Sunday, December 04, 2005

SPL is easily the best Hong Kong movie of the year

Simon Yam, Sammo Hung and Donnie Yen.

"That guy's so badass that he knocked out the suspect with a single punch and left the man insane". That's basically how Donnie Yen's character is introduced in director Wilson Yip's SPL (Sha Po Lang in Mandarin). Donnie Yen is best known as Jet Li's nemesis in the Wong Fei Hong movie; Once Upon a Time in China II (Trivia: did you know that Donnie Yen is over 40 years old?).

Donnie Yen is the most criminally underused kung fu actor in the world although he's pretty successful these days. Like many Hong Kong actors he's had some work in Hollywood notably in Blade II and the Jackie Chan vehicle; Shanghai Knights. This guy has been around for quite some time but he's never had a starring role worth remembering... until now. Donnie Yen gets busy kicking ass but he's still got enough time to throw in a few of his trademarked smug poses.

The other surprise of the movie is Sammo Hung's excellent performance as a vengeful and unforgiving underworld kingpin who's a nice guy to his family and his family only. Sammo has been out of movies for so long I can't remember his last notable role. But watch him in SPL and the thing you're most likely to remember about him is that he's the most nimble fat man in the world! Oh and you don't ever wanna mess with him.

Lastly we have the ever dependable Simon Yam who can probably win awards for acting while he's sleepwalking (although he gets snubbed for awards pretty often). Simon Yam's a little out of place in the movie as he's the only main star in the movie who has no kung fu background. It's fine though because he's not required to fight in the movie. In fact the most fighting you see Simon Yam doing in the movie is to pickup a golf club and threatening to use it :)

Also worth mentioning is Jacky Wu Jing who's being touted by some as the next Jet Li but I'm not sure I agree. Jacky plays an assassin in Sammo Hung's employ. Jacky has a big fight scene with Donnie which is set in a alley. I read somewhere that this particular scene was not choreographed... which means both stars went at it for real. Pretty interesting fight but the best fight awards still belong to Donnie vs. Sammo's fisticuffs.

The great thing about SPL aside from the fights and the great acting is the story that glues all of them together. Our movie begins with a team of policemen led by Simon Yam escorting a star witness in order to proscecute Sammo Hung's character and put him behind bars indefinitely. Well things don't turn out well for the policemen and the witness is killed. Lacking evidence, Sammo is set free and Simon Yam finds out he's a terminal case due to cancer of the brain.

Three years later Simon Yam is one day from retiring from the force. The very next day he's supposed to hand over the reigns to Donnie Yen. But that's the least of his problems. Sammo Hung's still free and there's nothing Simon can do about it. Well if that was there is to the movie it would have been pretty boring.

Hell no... a chance pops up for Simon's team to proscecute Sammo only they have to twist the facts a little to make it work. Sammo's not too happy and retaliates. Donnie's not supposed to be involved with team affairs yet but he joins in anyway. Guns go off... bullets tear flesh... knifes get thrown... people die... tables break... chairs break... people die... kick kick... punch punch... people die... that's basically what SPL is about but it's a hell of a ride and I have renewed faith in the Hong Kong film industry.

Do yourself a favour and watch it in the cinemas. Some parts of the film were left on the editing room of our favourite Film Censorship Board but with the exception of one scene involving the deaths of two major characters the censorship is bearable.

posted by wyejon at Sunday, December 04, 2005 (permalink) |

10 wise words from our readers:

a golden opinion from Blogger earl-ku

it is indeed a very nice movie ... i dont think so that this movie might make it to the cinemas here ...

jus tget off the dvd ...

this is sammo hung's first appearnce as a baddy ... i think so la ...

lots of big names in this movie ... nice

4:06 AM  

a golden opinion from Blogger wyejon

ermm... i watched it in GSC One Utama yesterday morning lah.

10:09 AM  

a golden opinion from Anonymous ItchyMicchi

Donnie Yen was in Iron Monkey, which i heard was a pretty cool movie (from my dad), except it was made way before i was born...

he must be the hottest 40 year old in the world now that Chris Cornell's gotten fat!

ok, i'll stop now :P

10:48 AM  

a golden opinion from Blogger The Great Swifty

It is a good movie. I find the ending rather moving. The director Wilson Yip's known for making decent movies like this.

5:23 PM  

a golden opinion from Blogger wyejon

itchy: is Iron Monkey really that old? You must be really young then.

swifty: I checked his filmography before writing the review... it's actually quite surprising that he was the director behind such crap as The White Dragon and Skyline Cruisers :)

1:07 AM  

a golden opinion from Anonymous Ben

I watched SPL in the cinema and on the DVD. The cinema version is SPL-Lite. The DVD version is a whole lot cooler, the fighting scenes and sequences are so brutal and real - I haven't been so excited bout one guy beating another guy for such a long time. Donnie Yen's martial art skill is refreshing - his style highlight the origin of martial arts - to kill your opponent, and one can see traces of Iron Monkey fighting style in SPL too.

10:46 PM  

a golden opinion from Blogger wyejon

ben: The Uncle Ho version is the happy ending version rite? One of these days I gotta watch Iron Monkey.

10:51 PM  

a golden opinion from Anonymous Ben

yeah, both simon yam and donnie yen survived, but the fighting scene from Ho's version is much more brutal. Its weird that the Uncle Ho's version has a less realistic and kinder ending.

8:07 PM  

a golden opinion from Blogger wyejon

ben: that's cause uncle ho's version is the one they show in China where movie law #1 is: the good guys always win.

8:20 PM  

a golden opinion from Anonymous Eugene

I dun think so. I watched in one movie which Donnie died instead of Sammo. The 2 differences in endings

11:09 AM  

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