Review: SPL 2: A TIME FOR CONSEQUENCES 殺破狼2 (2015) | Casey's Movie Mania | Movie Reviews, Features & Others

Sunday, 28 June 2015

Review: SPL 2: A TIME FOR CONSEQUENCES 殺破狼2 (2015)

An ambitious, but heavy-handed follow-up that doesn't exactly recaptures the similar visual and narrative impact of Wilson Yip's first movie of SPL.


Neither a sequel nor prequel that many fans of 2005's SPL might expect in the first place, SPL 2: A TIME FOR CONSEQUENCES is actually a sequel-in-name-only. There are no Donnie Yen or Sammo Hung in sight, while original SPL director Wilson Yip only takes charge as one of the movie's producers. Still, it's hard not to get excited with this follow-up. First of all, it's nice to see Soi Cheang made a welcome return to the gritty-thriller genre after flirting with effect-laden blockbuster in THE MONKEY KING (2014). Another reason is, of course, the impressive cast line-up that features three acclaimed martial-art actors (Tony Jaa, Wu Jing and Zhang Jin) and HK screen veterans such as Simon Yam and Lam Ka-Wah. However, if you're expecting another SPL-like greatness, it's advisable to keep your expectations low for this one.

WHAT IS IT ALL ABOUT?

Kit (Wu Jing) is a Hong Kong undercover cop on the case to bring down the organ-trafficking boss Hung (Louis Koo). Meanwhile, Hung is suffering from a weak heart condition and his only saviour happens to be his own brother, Bill (Jun Kung). In Thailand, prison guard Chai (Tony Jaa) is trying to reach out the matching donor in Hong Kong that can help save his leukemia-stricken daughter, Sa (Unda Kunteera Thordchanng). When Kit ends up in a Thai prison following a botched undercover operation in Hong Kong, his superior and uncle Wah (Simon Yam) decides to handle the situation on his own. Kit and Chai eventually collides, and subsequently assisting each other to bring down the warden, Ko (Zhang Jin), who is apparently involved in a crime syndicate with Hung.

THE GOOD STUFF
 
With the help of screenwriters Leung Lai Yin and Wong Ying as well as editor David Richardson, Soi Cheang did an adequate job stitching numerous characters and various plot devices together in a fairly coherent manner. For a while there, I appreciate the way the entire narrative plays out in an interesting non-linear fashion that goes back and forth between the present and extended flashback sequences. Another praiseworthy scene is the use of translation mobile app during the communication between Wu Jing and Tony Jaa. It was a nice touch to see Cheang being attentive to such minor detail.

Many action fans would have agreed that Wu Jing and Tony Jaa are primarily known for their martial arts skills and physical prowess in the screen. But this is the rare opportunity we get to see them stretching their dramatic range with considerable flair. Wu Jing may have headlined numerous action movies before in the past, such as FATAL CONTACT (2006), LEGENDARY ASSASSIN (2008) and the more recent WOLF WARRIORS (2015), but it was his meaty role here as Kit that is worthy of his leading-man status. As for Tony Jaa, he is equally noteworthy with a surprisingly heartfelt performance as Chai. This is no doubt his most accomplished role to date since his breakthrough debut in ONG-BAK (2003).

As the only female character in this otherwise male-dominated action movie, Unda Kunteera Thordchanng is wonderful as the sick but highly-optimistic Sa, while displaying strong onscreen daughter-and-father chemistry with Tony Jaa. Zhang Jin is coolly charismatic as the sharp-dressed corrupt warden, Ko and Simon Yam does a fine job in his supporting role as the righteous veteran cop, Wah.

MOST MEMORABLE MOMENT(S)

Strangely enough, it wasn't the fight sequence that excites the most but rather the exhilarating shootout scene in the Hong Kong's cruise terminal.

THE BAD STUFF

One of the best things about the first SPL was Donnie Yen's remarkable action choreography that made all the fight scenes such an electrifying cinematic experience. In SPL 2: A TIME FOR CONSEQUENCES, however, the fight choreography is replaced by Li Chung-Chi instead. He may have been a veteran action director who responsible for some of the notable HK action movies such as PROJECT A II (1987), NEW POLICE STORY (2004), ROB-B-HOOD (2006) and INVISIBLE TARGET (2007), his penchant for wire-work is sadly overused in this otherwise gritty action movie. While wire-work is also present in the first SPL, at least Yen knows how to use them sparingly. But Li tends to go overboard here, resulting his main martial arts actors (Wu Jing, Tony Jaa and Zhang Jin) engages in many gravity-defying moves. This is especially evident during their climactic two-against-one fight sequence in Thailand's Lotus Medical Centre. Speaking of this set-piece alone, it was supposed to be the main highlight of the movie but somehow it doesn't have the certain ferocity and edgy quality to make the action scene a standout. Then there's the déjà vu sequence involving the baton vs. knife fight. Instead of Donnie Yen vs. Wu Jing in SPL, it's Wu Jing vs. Zhang Chi. Unfortunately, the particular fight scene isn't close to being memorable at all. Even earlier in the movie, such as the would-be classic scene involving a massive prison riot shot in a single unbroken take, is nothing more than an empty visual gimmick.

Another glaring problem in the action department is the ill-fated use of 3D stereoscopic cinematography. Even though we don't get a 3D version shown in our local cinemas here, you can still witness some of the intentionally-shot sequences, such as the knife spinning in the mid-air so close to the screen. It would have been forgivable if this is intended to be a highly-stylised action genre all along. But since this movie is carrying the SPL brand name, I would expect the fight scenes to be as grounded as possible. Nevertheless, Li's blend of gritty and over-the-top action choreography feels disappointingly inconsistent.

While it's good to see Louis Koo playing a villain role for a change, he fails to make a lasting impression here. And what's with his silly hairstyle, anyway? It looks as if he is modelled after a manga character and would have suited better in a comic-book genre than a movie like SPL 2: A TIME FOR CONSEQUENCES.

The multiple plot threads may have been compelling, but at the same time it also feels bloated with some of the scenes could have been streamlined instead. There are numerous times the pace is sluggish, while the morality play associated with the Chinese title of SPL could have done better without spelling out the obvious. Such in the case is the far-fetched scene involving Sa encounters a (fake-looking) wolf, which is clearly aimed as one of the visual motifs for the title.

FINAL WORDS
 

Following the highly-anticipated but equally disappointing HELIOS earlier this year, it's sad to see another flash-in-the-pan HK action movie that doesn't really justify its massive hype. After a decade of waiting since the first SPL, I was hoping at least a decent follow-up to compensate the glaring absence of Donnie Yen and Sammo Hung. Make no mistake, SPL 2: A TIME FOR CONSEQUENCES does contain a fair share of worthwhile moments here, but as viewing this as an entire movie, it's more of a half-baked effort.

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