Saturday, July 28, 2007

Flash Point (Dao Huo Xian)

Feel The Pain

In his black leather jacket and oozing plenty of charisma, Donnie Yen's Inspector Ma Jun quite resembled his other character in SPL, which was also directed by Wilson Yip, because at one point Flash Point was supposed to be an SPL sequel. But in any case, the character is slightly tweaked. Early in the movie, Ma Jun tells it straight to the camera that as a cop, his job is to apprehend criminals, and it's as simple as that. And the trailers would have you believe here's a man who's lightning quick with his punches, throws and kicks.

However, you've got to wait until the hour mark for all that. For action junkies, your patience is severely tested, but the wait is well worth every minute you're put on hold. I've caught the trailer at this year's Hong Kong Filmart, and it was one that had action and more action, with nary a line of dialogue. But in the movie, much time is devoted to attempts in building characterization, until the story realizes it better give what the audiences are here for, to see Donnie Yen kick ass.

Having teamed with Wilson Yip in earlier action productions like SPL and Dragon Tiger Gate, Donnie Yen returns as action choreographer for Flash Point, and the cast adopts the fighting style called MMA - Mixed Martial Arts, which is something of a blend of various martial arts techniques, that audiences probably haven't seen before stylistically in close combat scenes. Flash Point boasts some incredible action sequences with explosive hard hitting fight combinations, and the sole complaint I have is I can't get enough of it! What more, as learnt from SPL having real martial arts exponents like Sammo Hung and Wu Jing fighting opposite himself, it made the sequences look more authentic, and the pace at which they can go at each other much more frantic. Collin Chou (Seraph from the Matrix movies) stars as one of the chief baddies, and watching the two awesome gladiators duke it out is nothing short of edge of your seat material - you'll feel their pain!

But as I mentioned, you'll have to be patient during the story's buildup. Writer Szeto Kam Yuen (SPL, Exiled, Dog Bite Dog) weaves in yet another undercover story into Flashpoint, with Louis Koo's Wilson as the mole within a gang of Vietnamese brothers Ja Ge (Ray Lui, in an over the top impersonation of Tony Leung's Big D in Johnny To's Election), Tony (Collin Chou) and Tiger (Xing Yu). A simple romance tale is worked into for Wilson with Fan Bing Bing as love interest Julie, but as expected, action movies seldom have much time devoted for love scenes.

Without a doubt, Ma Jun as a character overshadows them all with his motivations and drive. His temper is as quick as his reflexes, and he doesn't tolerate bullshit from the top brass, which resulted in rather muted (or negligible) action for about three quarters of the movie because his behavior is reined in by order. And there is a scene though which will make you question his excessiveness, and wonder if his doggedness in pursuit and apprehension actually clouds his ethical and moral judgment.

Flash Point is still an awesome action movie when the time came for it to deliver the goods, highlighting that Hong Kong action films still have what it takes to innovate within the genre. Oh, and stay tuned during the end credit roll for scenes of outtakes, which shows plenty of training that the cast had to undergo to perfect their MMA techniques. Sure packs quite a formidable punch in this compact 90 minute movie.

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