Director: Wilson Yip
Starring: Donnie Yen, Sammo Hung, Simon Yam,
RunTime: 1 hr 37 mins
Released By: Shaw
Rating: M18 (Violence)
Opening Day: 24 November 2005
with our members on "SPL" here!
With action scenes directed by Donnie Yen, SPL is a contemporary
kung-fu action film that combines high-octane martial-arts
with intense, compelling drama. Fresh from his roles in blockbusters
Hero and Shanghai Knights, Donnie Yen stars along with martial-arts
movie veteran Sammo Hung and the critically acclaimed Simon
Yam. SPL also features Wushu champion, Wu Jing.
SPL or Sha Po Lang in Chinese, each represents the initial
of three renegade stars in the Chinese astrology that bring
forth either evil or good, depending on how they line up their
position in heavens. Blending mystical Chinese astrology into
modern day police drama, SPL was used to describe the unavoidable
crash between triad leader Po (Sammo Hung) and two police
officers, Chan (Simon Yam) and Ma (Donnie Yen).
officer Chan and triad leader Po had been at each other’s
throat ever since Po send his assassin to murder Chan’s
witnesses. Time was however running out for Chan as he discovered
that he was terminally ill and would be retiring early. The
crux of this movie started on Chan’s last day of work
when he discovered evidence that he could used (after some
illegally modification) to incriminate Po. Chan’s replacement,
officer Ma was not agreeable to Chan’s action and wants
to take Po down in a legal way, in order not to taint the
reputation of the police force. This setup for a three way
crash between Po, Chan and Ma who are all determined in their
own perspective and quest.
action sequences in SPL came in a fast and furious pace that
could only be performed by those who spend their lifetime
practicing martial art skills. The most impressive sequences
would be when Donnie Yen took on Wu Jing in an alley fight.
That fight had been choreographed on the spot as the two martial
artists used their talent and sparred for real. The other
wild primitive fight sequences would be Donnie Yen taking
on Sammo Hung, which resembled a panther trying to bring a
huge bear down.
don’t expect this film to be over laden with fights
scenes as it’s used sparing to draw out the dramatic
tension between the cops and thugs.
the biggest weakness in SPL would be the characterization
in the three leads. The idea behind the usage of Chinese astrology
mythology was good but the presentation behind each main character’s
motivation wasn’t strong enough to draw the audience
into the character’s emotions. The fault was not on
the cast’s acting abilities but more on the editing
and overall direction that this film had chosen which weaken
the otherwise strong structure for the film.
veterans like Simon Yam was delightful as a cop on a personal
vendetta in getting the guilty arrested. Although he doesn’t
have the necessary martial art skills as his fellow co-star,
his commanding presence, like the one he gave in “PTU”
made up for the martial art skills that he was lacking and
excel just as much as his co-stars.
biggest surprise in SPL would be Sammo Hung playing the ruthless
triad leader, a change from his usual good guy roles that
most viewers are accustom to. While his character is not exactly
bad to the bone (evident in his cares for his family), his
performance (and his hairdo) marks a striking resemblance
of a dangerous wild voracious lion that very few dare to provoke.
It’s a refreshing change to see a veteran like Sammo
Hung to break out of stereotypes to take on new roles.
Donnie Yen also brings on his high-octane action sequences
that were seen in movies such as “Blade 2” and
“The Twins Effect 2” by taking on double duties
in SPL as the action choreographer and starring role. Although
he is not exactly on par with Simon Yen or Sammo Hung in terms
of acting, his lighting fast kicks and punches were simply
Wu Jing deserved a special mention as Sammo Hung’s maniacal
assassin even though he was a special guest star with very
limited screen time. Wu Jing’s character was ultimately
deranged and enjoyable to watch him go ballistic on his victims.
It had been rumored that Wu Jing will have another go at this
elusive adept murderer role in a SPL prequel to further explore
this mysterious character.
represents one of the better quality exports from the flagging
film industry in Hong Kong this year. As the current states
of film making in Hong Kong which tone down the violence and
other explicit contents in their films to cater to the China
market, SPL stands out as it retains the gritty uncompromising
elements that many would associate as a true Hong Kong film
to be. There was a lot of potential in SPL but it was slightly
misdirected and just a few cents short to make this film a
truly great Hong Kong film.
of the best action drama Hong Kong movie this year)
by Richard Lim Jr