Friday, 9 November 2007

Flash Point


Directed by: Wilson Yip
Screenplay: Kam-Yuen Szeto
Starring: Donnie Yen, Louis Koo and Colin Chou.

Before I get into how (and for the lack of a better phrase) awesome this film really is, lets get the facts out of the way. Much like its star, Flash Point (formerly City Without Mercy) is lean, mean and muscular. Clocking in at just under 90 mins, Flash Point is trimmed of all fat to deliver one of the best action-thrillers of the year, or any year. Re-teaming with director Wilson Yip (after SPL and Dragon Tiger Gate), Donnie Yen once again shows why he his is one of the best actors/choreographers/fighters working in modern day action cinema with a film that rarely lets ups for breath.

Yen plays Inspector Ma (his character from SPL) a hot shot cop who will go to any lengths to catch the bad guy. Known for his no bullshit attitude and impressive fighting skills he is the accumulation of every tough movie cop rolled into one. His partner Wilson (Louis Koo) is deep undercover within a criminal organization run by three brothers, the leader being the fierce and sadistic, Tony (Colin Chou). Ma and Wilson are about to make their move to bust the gang, when Wilson’s cover is blown and he is left nearly paralyzed by Tony and his gang. However, the cops manage to capture one of the brothers and put him behind bars. Three months pass and Ma and Wilson’s partnership is on the edge while Wilson recovers from his injuries. Tony resurfaces wanting revenge and to get his brother out of jail. Striking at the cops, he forces Wilson into a corner which leads to the release of Tony’s brother. However, Tony wants the cops dead and several attempts are made on theirs lives, with Wilson’s girlfriend being brought into the mix. Fearing for their lives, Ma decides to take action for himself. Donnie Yen then proceeds to go ape shit on everybody.

Having enjoyed both SPL and DTG, I was very much looking forward to this flick and despite all the hype surrounding it, I was not disappointed. SPL was one of the best modern Hong Kong action films to come out in recent years. When news broke that Yip and Yen were going to make an unofficial sequel/prequel featuring Yen’s character from SPL, expectations were high. And expectations were well and truly met. This, as mentioned, is a lean, mean thriller that does exactly what it says on the tin. Characters are drawn out and set up against each other, all leading to the action packed, knuckle dusting final half hour. Flash Point is not a twisty turny thriller all about honour and the intricacies of police loyalty and criminal brotherhood. This film is about characters forced into an explosive situation where momentum is the name of the game, always keeping the viewer on their toes as to who will erupt into action first. And the film is all the better for it, for keeping things simple and giving us the best action finale in some time. The cast perform well, fleshing out their roles just enough to make us care for them. Yen is his usual dynamic self, all action and brawn. Koo (Election) provides the brain to Yen’s brawn and holds his own as his character is continually put through abuse. Yet, once again it is the villain of the piece that steals the film. Colin Chou (Matrix 2 & 3) turns what is essentially an undeveloped role into a tour de force of menace and intensity. His stare is enough to break any grown man down and he holds his own in the action department as well.

Now the action really is something to sing about. Building on what they created in SPL, Yip and Yen send Flash Point into overdrive come the final half hour. From Yen running down an assassin, to the extended gunfight/chase, to the Yen vs. Chou showdown, the action is top notch. Chou and Yen are at the top of their games going toe to toe in a fight that combines brutality, speed and some fancy kicking into one satisfying whole. It really is that good and matches the Yen vs. Wu Jing face-off in SPL. Some have complained you have to wait almost an hour to get to the action but it really isn’t a problem and doesn’t hamper the film in anyway. The momentum built in the first hour leads to the action and without it the payoff wouldn’t be as sweet. Plus it gives time for the story to play out and the characters to be built before the action soaks the screen. Anyways the first hour still features a couple of scuffles, several assassination attempts, the bust going wrong, Koo beating the shit out of a suspect and the lovely Fan Binging as Koo’s girlfriend. So really, no that slow.

While praise should be sung for Yen and his choreography, credit must also be given to director, Yip. His directional style is very much evident in the film (no matter how much Yen dominates) and contributes to the success of the flick as much as anything else. As mentioned, the pace is lightening quick, the camerawork fluid, and the tone a little more grittier than the polished look of SPL and DTG. This all works in favour of the film as do the few comedic moments (a nice touch) and the rousing musical score. The music pushes the momentum and really contributes to the success of the picture. An original score that never seems overbearing it just goes to show you don’t need bombastic scores or crappy pseudo rock songs to drive the action.

Ok, I’ve gone on long enough about how great Flash Point is. All that’s left to say is: just see it whenever you get the chance. Non Donnie Yen fans may find his overbearing presence and posing off putting but for the rest of us (especially us who like action flicks) Flash Point is about as good as it gets. Up there with The Bourne Ultimatum, Contour, Die Hard 4, Broken Path and Invisible Target as one of the best action flicks of 2007. See it.

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