Directed by Wilson Yip
Action Directed by Donnie Yen
Written by Szeto Kam-Yuen
Starring Donnie Yen, Louis Koo, Collin Chou, Ray Lui, Kent Cheng, Fan Bing Bing
Distributed by Dragon Dynasty
Release date: April 22, 2008
Undercover officer Wilson is in deep with a trio of vicious Vietnamese gangsters who work out of Hong Kong smuggling drugs across the sea. Wilson’s partner, Ma (Donnie Yen), is a tough-as-nails cop who doesn’t hesitate to pick a fight when it comes time to bringing down the criminals. When the final bust goes down, Wilson’s identity is discovered, and he is soon targeted for assassination so that he cannot testify. When he survives the attack, Wilson’s girlfriend is kidnapped and held as ransom so that he won’t testify. Wilson buckles to their demands, and the case is thrown out due to lack evidence. But Ma isn’t going to let them walk away so easily and heads out into the streets knowing that one way or another justice will prevail!
Director Wilson Yip once again reunites with Donnie Yen and Louis Koo for another dish of crime drama and frenzied street fighting, and brings along master martial artist Collin Chou to match Yen’s bone-crunching skills. Yip, who has been pumping out a variety of genre pictures in Hong Kong since the mid-’90s, creates another successful notch on his belt with a film Hong Kong enthusiasts can get behind. Much like 2005’s Sha Po Lang (aka Killzone), he pours on the grime and grit from the alleys that are best avoided after dark, and digs in deep with righteous themes and heroism that are the life source for Hong Kong cop movies.
Setting the film in 1996, just before the Hong Kong handover from Great Britain to China, writer Szeto Kam-Yuen (whose work includes the recent work like Exiled and masterpiece Expect The Unexpected) tries to tap into the mindset of those who were watching these kinds of brutal cop versus criminal outings at the time. Aside from the opening title setting the date, there is nothing in the film that revolves around the handover, and should be taken as a nod to those who remember the truly great films being churned out at the time. Szeto creates a basic plot that is not wholly original, but does work wonders with overriding themes that he has mulled over time and time again.
The story spends the first hour building up a back and forth tension between rival triads, with the cops stuck in the middle as they try to bring down both gangs. Here Louis Koo, as undercover cop Wilson, gives a neurotic performance as he falls deeper into a situation he cannot contain, while Ma takes a backseat and waits to be let loose. Szeto’s script does a lot with a little as he breathes life into secondary characters, including a much appreciated Kent Cheng as Inspector Wong, and creates relationships that pay off later on.
But when that hour mark starts creeping up, and the criminal case is dismissed, all hell breaks loose. While the first hour is pockmarked with a few scattered fights, the final third of the movie is nothing but one action sequence after another. This is where Donnie Yen’s rage is fully unleashed, as he takes on the entire Vietnamese gang by himself. But standing squarely against him is Collin Chou (international audiences will recognize him as Seraph from The Matrix sequels). This intense action sequence begins with a standoff using automatic weapons that help to rid the cast of unwanted extras and splatters the camera lens with blood. But when the bullets run out, Yen and Chou lock into a bone-crunching and devastating hand-to-hand brawl that features some of these martial artists’ most brutal fight choreography caught on film.
Once again tapping into the ether of an almost bygone era, which the 1996 story setting hopes to give one last hurrah to, are the stunt team performances throughout the film, which include death-defying, split-second timing work where one false move could mean the end. While some wires and harnesses are used to provide some safety, there is no way to soften the fall from a tree onto a car roof head first or a suplex onto concrete. While paying homage to the great stunt work of years gone by, Yip seems quite determined to bring back the power and respect that comes with the label “Hong Kong action,” and if this newly turned leaf continues to include films like Flash Point, that label will be coming back in a very big way.
Dragon Dynasty continues their streak of bringing modern Hong Kong action to U.S. shores with this two-disc Ultimate Edition release. The film is presented in its original widescreen format, and includes the original Cantonese soundtrack in both Dolby Digital 5.1 and DTS, as well as an English dub. English and Spanish subtitles are also included. As always, Hong Kong cinema expert Bey Logan is on hand for another information-drenched audio commentary, but this time around he is joined by Donnie Yen.
The second disc is absolutely crammed with extras galore! First up are three behind-the-scenes featurettes which include interviews with the principal cast and crew, making of footage, and training sequences. From there it is on to a promotional gallery, which includes an exclusive interview with Donnie Yen, premiere footage, and trailers for the film. A deleted scenes gallery includes three brief snippets that would have build up character development and appears to have been cut for pacing reasons. Finishing off the disc is a fun presentation of the Mixed Martial Arts seen in Flash Point, with host Kea Wong (Jubilee in the X-Men sequels) trying to learn how to execute the moves.