Director Wilson Yip brings us the third instalment in the hard-hitting series of films that started with Donnie Yen’s Sha Po Lang, also known as “SPL” or “Kill Zone”. Starring Hong Kong superstar Louis Koo, featuring Thai action legend Tony Jaa, while Sammo Hung choreographs the ensuing mayhem.
Hong Kong star Louis Koo goes bad-ass “Taken” style, as “Lee Chung-chi”, a father asking tough questions in the search for his missing daughter. Koo has forged an impressive career in an eclectic collection of roles ranging from Johnny To’s “Election” and “Drug War”, through to thrillers such as “Connected”, “Overheard” and “The White Storm”, the “All’s Well That Ends Well” comedy series, and of course, supporting roles in the martial arts films “Call of Heroes”, “Flash Point”, “Rob-B-Hood”, and SPL 2: A Time for Consequences”.
Gordon Lam Ka-tung plays “Cheng Hon-sau”, the conniving assistant who pulls various strings to ensure the Mayor’s election and survival. Lam will be familiar to fans of Hong Kong blockbusters for his roles in “Gen-X Cops”, “Ip Man”, “Infernal Affairs”, “Election”, “Cold War” and “The Brink”.
Chinese actor Wu Yue plays “Chui Kit”, a Chinese detective who helps Lee investigate the disappearance of his daughter. Wu is best known for his roles in Chinese television series, especially as the hero Chen Zhen in “Huo Yuanjia” and “Jingwu Yingxiong Chen Zhen“. He has also played supporting roles in “Little Big Soldier“, “Bruce Lee, My Brother”, “Police Story 2013: Lockdown” and “The Brink”.
Hong Kong-based martial arts instructor Chris Collins plays thuggish gangster “Sacha”, who is involved in the plot to save the Mayor. He has previously appeared in Benny Chan’s explosive action thriller “Gen-X Cops”.
Thai action superstar, Tony Jaa appear as “Tak”, a tough cop who joins Chui Kit in the investigation. Jaa needs no introduction to action fans with his blockbusting roles in films such as “Ong Bak”, “The Warrior King” aka “Tom Yum Goong”, “Skin Trade”, “SPL 2: A Time for Consequences”, and even Hollywood fare such as “Fast and Furious 7” and “xXx: Return of Xander Cage”.
Veteran Hong Kong action star Ken Lo appears as “Ban”, a Thai cop of dubious morals. A former bodyguard to Jackie Chan, Lo has appeared in dozens of hit Hong Kong action films including Drunken Master 2”, “Fatal Contact”, “Operation Mekong”, “Police Story 3: Supercop”, “Miracles”, “The Myth”, and many, many more.
Lee Chung-chi is a tough Hong Kong Police Negotiator. He becomes estranged from his 16-year-old daughter Lee Wing-chi when she reveals her pregnancy, and Chung-chi has her boyfriend arrested. Unhappy in Hong Kong, Wing-chi visits her friend Jenny in Thailand, but is apparently kidnapped in Pattaya. Distraught, her father flies out immediately, where he receives assistance from local Chinese detective Chui Kit and his Thai colleague Tak. The tough and diligent Tak frequently experiences premonitions that do not bode well for the trio.
Their investigation quickly finds them embroiled in political corruption and organ trafficking that puts all their lives at risk. Lee must step over the line of the law, resorting to drastic and brutal measures to bring a deadly criminal gang to its knees, and find his daughter.
The film takes its time to establish several plot strands before we get to any decent action. Apart from a brief three-move introduction to Tony Jaa’s character, we are well into the film before Koo and Wu fight a suspect in a pool hall, and chase him through the bars and streets of Bangkok. The sequence is fast-moving and exciting, featuring some breath-taking stunt work. Louis Koo is not Donnie Yen, so there is no high-kicking MMA style fighting from him. However, much like Liam Neeson in “Taken”, he is very convincing as the concerned father and is more than adequate in the hand-to-hand fight choreography.
