Film review - SPL2: A Time for Consequences: no holds barred
When Wilson Yip Wai-shun delivered his martial arts crime thriller SPL in 2005, few expected a follow-up — and not just because almost every character died in the first film. By supplementing its brilliant action choreography with grace notes instead of fully developed characters, the Donnie Yen Ji-dan vehicle made no apologies for its intense violence.
In the hands of Soi Cheang Pou-soi, who has mellowed considerably since his days as a cult filmmaker of ultra-bleak thrillers (2006’s Dog Bite Dog and 2007’s Shamo), SPL 2: A Time for Consequences is a sequel-in-spirit that hasn’t only retained the original’s overreliance on coincidence, but has also reshuffled an impressive amount of plot elements into a resonant story.
Apart from Yip (as a producer), the most prominent returnee from SPL is mainland actor Wu Jing, who has cemented his stature as an action star with the top-grossing Wolf Warriors, which he both directed and starred in. A one-dimensional assassin in SPL, Wu is given a leading role as a drug-addicted undercover cop in trouble.
After Kit’s (Wu) cover is blown in a mission involving a human organ trafficking syndicate run by Hung (Louis Koo Tin-lok) — an ailing% villain with his sights on his brother Bill’s (Jun Kung) heart for a life-saving transplant — the police mole is thrown into a Thai prison overseen by the sharp-suited and corrupt warden Ko (Max Zhang Jin of The Grandmaster fame).
While Kit’s uncle Wah (Simon Yam Tat-wah, again playing a soon-to-retire detective) takes Bill hostage and sets out on an unlawful mission to rescue his nephew, things are further complicated by prison guard Chai (Thai martial-arts star Tony Jaa, in possibly his best role to date), whose daughter suffers from leukaemia and just happens to be waiting for Kit’s bone marrow donation.
As in SPL, Cheang’s brawny effort is at its most engrossing in the fight scenes. Those who bemoan the plot should heed the warning of its title: “SPL” is the abbreviated names of the three stars in Chinese astrology that signify destruction, conflict and greed; in other words, these destiny-themed stories are ordained to be ridiculous.
Fans of the original will have a field day spotting nods in the new movie: from the slaughtering of cops to terminal illnesses, endangered children, mentally challenged side characters, and people being pushed out of windows. Regardless, SPL2 is an exemplary showcase of gritty, no-holds-barred action filmmaking.
SPL 2: A Time for Consequences opens on June 18