Title: Flash Point
Director: Wilson Yip
Staring: Donnie Yen, Louis Koo, Collin Chou, Lui Leung-Wai, Fan Bingbing, Ray Lui, Xing Yu, Ben Lam
Plot: Set in pre-1997, Ma Jun (Yen) a cop known for beating up suspects during arrests, teams with Wilson (Koo) an undercover cop, to try to bring down three merciless Vietnamese brothers running a smuggling ring in the months before the mainland's takeover of Hong Kong. The eldest, Archer (Lui) is arrested in an operation that exposes Wilson and almost gets him killed and setting Ma Jun on course for revenge.
Review: Ever since I saw “Once Upon A Time In China: Part 2” I’ve been a big fan of Donnie Yen, especially with the climatic showdown in that particular film being easily one of my favorite all time fights and one which we would have to wait a further ten years to see the rematch in Zhang Yimou’s beautifully shot “Hero”. Needless to say Yen has gone on to make some fantastic films including my personal favorite “Iron Monkey”, yet for one reason or another it feels that it is only really now that he is truly being recognised for the highly skilled martial artist that he is.
The third film to be made with director Yip, who’d previously worked with Yen on “Kill Zone” (which this film is a prequel of sorts to) and “Dragon Tiger Gate” and it's a powerful combination that the two men form with this success together later leading them to working together on IP Man 1 & 2. With Yip directing the main meat of the film, while he entrusting the fight choreography to Yen, who uses the film essentially as a further showcase for his love of MMA, which here he integrates with his more traditional and trademark wushu and taekwondo style to devastating effect and unsurprisingly it would lead to Yen winning “Best Action Choreography” at both the Hong Kong and Golden Horse Film Awards.
Yen meanwhile ensures that the film is kept as fast paced as possible, even if he does tease out the main fight scenes until well after the halfway mark, which makes “Flash Point” for me is similar in many ways to the Bruce Lee classic “The Big Boss” in that Yen is forced to promise that he won’t beat up anymore suspects following numerous complaints regarding his heavy handed tactics, an echo almost back to Lee’s character making a similar promise to his mother and hence like that film, it does actually take a fair bit of time before Yen gets to actually fight anyone and even then it’s only really after his undercover partner is hospitalised, following his cover being blown that Yen is allowed off the leash.
These fight sequences are nothing short of brutal with the potent style which Yen has crafted here by combining fighting styles, not only looking spectacular on screen, but frequently leaves you asking how they actually achieved some of the footage seen here. With Yen having the control he does over the fight choreography he also ensures that the maximum effect is felt with each of these scenes, with each shot carefully planned out while also clearly not working to any kind of time limit, especially with the final showdown clocking in around twenty minutes starting with John Woo style gunplay, before quickly evolving into a full blown smack down as Yen and Chou engage in a round of Kung Fu one-upmanship. Needless with Yen calling the shots for these scenes, it also makes it easier for him to portray himself as the all conquering badass.
Plot wise this film may seem alittle plodding, especially for those of you who like your Kung Fu movies more fast and furious, especially with the fight scenes appearing in the later part of the film. The first half is played out more like a crime thriller, until Ma Jun sets out on his path of vengeance and generally kicking a lot of ass. Still this first half does also have perhaps the most original assignation attempt ever, with the use of an explosives packed chicken! This first half also highlights a lot of the films weakness such as the simple storyline and lack of form of complex characterisation, especially with the badguys who are undoubtedly scumbags from the start, while the police are hindered by continual stupidity amongst the ranks which see’s witness being provided zero protection and leaving them easy pickings for the badguys, even Wilson’s girlfriend (Bingbing) is easily kidnapped in a plot device used more for a setup for the finale, rather than anything which makes logical plotting.
Despite such weak plotting, the short run time of 84 minutes means that it’s a minor complaint, especially as when you start questioning it, Yen kicks the film up a gear by exploding into action, while Chou proves a more than capable challenger especially after being one of the best parts of “The Matrix Reloaded / Revolutions” were he appeared as the white trench coat clad Seraph. Meanwhile the rest of the cast are all likable enough with Koo providing strong support as the Wilson, whose constant fear of being discovered as an undercover copy is well played throughout with the lead up to his exposure as a cop played with nerve shredding suspense.
It might not be perfect in many ways, but the sheer strength of the fight scenes on offer here, make it easy to overlook a lot of the flaws, especially as Yen continues to showcase exactly why he is one of the best martial artists currently working today. Needless to say it’s cinematic junk food for action / kung fu fans so just make sure to leave your brain at the door.