SPL (2005)

Posted in Reviews by - May 09, 2016
SPL (2005)

This melodramatic action thriller was a runaway hit in Hong Kong. As Chinese cop movies go, it is more in keeping with the glossy, serious tone of something like Infernal Affairs than a light-footed yarn like Jackie Chan‘s Police Story. Sammo Hung is smartly re-cast as a gangland kingpin with a sharp suit, cigar and ponytail, playing a remorseless crook and family man with a penchant for golf. Simon Yam is the police chief on his case and the front-runner in a quartet of bent cops whose desperate attempts to nail Sammo see them fabricating evidence and disrupting the course of justice. New recruit Donnie Yen is the Serpico in their midst, only more John Travolta than Al Pacino. He struts about in leather jackets and sunglasses, and kicks people in the head with remarkable speed and efficiency. Before confronting the big boss, he must tackle the knife-wielding exploits of wushu bodyguard Jacky Wu – the film’s most electrifying performer – who almost steals the show amid Donnie Yen’s clever MMA-inspired choreography (Yen would go on to win a Golden Horse award for his efforts). Towards the end, Sammo decides to stop sulking and kick some ass, which is when the film’s excitement levels go through the roof. The more reflective scenes are weary only in relation to the awesome set-pieces, which should be enough for viewers to forget the clichés in the story and the incessant violins on the soundtrack. It looks good, too, with refreshing direction from Wilson Yip.

AKA: Commando Final; Kill Zone; Sha Po Lang; SPL: Sha Po Lang.

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Editor and creator of Kung Fu Movie Guide and the host of the Kung Fu Movie Guide Podcast. I live behind a laptop in London, UK.

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