SPL (2005)

SPL [殺破狼] (2005)
AKA Sha Po Lang, Kill Zone

Starring Donnie Yen, Sammo Hung, Simon Yam, Liu Kai-Chi, Jacky Wu Jing, Timmy Hung Tin-Ming, Ken Cheung Chi-Yiu, Austin Wai Tin-Chi, Uncle Ba Suk, Danny Summer

Directed by Wilson Yip

Expectations: High. I’m totally stoked to be wowed.


OK, right off the bat I just want to say that this is definitely not the revelation in martial arts cinema I was led to believe it was. In 2005, Hong Kong films had fallen into disrepair, cranking out ugly CG-aided fights with their greatest stars off to find their fortunes in Hollywood. Wilson Yip and Donnie Yen, tired of this bullshit and wishing to recapture the 80s/90s glory days, created SPL, a film that would feature fights as they were done in the past. This was a line in the sand to everyone else, to prove definitively that fantastic martial arts choreography and performers trump any and all CG bullshit. In that, they handily succeeded, but in the grand scheme of things, SPL isn’t worthy of the high praise.

The film opens with a car crash. A group of cops were transporting a witness, his wife and their daughter when an assassin rammed them with his car. It instantly killed everyone except for two of the cops and the little girl, and it was yet another crime added to the résumé of Wong Po (Sammo Hung). Because the witness was unable to testify, Wong Po was released, but Inspector Chan (Simon Yam) vows to nail his ass at some indeterminate time in the future. Donnie Yen gets roped into this struggle later in the film, and there’s some personal melodrama draped over the whole thing, but that’s it in a nutshell.

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Ip Man (2008)

Ip Man [葉問] (2008)

Starring Donnie Yen, Simon Yam, Lynn Hung, Hiroyuki Ikeuchi, Gordon Lam Ka-tung, Chen Zhihui, Fan Siu-Wong, Shibuya Tenma

Directed by Wilson Yip

Expectations: High.


Ip Man is a rare breed of kung-fu film. It is the type of film that could easily crossover into mainstream popularity, excellently introducing new viewers to the world of Hong Kong cinema through its stellar fights, performances and high production values. Winner of the Hong Kong Film Award for Best Film, Ip Man successfully takes the style of early 90s Hong Kong movies into the 21st century by featuring little to no computer enhancement, instead focusing on and trusting in the skill of its stars. The film succeeds on multiple levels and achieves everything it attempts to convey on-screen. This is a kung-fu epic similar in scope and tone to Once Upon a Time in China, and thoroughly recaptures my interest in the genre.

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