Friday, June 11, 2010

Movie Review: Flash Point

Dou Fo Sin

“Flash Point” or “City With No Mercy”

Hong Kong, 2007

Genre: Crime Drama

88 minutes

Donnie Yen returns as a hard-nosed cop, bent on taking down a dangerous gang of Vietnamese smugglers. With his partner undercover within their organization, the ties of friendship and loyalty are tested as the gang hunt down the mole.

Last week we looked at SPL, the first collaboration between director Wilson Yip and action star Donnie Yen. Originally intended to be a spin-off from SPL, Flash Point was later changed to be a stand-alone film due to copyright issues. With much of the same team working on this film, it would be easy to assume that it would live up to its predecessor. However, this is not the case. While the fight choreography and the action sequences definitely surpass the already high bar set by 2005’s SPL, the other elements that made the first film so great were sorely overlooked.

Yen plays a carbon copy of his character from SPL, a by-the-books investigator with unbelievably strong fighting skills. Whereas in the previous film he was an outsider taking over an established team, however, in Flash Point he’s already heading an investigation against a trio of Vietnamese brothers. The villains, like Sammo Hung’s character, also have a tragic backstory, as they try to assert themselves in the criminal underworld, all while taking care of their senile mother. This is where the film begins to fall apart. While acted fairly well in comparison to other fight films, Flash Point’s plot becomes overly complicated in its attempts to give every supporting character some element of tragedy. Contrived and melodramatic, it takes itself far too seriously as it progresses towards the action-packed climax. By the end of the movie, it becomes apparent that the characters are simply fighting for the sake of fighting, having lost any sense of reason or motivation. If this was a simpler film, this would have been fine, but as it was, the ending becomes clichéd and overdrawn.

It must be said, however, that the fights themselves are absolutely fantastic. Yen demonstrates every bit of his athleticism and agility in his action scenes, utilizing an even larger repertoire of martial arts styles than he did in SPL. The final scene between him and Collin Chou is lengthy and impressive, a full eight minutes of hard-hitting, gut-busting, and bone-breaking action. It is and rightly should be hailed as Donnie Yen’s finest choreography to date, using a cinematically beautiful combination of kung fu, kickboxing, and submission grappling. While the film as a whole probably won’t last as an exemplary piece of film-making, Flash Point is still worth picking up just for the chance to see a suplex in a kung fu movie.

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