Flash Point (2007)

Flash Point [導火線] (2007)
AKA City With No Mercy, City Without Mercy, The Signal

Starring Donnie Yen, Louis Koo, Ngai Sing, Ray Lui, Xing Yu, Fan Bing-Bing, Kent Cheng, Xu Qing, Teresa Ha Ping, Helena Law Lan, Tony Ho Wah-Chiu, Irene Wong Yun-Yun

Directed by Wilson Yip

Expectations: High. I’ve been pumped to see some more of the Wilson Yip/Donnie Yen films since I saw Ip Man, which was quite a while ago at this point.


Donnie Yen is a badass motherfucker. This should be a given, but some may not yet be familiar with his work. Flash Point isn’t a good starting point, but it will show you (eventually) just how badass Donnie Yen is. See the problem with this one, despite featuring the current reigning badass of Hong Kong cinema, is that it’s actually not much of a martial arts film until the final scene. There are flashes (and points), where bits of martial arts are sprinkled in but it never really lets loose until the final fight. This is a supreme disappointment to me, but regardless of this Flash Point remains entertaining and fast-paced throughout.

Yen plays a ruthless cop that has a nasty habit of beating the shit out of every criminal he takes down. He’s got a high rate of success at cracking cases, but the suits at the police force don’t like his brutal methods. In other movies this might be a vital plot point, or perhaps a wake-up call to Yen’s character, but in Flash Point it’s basically meaningless until the very end of the film when it all gets brought back around. Not that you need a point or a moral to the story. Anyway, he’s on the prowl for some asshole Triad dudes that are trying to make off with some money they fucked a bunch of Vietnamese gangsters out of. I recently wrote about the underdeveloped plot in Merantau, and how it wasn’t necessary to the film to have it be much more developed. In Flash Point we have the opposite, where the plot is too developed and becomes so convoluted at times that it’s hard to keep track of what exactly is going on. The thing is, it doesn’t matter. Before you know it, you’ll catch back up and figure out what’s going on. This isn’t a Bergman film, so the real reason you’re here is for a fun thrill ride, and Flash Point delivers on that promise.

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Shaolin (2011)

Shaolin [新少林寺] (2011)

Starring Andy Lau, Nicholas Tse, Fan Bing-Bing, Wu Jing, Shi Yanneng, Yu Shaoqun, Xiong Xin-Xin, Yu Hai, Bai Bing, Jackie Chan

Directed by Benny Chan

Expectations: High. A big-budget Shaolin Temple remake? OK!


Benny Chan’s Shaolin is an interesting film. It’s got the look and the feel of a big Hollywood feature, but its subject matter is firmly rooted in the cultural history of China. It also features action and martial arts scenes that harken back to the 90s heyday of Hong Kong action cinema. Unfortunately as a whole Shaolin isn’t as good as I’d hoped it would be, but I still enjoyed it quite a bit. Shaolin is a loose remake of the 1982 film Shaolin Temple, the film that introduced Jet Li to the Chinese moviegoing public. I haven’t seen Shaolin Temple in a good fifteen years so I can’t comment on whether this follows the same story or if it does a good job of adapting the tale to fit its needs. A quick glance at the Wikipedia synopsis shows that while there are certain elements that carry over, Shaolin is basically a new story.

Andy Lau plays a ruthless general who values little over wealth and power. He’s our main character (and the hero) but this doesn’t become apparent until about forty-five minutes in or so. This makes for a strange, somewhat off-putting opening section of the film that I think would have better served the story if it had been tightened up. I understand the reasoning behind structuring the film as they do and it does lay great groundwork for scenes later in the film, but for the movie to not have a distinct identity until forty-five minutes in is a bit odd.

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Mini-Review: Shinjuku Incident (2009)

Shinjuku Incident (2009)

Starring Jackie Chan, Naoto Takenaka, Daniel Wu, Chin Kar-lok, Xu Jinglei, Fan Bing-Bing, Masaya Kato, Jack Kao, Yasuaki Kurata, Lam Suet, Ken Lo, Kenya Sawada, Paul Chun

Directed by Derek Yee

Expectations: Moderate. Jackie Chan is always good.


It’s important to know going into Shinjuku Incident that it is not an action film. The DVD box will have you believe otherwise, but it is merely a ploy to get you to watch it because you like Jackie Chan and his action films. Thankfully I knew this, so my expectations were properly set for the crime drama that it is. It’s not without some limited moments of action as dictated by the story, but none of it is choreographed in any way, shape, or form like a martial arts film or even your standard Hong Kong crime action film. Shinjuku Incident shares more with Scarface or The Godfather than it does Police Story, but there’s nothing wrong with that.

With that out of the way, the film is a pretty good one. Directed by Derek Yee (star of one of my all-time favorite kung-fu films, Shaolin Intruders), Shinjuku Incident tells the story of Nick (Jackie Chan) who illegally enters Japan in an effort to better his life. He meets up with a group of friends already living there and together they struggle to survive in the harsh world of the Yakuza-controlled Shinjuku district. This early period of the film sets up the characters nicely, with their motives and struggles feeling rooted in reality. The film takes a turn at about the halfway point and becomes even more interesting by throwing Nick into a couple of sticky situations. Watching him react and seeing him make key decisions is where the film hits its stride, tying in earlier plot points and characters into its complex weave.

I’m pretty tired of crime drama these days as I rarely see anything that’s truly original, and Shinjuku Incident definitely doesn’t innovate in any major way, but it remains enjoyable throughout thanks to excellent acting from the entire cast. Jackie has a couple of actiony sequences and believably acts like he doesn’t know what he’s doing, struggling to hold his own against more seasoned fighters. Beyond the physicality though, Jackie brings a muted, thoughtful character to the screen that never ceases to be entertaining. The film also features some pretty good use of gore, which adds a lot to the visceral impact of the film.

Having recently seen The Town, I can’t help but compare the two similarly themed films. While The Town is more exciting, Shinjuku Incident is much more layered and full of character depth than The Town, and is a much more rewarding film for it. There are definitely better told crime boss tales, but Shinjuku Incident is still worth your time if you enjoy the genre and / or Asian cinema.

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