Eye For Film >> Movies >> Flash Point (2007) Film Review
You would be forgiven for thinking of late that every single person in Hong Kong is either an under cover cop, his grizzled sergeant or a gangster who wants their heads, if the island's film output is any measure of these things. Chow Yun Fat and Jackie Chan may have handed in their badges a long time ago, but the industry still churns out action cop thrillers as if no one had ever seen Police Academy, and action maestro Donnie Yen's Flash Point is the latest enjoyable outing in a long line.
Yen (the film's producer) plays Ma Jun, his character from 2005's Kill Zone, a Hong Kong detective who has been working a case on a trio of Vietnamese gangsters. His partner, Wilson (Louis Koo), has infiltrated the brothers' operation and gained their trust, but when his cover is blown, the pair have to put aside their differences and bring them to justice. Yes, the script is as riddled with cliches as some of the characters end up with bullets. Under cover cops? Getting cut-throat mobsters from south-east Asia involved? It's all been done before - it'd be very hard to top the Infernal Affairs trilogy whilst lifting from it wholesale - and it certainly doesn't succeed in this sense. The problem isn't helped by the bizarre dialogue, and I've never quite worked out if this is simply lost in translation or some sort of east Asian propensity to cheesy scriptwriting.
And any one new to the genre may find it all a bit head scratching at first. Who's who exactly? I thought I got Hong Kong cinema. I even recognised Tony Leung when I saw him walking along the road one day. But there's so many muscle bound men with black crew cut hair in this film it just gets too much, and I couldn't work out who was under cover, or under cover under cover, or just a straight up bad guy, until halfway through. The only stand out, other than Yen, is Archer (Lui Leung-Wai), the oldest of the Vietnamese brothers, and menacing purely for his lack of physical presence compared to stacked sibling Tiger (Xing Yu).
But Yen doesn't star in Oscar winners (or even deals out comprehensible plots): he's a fight choreographer first and foremost, and Flash Point's saving grace is the host of action scenes. There's no slow motion diving around with guns and urinating babies, or chasing buses down mountains on foot. And though there are some great uses of location, including a golf driving range, the climax is rather unoriginally set in an abandoned village. Instead, what makes Flash Point stand out is Donnie Yen's use of MMA - mixed martial arts, or that crazy stuff in cage fighting to us lay folk. No one flies around on strings wiggling swords or throws stances named after non-existent animals here: characters simply batter each other for all it's worth. Yen has trained the actors well, and the fights are brutal and realistic, making for a refreshing change from Chan's Chinese Opera chopsocky, and even Yen's earlier work.
Except that is, when suddenly someone puts a remote control bomb inside a roast chicken to assassinate the cops, and we're back in nonsenseville. Honestly, what is the point? When did guns stop being effective at killing people? It's not like you can post a chicken, you still have to deliver it to someone at their door. Poultry-based explosives aside however, Flash Point injects a welcoming and exhilarating dose of realism into HK action cinema.Reviewed on: 24 Apr 2008