FLASHPOINT is the third collaboration between Wilson Yip and Donnie Yen. This is the prequel to the highly successful "SPL: Sha Po Lang" (a.k.a. Killzone, U.S. title). Directed by Wilson Yip with fight choreography directed by Donnie Yen, "FLASHPOINT" looks very promising. How does it compare with one of my favorite action films of 2005, "SPL"?
Synopsis partially derived from the DELTAMAC dvd back cover:
Pre-1997, a hero's story. The timeline is just before Hong Kong was turned back over to China. Police Inspector Jun Ma (Donnie Yen), Serious Crimes Unit. Inspector Ma is fast, precise and brutal - Ma is all-business, his superiors often doesn't agree with his methods. Ma detests crime and his life long nemeses are a Vietnamese gang of three brothers - eldest brother Archer, the bully; second brother Tony (Collin Chou), the cool calculator; youngest brother Tiger (Xing Xu), the fighter. Their skills have seen them grow steadily in the criminal world. In order to further infiltrate the gang and fight them from within, Ma has planted a mole, Wilson ( Louis Koo), who has managed to gain the complete trust of the gang and has become their personal bodyguard. Over the years Wilson has become more and more unhappy with Ma's impulsive and unruly style, their disagreements in their way of working has led to constant arguments and altercations.
Unlike Yip and Yen's other 2 collaborations, SPL and Dragon Tiger Gate, "Flash Point" is all business. It is a straight-forward action film, losing all excess "meat" like intricate storytelling and character development. Donnie Yen once again reprises his role as Inspector Ma, the film is made for Donnie Yen fans--it is all Donnie!! If you're an action fan, then this film will satisfy. The result is "more style than substance". At least, it is not pretentious to resort to canned melodrama, it doesn't attempt to impress with complex emotions and doesn't do anything fancy. It isn't a perfect film, it has a very simple motive: to entertain us with "popcorn" action entertainment.
One fault that the film may have is that the villains; Tony and Tiger are skilled martial artists in real life but they are pretty much one-dimensional villains with the usual stereotype. Although Tony (Collin Chou, Matrix Reloaded) is shown as a skilled fighter, his character is a bit uninteresting. Another is that the police force is so inept in protecting witnesses. It seemed so unreal that Wilson's girlfriend (Beautiful Fan Bing-Bing) would be so unprotected. Also, what is up with movies portraying cops as lacking in common sense? Sometimes, it really bothers me that movies nowadays, cops are being portrayed to be so untrained in dealing with dangerous situations just so the screenplay can get to where it wants to go. The plotline in Flashpoint is unimaginative and pretty routine. The plot is so stripped down that "simple" is an understatement.
Thankfully, to the film's credit, the film does deliver in the action sequences. Yen is his usual "COOL-over-acting" self. Yen is an actor who likes to show off and his acting abilities may oftentimes be lacking, Donnie Yen is still being Donnie Yen with his bit of over-acting. He eats up the screen with the film's final fight finale, Yen is intense and enraged, righteously focused and skillful in the encounter and most of all: Fonzie-cool. The Martial Arts fight is very well done, and stays within the realm of Inspector Ma's character in SPL. Yen uses the usual mixed martial arts style of Boxing, furious kicks and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. The fights are fast-paced and visually stunning, it certainly entertains with maximum impact. As with SPL, the fights are filled with intensity that you could almost feel every bone-breaking hit (and misses). Collin Chou is to be credited that his caliber as a martial artist makes him a worthy opponent. Like him or not, Donnie Yen does have the presence of an intense, highly skilled fighter, he is quite convincing as a butt-kicking action hero. He is ultra-cool in the final fight finale, which in my observation, sometimes Donnie Yen tends to make to much effort in looking cool.
Action fans will definitely embrace "FLASHPOINT". It is far from perfect, but with its "pure" screen action sequences, it does entertain and is never boring. Sometimes, viewers just want action and the fight sequences on display is hard-hitting and tough enough to satisfy those fans. The plot is hollow and a bit sloppy; "FLASHPOINT" will definitely NOT unseat "SPL: Sha Po Lang" as the BEST Wilson Yip-Donnie Yen collaboration. With its truly unforgettable Yen-Wu Jing alleyway duel/Sammo Hung-Yen final fight, SPL outshines everything `Flashpoint" has to offer. As an action film, Flash Point is a satisfying enough diversion. This prequel could have been so much better, but thankfully, it is not much, much worse.
RECOMMENDED! For action fanatics...[4 stars]
Note: The Dragon Dynasty release will feature an English dubbed track. Hopefully it will also carry the fantastic 6.1 DTS-ES Cantonese Language track.