Sha Po Lang
SPL or “Kill Zone”
Hong Kong, 2005
Genre: Crime Drama
Donnie Yen stars in this police thriller as a new inspector on the force, taking over a retiring officer’s squad. However, not all is as it seems, as he watches the case against the city’s biggest mob boss start to fall apart.
SPL, or “Kill Zone” in America, is hands down one of my favorite films of all time. Full of underhand deals and mystery, Wilson Yip directs a masterpiece of drama and intrigue. Like a Greek tragedy, the cast of characters all have their own flaws, all of which contribute to their own ends. In addition to Donnie Yen, SPL boasts an all-star cast, including Hong Kong veterans Simon Yam and Sammo Hung, and rising action star Jacky Wu Jing.
Not a typical kung fu movie by any stretch, Yen directs a fantastic series of action sequences throughout the film. The first two acts of the film are without of any real fight scenes, but instead use gun fights and chase sequences. Still, by the end of the film, the final fights are well worth the wait. Exhibiting absolutely stunning choreography in his fights against Wu Jing and Sammo Hung, Yen demonstrates his multiple martial arts influences, drawing from non-traditional movie styles like Judo, Wrestling, and BJJ. Yen even admits on the DVD that a great deal of the choreography was inspired by the UFC.
Action aside, the film is a deep and engaging exploration of the themes of fatherhood and how the lives on both sides of the law affect it. From endearment and adoration to estrangement and indifference, SPL runs the gamut of father-child relationships. Like any good tragedy, the flaws of the human condition are explored and exposed for what they are. The film is absolutely amazing in this regard, full of strong symbolism and powerful performances by the cast. Really, the action is secondary to the merits of the film itself, an added bonus to an already gorgeous piece of cinema.
There are a hundred reasons to go track down this movie, and I can’t think of one why you shouldn’t. With great work in both the acting and the action, a moving story, and beautiful photography, SPL needs to be staple viewing material for any fight film fan. Even five years and stacks of other movies later, I can still say that this is one of the best in the genre and best in the industry. If you can find a copy of SPL at your local video store, it is absolutely imperative that you pick this up and give it a viewing.