are spread evenly throughout the film (a point where the film differs from those late 80s HK films, which often kept the interesting bits strictly for the finale) making the filler less of an issue as it never takes very long before arms and legs start flying again.
It's obvious that Coweb wasn't a very expensive film to make, that said it does try to liven things up a bit from time to time. Visually it's not exactly bad but during the filler parts it does get a little boring. The fight scenes are excellent though, with smart editing and some great angles showing some unexpected limbs flying by in many of the fights.
The music in the film is pretty dull, the sound effects on the other hand make for a pretty cool experience. Similarly to Dog Bite Dog they are a little distorted, bolder and almost symbolic (featuring some funky animal noises) to spice up the fights. I understand people not liking this but I appreciate the effect, ultimately making the fights more fun to watch. And it's not as if these kind of films are any serious to begin with.
Jiang impresses as leading fighter, with some cool moves, great speed and a pretty mean look. The action choreography isn't too original but thrilling nonetheless. A nice variety of styles and fighters, great locations and very good use of the surroundings to liven up the fights. Together with the poignant cinematography it creates more than enough pleasure for actions fans to rejoice.
Coweb is little more than an excuse to show some nicely choreographed fights and that's what it delivers. All the rest is filler and is handled accordingly. If you're not a true genre fan there is enough irritation material around, but if you're looking for some great and fun fight sequences, here's your chance.
Try the trailer for a preview of the action.