Officer Lee Chung Chi (Louis Koo) is a Hong Kong policeman who had to bring up his daughter alone after his wife died, and understandably he feels very protective of her. So when, as she has turned sixteen, she tells him that she's getting married to some loser of a "self-taught" student, and to make matters worse, she is pregnant too, he is barely able to contain his anger, which unintentionally distances the girl from him even further. For that reason, she heads off to Thailand to clear her head, but Lee is concerned when he does not hear from her and contacts the local police there in Pattaya. There's bad news: his daughter has disappeared without a trace...
Officially this was a third entry in the SPL series, otherwise known as Kill Zone in the West, though for motives best known to themselves the distributors chose to distance themselves from those two previous action hits and simply allow this to stand alone under the title Paradox. Fair enough, it did not feature any recurring characters and was a new story with only glancing links to what had gone before, but another reason might have been the others had featured highly impressive martial arts setpieces that had given Hong Kong action fans hope that the glory days were not over and could be recaptured if classic-style combat could be portrayed as they were there.
Alas, while there was solid action here, when it finally arrived that was, there was nothing up to the impressive standard that SPL appreciators would have wanted, largely thanks to director Wilson Yip's insistence on using fast cutting in the fights, much like a Hollywood movie would utilise to cover up the less than adept techniques of their stars. But this was choreographed by Sammo Hung, and Yip had directed the ferocious beat 'em ups of the first entry, so what went wrong? Well, it's not as if the "two or three hits per shot" style completely ruined the experience, there was still enough quality here to make up for the deficiencies, it's just that it disappointed in comparison.
Not helping was that Koo, supposed to be a grief-stricken father driven to violent vengeance, was a rather hollow performer here, and as he was the emotional heart it left a hole in the middle of the film where they were evidently hoping to tug on the heartstrings. It didn't contribute too greatly that the missing girl was rather unsympathetic from what little we saw of her, and perhaps a better excuse to have her jet off to Thailand could have been found that did not involve her behaving so irresponsibly. Not that the irresponsible cannot redeem themselves, but as you would see there was no chance of that for this teenager given what happened to her. In fact, there was something off-kilter about Paradox all the way through, as if it needed more polish at the scripting stage: or even the casting.
Fortunately Tony Jaa was here, back from Kill Zone 2, to liven up proceedings, though again he wasn't rewarded with anything like the opportunity to dazzle here as he had in that previous entry. He played a cop who assists Lee and the detective in charge of the missing persons case, Tsui Kit, who was really the hero and warmly played by Yue Wu (though he did get a pregnant wife to be nice to). They both had their martial arts skills to show off, but Jaa's was naturally the better, even if the same fast-cutting approach afflicted him as well. There were nonetheless decent sequences - saving a child thrown off a building, a battle with cleavers and machetes in a frozen meat plant - but the conspiracy angle was notable in that they had to visit Thailand to play it out, as if the Chinese authorities would not have allowed such a plotline on home soil. Overall, Paradox was simply too doleful in light of its conclusion, it was a serious subject that afflicts Lee to be sure, but looked like an urban myth with this handling. Music by Ken Chan and Chan Kwong Wing.