Has Kill Zone 2 Already Nabbed the Title of Year’s Best Action Film?
A healthy dose of contrivance, a whole lot of beautiful ass-kicking.
SPL 2: A Time for Consequences, or Kill Zone 2 if you’re nasty and prefer the American title, shares nothing more than a title with Wilson Yip’s 2005 modern classic starring Donnie Yen and Sammo Hung. Well that’s not entirely true – Wu Jing and Simon Yam are in both films too, but they’re playing different characters, and the two films’ plots feature completely unrelated stories.
So why call it a sequel if it’s not a sequel? Who knows, who cares, but it probably had something to do with financing/distribution. The only thing that matters here is if Soi Cheang’s unrelated follow-up is worth your time, and happily the answer for action junkies is a hell yes.
The plot is a convoluted and contrived tale of fate and purpose that begins with Kit (Wu), an undercover Hong Kong cop with a drug habit, who sees his cover blown resulting in his abduction. He awakes in a Bangkok prison that serves as home base for the organ harvesting operation he was investigating at the mercy of both the crime boss (Louis Koo) and the impeccably-dressed warden (Zhang Jin). One of the prison guards, ChatChai (Tony Jaa), is a good man with a dying daughter desperately in need of a bone marrow transplant, and he finds himself at something of a moral crossroads. He’s paid extra to turn a blind eye to certain illicit activities, but when he’s asked to cross a certain line he responds with integrity, honor, and a flying knee/elbow combo.
The story moves fast and frequently between Hong Kong and Bangkok with multiple languages being spoken and fighting styles being unleashed, and the film does a fantastic job of balancing the drama and the action. The former dips repeatedly into melodrama with little Sa’s illness and Kit’s concerned uncle (Yam) finding themselves at the center of the anguish and overly wrought emotion. It could easily overstay its welcome, but the sappiness is allowed only enough time to hook our attention before gears shift and the next beautifully-orchestrated and choreographed fight scene makes love to our eyeballs.
Cheang (Accident, Motorway) gives us multiple set-pieces ranging from one on one fights to large-scale brawls, and each of them feature an abundance of rapid-fire kicks/punches, high-flying hits, and blistering brutality. A prison riot free-for-all is one of many highlights with its digitally-assisted single take moving us above, below, and through the action. All three leads – Wu, Jaa, Zhang – get several opportunities to showcase their fighting skills against random enemies and each other, and none of them fail to impress. There’s some wire work here, mostly used by Zhang, but it’s kept to a minimum and actually adds to the warden’s stylish precision.
As mentioned earlier, the script is an exercise in contrivance, coincidence, and convolution, but the film’s never really confusing despite all of that. Still, the various turns and revelations are guaranteed to furrow brows and shake heads. Hopefully they’ll also bring a smile to your face though as you just accept the indestructible cell phone, emoji whisperer, and curiously heightened criminal types as necessary elements in support of one of 2016’s most thrilling action films.
Call it Kill Zone 2. Call it SPL 2. Just be sure to call it the next action movie you see.