Review Date: 4/16/10
Producer: Donnie Yen
Director: Wilson Yip
Action Director: Donnie Yen
Cast: Donnie Yen, Louis Koo, Ngai Sing (Collin Chou), Xing Yu, cameos by Kent Cheng, Ben Lam, Bing Bing Fan
An excellent action film and a natural extension of Wilson Yip's and Donnie Yen's earlier collaboration, "SPL" (2005). Jun Ma (Donnie Yen) is a violent and hot-headed cop (no surprise there), while his partner Hua Shang (Louis Koo) is undercover in a gang of Vietnamese thugs. When Hua's cover is blown, Jun feels responsible and wages a personal war against the gangsters. The climax boils down to a massive gun fight at the gangster's hideout, which then gets distilled into a spectacular hand-to-hand showdown between Donnie Yen and Ngai Sing. Seeing both of these former proteges of Yuen Woo Ping going at each other is a sheer delight, and the movie definitely delivers. These days, it's so common for action stars, and martial arts stars in particular, to cop out during the final reel by using a gimmick instead of the expected fight scene. (Jackie Chan vs. Richard Norton in "Mr. Nice Guy" (1996) immediately comes to mind)
Donnie Yen has a reputation as a martial arts purist and a hard hitting ground-based fighter, and his skills are on full display here. The first thing you notice is that he incorporates a bunch of mixed martial arts techniques, which at first is really unsettling. Seeing Donnie on the ground performing wrestling and grappling moves just doesn't seem right, but it works for the character and within the context of the film. The action scenes are intricate, brutal, and fast paced, but perhaps most importantly, excellently filmed. Donnie understands the language of cinema and knows how to film and edit a fight scene just as well as he knows how to perform one. This is extremely refreshing and always a treat. The film is well made and looks great, but the story is bland and uninteresting. Even the filmmakers concede this point - it's primarily an action film and it's content with being just that. Fortunately, Donnie Yen knows what the audience wants and knows how to give it to them.