Wu Yue has a great action sequence as he fights off two suspects in the confines of a small apartment. All the techniques are performed swiftly but clearly, as he redirects his opponent’s discharging pistol at the same time as delivering his own blows. It will come as little surprise to action fans that a major highlight of the movie is Tony Jaa’s showpiece fight scene. His high octane mix of authentic Muay Thai skills, showy acrobatics and bone crunching strikes, once again illustrate why he is one of the most exciting martial arts stars of the current generation.
Making of the Action Scenes with Sammo Hung
For the finalé Koo bulldozes his way through a seemingly never ending stream of thugs. The showy techniques are left to the stunt performers as they are flipped to the floor or bounce off the various hard steel surfaces of an abattoir. The brutality and tension is heightened even further with the introduction of blades and meat hooks into the action.
Even after nearly half a century in the business, Sammo Hung can still bring new and exciting fight choreography to the screen. More importantly though, he makes Louis Koo look convincing as a tough, no-nonsense fighter.
Although the “SPL” prefix was added to this movie as an afterthought, it certainly explores some dark themes along with the nature of karma, fate and consequence, much like its predecessors.
As he has demonstrated in much of his previous work, Wilson Yip is among the best directors of commercial films to come out of Hong Kong. His work is invariably well-lit and stylishly shot, without compromising the action sequences. Whereas the first two movies had bona fide martial artists in Donnie Yen and Wu Jing to head up the exemplary action, here actor Louis Koo is given a more practical style of hand-to-hand combat to work with. There are some quick edits and tight frames when Koo is fighting, but I am guessing this is to allow him to perform as much of the fighting himself as possible, which he does with aplomb. Wu Yue and Tony Jaa obviously have more martial arts tools in their boxes and as such, the flashier choreography is left to them.
On the acting front, Louis Koo delivers one of his best performances as the torn father who will stop at nothing to get his daughter back. It’s a nice return to form after his incredibly hammy turn in “Call of Heroes”. Gordon Lam is particularly cold as the ruthless political election engineer. The music score ranges from sorrowful strings, to frequently sounding like it’s from a late era Pierce Brosnan Bond film during the action sequences, adding to the excitement. There are some strange dialogue scenes that switch between Cantonese, Mandarin, Thai and English, sometimes all in the same scene, with everyone apparently understanding each other. Perhaps they didn’t have permission to use the translation app from “SPL 2” in this one!
I have enjoyed all the entries into the SPL series and if anything, this third instalment has heightened my appetite for a further episode even more than the second one did. Perhaps Wilson Yip can persuade Donnie Yen and Wu Jing to return to the franchise once he has finished “Ip Man 4”? Imagine a star-studded, “Best of SPL” featuring Donnie Yen, Wu Jing, Sammo Hung, Simon Yam, Max Zhang, Tony Jaa, Louis Koo, Ken Lo, Wu Yue etc!
Although not a wall-to-wall action film, this is an enjoyable, jet black, dark thriller. Sprinkled with some typically great Hong Kong-style fight scenes that pack a particularly satisfying punch, “Paradox” is one of the best Asian actioners of 2017.
- The script was written by Jill Leung Lai-yin, who also co-wrote both “SPL 2” and “Ip Man 3”.
- Wu Jing played a villain in the first movie, but the hero in the second film. Louis Koo, who played the villain in “SPL 2”, plays the hero in “SPL 3”.
- The SPL films are sequels in name only with many cast members returning but in different roles. The title “Sha Po Lang” refers to three words derived from Chinese astrology that each represent a different star capable of good or evil depending on their position in the heavens. The various characters in the three films are each bound by coincidence, karma, consequence and fate.
Film Rating: 8/10
- “I did what all fathers would have done”
- “You’ve got a lot of nerve hitting a cop!”
- “Life is limited. Just accept it”
What are your impressions of “Paradox”, seen it yet? Which SPL movie and fights had the most impact on you? Let us know in the comments below, join in the conversation on Facebook and follow us on Twitter. (Get even more kicks out of our other fu-packed movie reviews!)