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  SPL: Kill Zone Battle Of The Century
Year: 2005
Director: Wilson Yip
Stars: Donnie Yen, Simon Yam, Sammo Hung, Wu Jing, Liu Kai Chi, Danny Summer, Ken Chang, Austin Wai, Timmy Hung, Chan Chat Chi, Liang Jingke, Vincent Sze, Kenji Tanigaki, Lau Ching-Lam, Maggie Poon, Yuen Kin Leung, Chris Tsui, So Tung, Au Hin-Wai, Jeff Kam
Genre: Drama, Thriller, Martial ArtsBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 1 vote)
Review: Hong Kong police inspector Chan (Simon Yam) is a man with a massive grudge against influential gangster boss Wong Po (Sammo Hung) thanks to their past dealings which saw Chan nearly secure a conviction against him for murder. However, he was not able to get the charge to stick, mostly because the main witnesses were killed before the trial, leaving Wong Po set free for lack of evidence. Chan has good reason to believe the car crash that saw them off was deliberately staged, mainly because he was in their car when another smashed into them; the sole survivors were himself and the little daughter in the back seat who he adopted as her godfather. Now nothing will stop him putting the dastard behind bars...

Many Hong Kong martial arts movies become celebrated for a particularly strong item of combat, it could just be one sequence alone that makes it essential viewing for decades to come, and so it was with SPL: Kill Zone whose grand finale really got people talking. A lot of that was to do with the manner in which the whole plot was geared to presenting that showdown, one which plenty of fans of this type of film were very keen to see since it featured two legends of the form in a bloody battle for supremacy. Who out of Donnie Yen and Sammo Hung would win when push came to shove? It was the sort of question, like who would win if Bruce Lee fought Jackie Chan, that troubled the minds of aficionados.

Trouble no more, for we had the answer here with a much delayed (both professionally in their careers and narratively in the film) example of the flying fists and feet that assuredly was worth the wait, even if you might have preferred to witness the event back in the nineteen-eighties (as was the original intention). But it was better than nothing, far better in fact, a one on one skirmish that acknowledged the pressure of expectation on both performers and stepped up to the mark to make us feel as if it had been all worthwhile. The rest of it, on the other hand, proved more contentious, as for every Hong Kong fan who loved this from start to finish, there seemed to be a naysayer picking holes in the entire affair.

If you liked to watch martial arts films, heck, if you liked to watch action flicks from anywhere in the world, you had to accept a certain degree of the ridiculous, which might be why you can forgive quite a bit if the pay-off is sufficiently dazzling. But SPL: Kill Zone had a tendency to try and be meaningful in its themes and construction that it did not wholly pull off for a substantial amount of the audience, leaving it's quality more controversial than many of its peers. The point here was that the characters were shaded in moral greys, so when Yen's new police inspector Kwan Ma is set to replace Chan, he finds a section of the investigating forces buckling under corruption, so intent on achieving those arrests are they: willing to fix evidence to that end, something Ma is not willing to do.

As for Wong Po, there's no doubt he has a dark heart, but added to that mix is a sorrow when his wife cannot get pregnant, something they both wish for dearly. The story jumps forward in time to catch up with everyone when Wong Po's wife has indeed provided him with the baby he dotes over, but Chan's days are numbered when he has developed a brain tumour (it doesn't seem to affect his performance any, just gives him occasional nosebleeds), making him more enthusiastic about convicting the man he wishes to be nemesis to. When new evidence on videotape comes his department's way featuring Wong Po beating someone with a golf club, someone who is shot in the head straight after by one of his henchmen, some editing makes it look like the boss was the killer. Precisely why this was not sufficient evidence in its untampered state is best not examined too closely, as much of this was a bit silly in its attempts to explore complex nobility in heroes and villains, the very end notably ludicrous, but if you'd got that far you would probably go with it. Music by Chan Kwong Wing.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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