Film review: Paradox – Louis Koo channels his inner Liam Neeson for Wilson Yip’s brutal return to SPL action series

Koo delivers his best performance in quite a while as a vengeful Hong Kong policeman on the trail of his only daughter’s Thai kidnappers in violent martial arts action movie let down somewhat by its predictable ending

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 23 August, 2017, 6:32pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 23 August, 2017, 6:32pm

3.5/5 stars

Two years after seeing his pal Soi Cheang Pou-soi direct a sequel-in-spirit to his martial arts crime thriller SPL (2005), Wilson Yip Wai-shun ( Ip Man 3 ) makes his own return to the franchise with this punishingly violent third instalment.

Paradox, produced by Cheang, tells a stand-alone story that broadly recycles plot elements in SPL2: A Time for Consequences , from karma and endangered children, to organ trading and violent retribution.

Taking a page from the Liam Neeson school of one-man rescue missions, Louis Koo Tin-lok rampages furiously in one of his most physical roles to date – and one of his best performances in quite a while – as Hong Kong policeman Lee Chung-chi, a widower who loses his teenage daughter Wing-chi (newcomer Hanna Chan), listed as a missing person in Pattaya, Thailand, right after he cruelly separated her from her boyfriend.

Paradox takes the audience on a head-spinning tour of false leads and near misses early on, as Lee tags along with a pair of Thai detectives, the righteous Chui Kit (Wu Yue) and the seemingly prophetic Tak (Tony Jaa in a regrettably brief part). The search then takes a turn for the hysterical when it appears that Wing-chi has been abducted by organ traffickers connected to a powerful Thai politician via his immoral aide (Lam Ka-tung).

Hong Kong director Wilson Yip on SPL instalment Paradox, Wu Jing’s rise and Bruce Lee’s key part in the upcoming Ip Man 4

This serves as an excuse for Yip to repeatedly pit his protagonists against vicious enemies on their way to the truth – and possibly justice. Though the predictable nature of the plot in the film’s last third pales next to SPL2’s hyperbolic take on the irony of fate, Paradox should nevertheless captivate fans of the first two films with its ferocious action – courtesy of Sammo Hung Kam-bo’s choreography – and relentlessly bleak turn of events.

In a performance that couldn’t be more different from his hammy turn in the recent family comedy Meow , Koo impresses as the anguished father, bringing dramatic heft to a potentially one-note character. While there are – as is the norm for the series – far too many coincidences in this script by Jill Leung Lai-yin (co-writer on both SPL2 and Ip Man 3), few genre fans should feel short-changed by Yip’s brutal action showcase.

Paradox opens on August 25

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