Almost entirely unrelated to the original film starring Donnie Yen, SPL 2 aka Kill Zone 2 has finally found its way to the state. Personally, I have been very keen to see the new feature from director Pou-Soi Cheang (Accident) because it brings international martial arts star Tony Jaa into the fold as a high profile replacement to Donnie Yen.
When Hong Kong police officer Chan Chi-kit (Jing Wu), who is deep undercover, comes close to revealing the leader of a crime syndicate, his cover is blown and he captured and sent to a prison in Thailand. His Uncle Wah (Simon Yam), who is also a Hong Kong detective, decides to disobey orders and attempts to track down Kit in order to save him before he is killed. At the same time, Thai police offer Chai (Jaa) is now a guard in the prison, but he is struggling to make enough money to take care of his daughter who is in dire need of a bone marrow transplant due to her battle with Leukemia. The film follows this two pronged storyline which eventually connect when Chai discovers that Kit may be a match for his daughter and is determined to keep him alive. Unfortunately for both of them, the crime syndicate leader and the warden of the prison both have other plans in mind.
Kill Zone 2 was a mess of a film. The only ties to the popular original are the inclusion of Simon Yam and Wu Jing, other than that there is no relation. This requel is such a shotgun blast of awesomeness and laughable filmmaking that it is hard to know where to start when breaking down the film.
On the one hand, the action in Kill Zone 2 is pretty great. The choreography is awesome and it is fun to see Tony Jaa and Jing Wu go head-to-head. The fights are hard hitting and intense it becomes difficult not to lean forward just to make sure your eyes are distracted by nothing else. On the other hand, some of the choreography feels staged and unnatural. There was a fight between Jaa and Jing in the prison that looked like they were going through the practice motions, it didn’t feel authentic and you could see it was rehearsed rather than flowing naturally, which is rare to experience these days. What angered me the most though was watching Zhang Jin, who played the best dressed warden I’ve ever seen, fight. The guy had the moves but when the director decides to clearly give just his character wirework action and speed up his fight moves to make him look like a superior fighter, that’s when I get annoyed. It’s too inconsistent when viewed with the other actors and I thought it was kind of offensive as an audience member, as if I could let something like that go unnoticed.
Now, when it comes to the story, again, there’s a love/hate aspect to it as well. On the love hand, I liked the story and how everything all came full circle. The move from Hong Kong to Thailand and having a heartfelt story intertwined with an international crime case was a smart play. The pacing may not have always worked and jumping from action to drama so quickly may not have been the best every time, but I could live with those issues since the overall arch transitioned well. I also really appreciated that in order for the Thai and HK people to communicate they had to use a phone app to translate, it was a small touch that goes a long way in a film where no one really speaks English. On the other hand, the story sets up some action scenes that leave our leads badly bruised and yet somehow they are able to come back and fight again. The mission of the film eventually becomes all about saving Chai’s daughter more than anything and I can understand how that might motivate someone who just got their ass kicked, but when one character is stabber three times in pretty vital places, I have a hard time believing they’ll survive. Oh, and then there’s a bit with Chai’s daughter and a wolf that makes absolutely no sense.
Even though he’s four films in, I feel like Tony Jaa is still trying to find his cinematic footing after his film hiatus and the disastrous Ong Bak 3. Kill zone 2 is finally a step in the right direction but the way the film is directed and edited results in the audience being distracted by some of the insane flaws that plague the film. For fans of martial arts movies there is plenty to like, but there are also too many moments that will drive you bonkers, especially since the movie tries to be grounded in reality.
3-Part Making-of Featurette
- The Story
- The Fights
- The vision
The Blu-ray itself looked sharp and was a perfect format for this film.
Kill zone 2 hits Blu-ray and DVD on July 19th thanks to the good folks at Well Go USA