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‘SPL 2: A Time for Consequences’ Movie Review – is fantastic

‘SPL 2: A Time for Consequences’ Movie Review – is fantastic

SPL2-Poster

SPL 2: A Time for Consequences
Written by Lai-yin Leung & Ying Wong
Directed by Pou-Soi Cheang
China, 2015

Director Pou-Soi Cheang’s martial arts crime film, SPL 2: A Time for Consequences, is tailor-made to please genre fans. A spiritual successor to SPL: Kill Zone, only Jing Wu returns from the original (cast in a new role). The film also features action movie fan-favorite Tony Jaa, who is riding the wave of a well-deserved career resurgence. SPL 2 is fast-paced martial arts action at its finest, and provides the kind of otherworldly stunts and heart-stopping visuals that will place this film near the top of every genre fans must see list.

The film follows a drug-addicted undercover Hong Kong cop named Kit (Jing Wu). After his cover is blown, Kit gets tossed into a Thai prison which serves as a front for an organ harvesting operation. The warden attempts to leverage Kit in a trade for Bill (Jun Kung), the man whose heart can save the organization’s dying leader Hung (Louis Koo) — Bill also happens to be Hung’s brother. Meanwhile, Chai (Tony Jaa), one of the Thai prison guards, has a daughter named Sa (Unda Kunteera Thordchanng). Sa is dying of leukemia as Chai struggles to find her a matching donor. Unbeknownst to Chai, Kit is the matching donor for his daughter. As Hung’s goons attempt to track down Bill, Chai and Kit team up to take down the organ harvesting operation and save Sa.

Jaa SPL 2 01

To an outsider, the plot synopsis may be as difficult to follow as an Ikea instruction manual. Cheang packs the film with organ traffickers, gangsters, an undercover cop, a twisted prison warden, a CGI wolf, and the most creative escape from a pair of handcuffs one is ever likely to see. Although it seems like a lot to follow, it isn’t. The film just simply works. Chalk it up to the slick direction of director Pou-Soi Cheang and his editor David M. Richardson that the film is coherent and flows wonderfully between action set pieces.

Tony Jaa may receive top billing but it’s Jing Wu that carries this film. Tony Jaa’s martial arts prowess is unquestionable, but his acting talent is lacking. Cheang wisely chooses to let Wu carry the story while leaving the action to Jaa. That’s not to say Wu isn’t a fighter — he kicks all kinds of ass — it’s that Wu possesses a well-rounded action movie skill-set and seamlessly switches between making promises to dying children and delivering fists to criminal’s faces.

SPL 2 is melodramatic, relies on incredible leaps in logic, and contains plot points that don’t make sense. Yet, the film manages to be greater than the sum of its parts. The melodrama works because Cheang masterfully utilizes SPL 2’s insane plot to establish meaningful stakes for each of his set pieces. SPL 2 applies melodrama to rapidly accelerate plot points and make the fights something more than just eye-candy. Cheang walks a very fine line between being cheesy and representing motivations and fighting spirit, but he pulls it off. When Chai and Kit start throwing down, it doesn’t feel like the kind of random fight scenes action movies throw in to pad out the film. The fights in SPL 2 are well integrated into the plot and always feel integral to character’s arcs.

Jaa Jing SPL 2 02

Pairing Pou-Soi Cheang and action director Chung Chi Li with the talents of Tony Jaa and Jing Wu is a recipe for mind-blowing content. Cheang is adept at switching up the visual style of each fight. There are multiple tracking shots during the fight scenes  they present the audience with uninterrupted looks at the meticulous fight choreography. These extended takes are intricate displays of timing and athleticism that occur almost too quickly to be appreciated. During the film’s climactic battle, Cheang sets the final throwdown to an orchestral score (that he had recorded just for the film) and the fighting is an amalgamation of SPL 2’s ferocity and elegance, coming across like a bloodthirsty ballet.

Tony Jaa burst onto the scene with his film Ong Bakbecoming a martial arts phenom who just like his predecessor Jackie Chan, performed all of his own stunts. If there’s a knock against the action in SPL 2 it’s that the fighting is enhanced with CGI. The action is sped up to enable inhumanly quick punches and kicks, and by the end of the film, characters fly through the air Wuxia style, delivering long distance jump-kicks that would make Ken and Ryu proud. The CGI issue will bother martial arts purists, but fans of films such as Kung Fu Hustle or The Matrix will feel right at home.

Jing SPL 2 03

SPL 2: A Time for Consequences is a hard-hitting, furiously paced crime movie extravaganza. Everything from the top-notch fight choreography to the thundering impact of every kick and punch demands to be experienced in a movie theater. SPL 2 is built from the ground up to appease fans of genre cinema, and it’s the perfect film for a Midnight Madness screening.

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