It may share its title and some cast members with the 2005 Donnie Yen actioner, but “SPL 2: A Time for Consequences” most certainly stands on its own. Pairing up action legends Tony Jaa and Wu Jing, “SPL 2” gives audiences their money’s worth and then some, setting itself up to be Hong Kong’s (and Thailand’s) answer to “The Raid” films.
Fresh from his English-language debut in “Furious 7” and “Skin Trade” earlier this year, Tony Jaa makes his grand entrance into Hong Kong in the role of prison guard Chatchai. He finds his profession inexplicably complicated with the sudden appearance in his prison of Hong Kong cop Chan Chi-Kit, played by Wu Jing, one of the original “SPL” stars jumping over to the good guy team. His fellow “SPL” co-star Simon Yam portrays Kit’s uncle Chan Kwok-Wah, while Louis Koo portrays the ailing antagonist and Hong Kong crime boss Hung, with Ko Chun, the warden of Chatchai’s prison played by Max Zhang, stepping up as the more physical of the two villains.
Hong Kong cop Kit is determined to bring down the organ trafficking ring run by Mr. Hung, Hong Kong’s reigning crime boss, even turning himself into a junkie to get close enough. However, the bust organized by Kit and his fellow cop and uncle Wah goes wrong and Kit’s cover gets blown. Kit is ultimately railroaded into a life sentence in a Thai prison, under the cruel and bloodthirsty warden Ko Chun, an associate of Hung’s who funnels kidnapped victims into the prison so their organs can be harvested. One of Ko Chun’s guards, Chatchai, only goes along with his bosses orders in order not to lose his job, and with it any hope of saving his leukemia-stricken daughter. However, Chatchai’s conscience and Kit’s determination to break free ultimately leads the two men to join forces.
The faint of heart need not apply for “SPL 2” – this movie aims to please die-hard action lovers and pulls no punches. Just ten minutes in, the first action scene kicks off with a preliminary scuffle between Tony Jaa and Wu Jing, and even though it’s just a minute-long ‘warm-up’ of a fight, you get a sense of the goodies in store. You feel like you’ve already gotten what you’ve come for; watching two action virtuosos going full bore in the tight confines of a prison office.
Tony Jaa and Wu Jing are masters of their craft on and off screen, and something that makes them both ideally suited as a kung fu movie duo is how adept both of them are at combining raw power, flashiness, grace and believability, something the film itself strives for overall.
Kit spends the first two-thirds of the film in one of the most dank, inhospitable environments imaginable, so much so that even the audience can’t wait for him to fight his way to freedom. He gets a chance at a rematch with Chatchai during a prison riot midway through the film, and it’s here that the influence of “The Raid” films really begins to show.
The sequence is as well-orchestrated and powerful as the fifty-man mud-wrestling match in the second film, with a good chunk of it being captured through tracking shots. We also get to see a little of the villainous Ko Chun in action here, with Max Zhang making him into a poker-faced Terminator who never shows even miniscule signs of fatigue, remorse, or fear, and who absolutely will not stop, ever, until you are dead (shameless quote plug)!
In fact, there’s quite a lot of tracking camera work throughout the entire film, allowing the viewer to fully soak up the action in all its glory, and when a movie is a steadfastly determined to deliver as much action as “SPL 2” is, that’s something every viewer should relish.
Director Soi-cheang and fight choreographer Nicky Li also make an effort to give the film some memorable gimmicks, one of the better ones in the form of Kit’s duel against a knife-wielding henchman of Hung’s played by Zhang Chi, with Kit himself armed with a police baton. Fans of the original “SPL” will remember Wu Jing’s role in that film as being – shock gasp! – none other than an utterly unrelenting knife-wielding assassin who takes on Donnie Yen in an alley fight, Donnie being armed with – surprise surprise! – a police baton.
Aside from the sequence just being a solid action scene on its own terms, its a clever trick that the film pulls out to truly invert Wu Jing’s role from the original film, and it ups the danger factor with the villain now being able to pull about half a dozen knives from his utility belt whenever he’s been disarmed.
“The Raid” movies become the template for the film once more when the finale arrives, with our two heroes battling an entire building’s worth of henchmen before finally taking on the seemingly unstoppable right hand man to the arch-villain, Ko Chun. There is some wire-work here and there, but nothing too distracting, and most of it seems to be applied to Max Zhang making his character appear that much more insurmountable to our two leads.
He’s also got real skill in delivering picture perfect techniques – his first move against Wu Jing is a side kick that narrowly whizzes past his head and just over his shoulder, executed with perfect control. Ko Chun is just as powerful a foe as Mad Dog, but never projects quite that same breed of wild viciousness outwardly, instead he rather appears in total control of his enemies. And you really believe it – no matter how many fists, feet, knees, and elbows our heroes land, this new super villain seems incapable of getting his bell rung. That’s the kind of end game ‘mothership’ villain you want to make any final fight memorable. Indeed, the combat finale of “SPL 2” is sure to remain in every viewer’s memory as one of the roughest, toughest balls-to-walls fight scenes seen in recent years. And please don’t even get me started on Tony Jaa’s flying double knee through the windshield of an oncoming bus!
“SPL 2” is action, action, action from the moment it gets started, and it’s some of the most gloriously brutal and satisfying to come out of Hong Kong in quite a while. Tony Jaa and Wu Jing have such great chemistry together that you can’t help but want to see them become the Far East version of Riggs and Murtaugh, and Max Zhang makes a fantastic malevolent, stone-cold villain. A note on the music, it was a nice touch to hear the sobering theme “Store The Sun” from the original “SPL” and in addition, it’s not too often that you hear classical music played on the soundtrack of a martial arts duel to the death – another stylish touch. With dramatic performances all round, its thunderous, blistering action scenes will leave you breathless!
Effort and polish has gone in to give this hard-hitting actioner an epic feel which has to be appreciated.
- “SPL 2” is one of two films starring Wu Jing to be massive box office hits in China and Hong Kong in 2015, the other being “Wolf Warrior”, which co-starred Scott Adkins and which Wu Jing also directed.
- Max Zhang began as a stunt man in “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon”, and he would later go on to appear in “The Grandmaster”, “Rise of the Legend”, and the upcoming “Ip Man 3”.
- Fight choreographer Nicky Li has also done fight choreography and stunt work on films such as “Drunken Master 2”, “Fatal Contact”, “Who Am I?”, “Shaolin”, “Twin Dragons”, “Shanghai Noon”, and “Shanghai Knights”.
Film Rating: 8.5/10