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.