Review: SPL 殺破狼 (2005) | Casey's Movie Mania | Movie Reviews, Features & Others

Tuesday, 27 April 2010

Review: SPL 殺破狼 (2005)

Review: SPL 殺破狼 (2005)

The Chinese literal title Sha Po Lang is actually refers to the three Chinese astrological symbols Qi Sha (killing), Po Jun (obliteration) and Tan Lang (avarice), which serves the purpose that involves two feuding cops, Inspector Ma Kwan (Donnie Yen) and Senior Inspector Chan Kwok Chung (Simon Yam) and their bad-guy nemesis Wong Po (Sammo Hung). The movie begins with a prologue in 1994, where Chan involves in a violent car crash that caused the life of a key criminal witness and his wife. The victimised couple's young daughter survived, and Chan now takes care of her. Unfortunately, the culprit behind the car crash, Wong Po gets away scot-free because Chan doesn't possess enough solid evidence to bring him down. Three years later in 1997, Wong Po is still looming large as a triad kingpin that he seems untouchable and now he's even has a baby son. Chan, in the meantime, still holds the grudge against Po after these years and determined to do anything in his power to stop him for good. But Chan's days are numbered, particularly he's been diagnosed with cancer and about to retire from the police force. Still, Chan's three loyal subordinates, Lok Kwun-Wah (Liu Kai-Chi), Kwok Tsz-Sum (Danny Summer) and Lee Wai Lok (Ken Chang) are willing to help him anywhere they can to nab Po and his gang. Then come Inspector Ma Kwan, a by-the-book cop who assigned to take over Chan's unit, realizes Chan and his men are about to go above the  on handling the case, but soon comes to realize he must set the working indifference aside and join forces to bring down Po and his gang once and for all. 


REVIEW: If there's any indication that the current crops of Hong Kong action movies hardly project the glory heydays like they used to be, fret not because SPL (a.k.a. Sha Po Lang) is a stylish, yet refreshing '80s throwback to the days of gritty, hardcore Hong Kong action genre with a dose of dark contemporary undertones. Mixing brawny, beat-to-the-pulp action mayhem and grim noir in the vein of INFERNAL AFFAIRS (2002), the movie isn't exactly new by any marginal sense but for what it's worth, it's easily the best Hong Kong action movies in a long while. 

The script, written by Wilson Yip, Szeto Kam-Yuen and Ng Wai-Lun is seemingly straight out from any gritty Johnnie To-directed police thriller, but it works well because the story is perfectly grounded to make the entire situations all the more involving.

Wilson Yip's direction, in the meantime, is well-calculated that he balances his movie with a nugget of interesting, often thought-provoking characters development. The all-star cast is very committed to their roles given, with a tanned and perfectly-sculpted Donnie Yen gives a ferocious, physical performance as the classic lean good guy with a straight-arrow attitude while Simon Yam brings a world-weariness, seen-it-all exterior with equal impact. Sammo Hung, in his first bad-guy turn, may have been an over-the-top villain but he does possess a certain aura of raw edginess and no-nonsense persona to make his character all the more colourful and appropriately nasty. The rest, including the ever-reliable Liu Kai-Chi and Danny Summer, rounds up the cast with added zest of quality acting. 

While the movie has been widely circulated across the Internet radar as the Hong Kong action film to watch for, it's not really as entirely fulfilling as it originally touted to be. Don't get me wrong, it's only the fact that you have to wait until some 50-minutes mark to watch all the full-blown action. Once there, it's a total knockout that satisfies any action fans: Served as the action director himself, Yen has successfully choreographed some of the most intense, no-frills martial art fighting sequences ever graced the screen in a long while. That includes the memorable brutal alleyway knife vs. baton face-off between he and the Wushu champion, Wu Jing, who plays Wong Po's tough guy named Jet, and the final classic showdown between he and Sammo Hung, are more than enough for worth the price of admission alone. 

Blessed with a Cat-III rating to give the movie enough freedom of hardcore violence, what more can you ask for?

Thanks to Donnie Yen's hard-hitting action choreography and Wilson Yip's thought-provoking direction, SPL is a refreshing throwback to the gritty Hong Kong action movie of the yesteryear.

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