Guest Column: SPL II: A Time for Consequences (2015) review by AlTeo
Runtime: 120 Mins
Rated: No official MPAA rating yet but definitely an R for strong violence
What To Expect: A worthy martial-arts action film despite some tedious moments.
“SPL II: A Time for Consequences” is a bone-crunchingly satisfying action movie, about what you’d expect for a sequel in-name-only to the 2005 Hong Kong hit “SPL”, which ranks alongside “Flash Point” and the first “Ip Man” among Hong Kong action star Donnie Yen’s and director Wilson Yip’s very best films. The original film was chock-full of well-crafted action sequences including a jaw-dropping final fight between Yen and martial-arts icon Sammo Hung. Yen and Hung do not return for this outing (Yip remained as producer), and the directorial reins were handed over to Cheang Pou-soi, whose last outing was the questionable “The Monkey King”.
The film has its fair share of tedious moments. The film’s plot involves a criss-cross of three subplots: crime lord Hung (Louis Koo) with heart problems runs a black market organ harvesting syndicate hidden in a Thai prison; undercover Hong Kong cop-turned-junkie Chan (Wu Jing) who ends up in said prison while his supervisor tracks him down; and Thai prison guard Chatchai (Tony Jaa) looking for a marrow donor for his sick daughter who gets caught up in the whole fiasco. One can’t deny that the whole plot sounds like another “Infernal Affairs” rip-off (a Hong Kong touchstone that is still imitated to this very day), only a tad more convoluted. But I admire their audacity to have a plot that tries to connect all the action sequences in a proper manner, rather than just showing them off for the sake of it.
Make no mistake though, Cheang handles the film reasonably well, even the tedious moments have a bit of dramatic heft to them. And yet, for all its dramatics, “SPL II” honors the spirit of its predecessor in its action sequences. The action choreography is hard-hitting: fists are flying, bodies are tumbling and you can almost sense the wind rushing around you with how fast these performers are moving. I can’t help but feel though that “The Raid 2” was a major influence in the plot, and even some of the fight sequences, especially a prison fight that is admittedly visually inventive. It’s not as brutally blood-drenched as its Indonesian counterpart, but then again, most movies aren’t. There’s even a nod to John Woo in another action sequence – where the intensity is contrasted with sugary-pop music in the background.
Hong Kong stars Simon Yam and Louis Koo play their respective parts of the HKPD supervisor and the villainous crime lord reasonably well without being distracting, and even Wu Jing manages to give a good performance as a heroic, yet tortured cop on the edge. Wu’s athletic abilities, as well as that of fellow wushu artist Zhang Jin (playing Hung’s doubly villainous henchman/prison warden Ko Chun) are very impressive as they get to exchange blows in a handsomely choreographed manner.
But the star of the show is unmistakenbly Tony Jaa, who is on a roll this year following his supporting turn in the global megahit “Furious 7” and a co-lead in Dolph Lundgren’s overlooked “Skin Trade”. Leaving the abysmal “Ong Bak 3” and “The Protector 2” long behind him, Jaa here is at his element, fisticuffing (and knee-ing, if there is such a term) his way through hordes of enemies like there’s no tomorrow to save his little girl. And, in a rare moment, Chatchai does indeed get hurt badly in moments, giving more reasons to root for Jaa precisely because of his vulnerability. The final fight where he teams up with Chan to take down Ko Chun is about as impressive as the final fight from the first “SPL” film, mainly because of the awesome marraige of both Wushu and Muay Thai sensibilities in the same sequence. It’s not often you get a Hong Kong action film headlined by a Thai superstar/martial-artist, but Jaa provides us plenty of good reasons why he’s top-billed in this one.
This is not better than the first film, nor is it in league with “The Raid” movies or the first “Ip Man”, it has some tedious moments (including all scenes involving a waterproof phone that is nothing but a distracting farce), and the final fight ends somewhat abruptly, but “SPL II” certainly stands head-over-heels above most action movies today, Hollywood included. No doubt it will leave many martial arts/Tony Jaa fans very satisfied, and hungry for more. What say you Mr. Jaa, to go up against Donnie Yen or Iko Uwais in the near future?