Flash Point (導火線) Made in: Hong Kong Language: Cantonese Director: Wilson Yip Starring: Donnie Yen, Collin Chou, Louis Koo, Ray Lui, Yu Xing, Kent Cheng Year: 2008
Synopsis: In pre-handover Hong Kong, Detective Ma (Donnie Yen) has the highest arrest record on the police force. He talks tough, and although he carries a smaller gun than Dirty Harry, he makes up for this by being an expert in mixed martial arts (and scowling). But he's also known as a loose cannon and disciplinary nightmare as far as his superiors are concerned.
His friend, Wilson (Louis Koo), has infiltrated a brutal triad gang run by three brothers, Archer (Ray Lui), Tony (Collin Chou), and Tiger (Yu Xing).
The three brothers are known for beating down their rivals, and make a huge power grab by taking down their big bosses. Wilson and Ma collect enough evidence to arrest the brothers, and prepare to move into action. Even though they manage to snag the oldest, Archer, the operation doesn't go all that well and Wilson is nearly killed (and his cover gets blown).
The two remaining brothers, plotting to spring Archer out of jail, strike back at the police and hold Wilson's girlfriend, Julie (Fan Bing Bing), hostage as leverage. Enraged, Ma ignores all police protocol and vows to take the triads down by himself. This culminates in a no-holds barred showdown between Ma and Tony.
The Good: Donnie Yen and Collin Chou, two big names when it comes to Hong Kong action movies, are still in great form. Yen, who also produced and choreographed the fight scenes, incorporated mixed martial arts to supplement his trademark kung fu and taekwondo styles.
The end result arguably raises the bar when it comes to contemporary martial arts movies. Although the actors make it all look so easy and natural, during the end credits you get a behind-the-scenes glimpse at the painstaking process of constructing all the stunt/fight sequences.
Flash Point is proof that Hong Kong action movies are trying to keep up with the times. Superior production values, cinematography, a decent soundtrack, and an effort to reach an international market while maintaining cultural roots will probably keep this particular action genre alive among its core fan base.
The Bad: Flash Point, however, has its share of problems. Donnie Yen isn't terribly charismatic, and there's no convincing cop-buddy chemistry between him and Louis Koo. The thin plot line doesn't need too much explaining, and director Wilson Yip wastes too much time trying to develop the characters.
The portly Kent Cheng has made a name for himself as a seasoned comedic actor who, in the past, has done very well alongside Jet Li. But here, he's given no opportunity to do anything interesting besides being the token fat guy.
Although the action sequences are great, you'll have to wait until the very end to see them. In other words, this is not a non-stop action adventure. In fact, much of the film simply plods along. The first 47 minutes (a little over half the movie) is mostly exposition with a few snippets of action here and there.
Up until the end, Flash Point will leave you wondering whether or not the movie was properly advertised. More likely than not, you'll find yourself yelling at the screen demanding to see someone - ANYONE - get his arse kicked before you fall asleep. The background images that play on the DVD menu screen is actually more exciting than 75% of the movie.
And finally, a few action sequences are just unnecessarily bloody. There's a darker undertone, which is okay, but there's no reason for a hacking death scene to go on for forty seconds.
Who would like this movie: Flash Point is for you if you're a fan of mixed martial arts, hong kong action movies, and Donnie Yen. Technically, it looks (and sounds) better than a lot of older kung fu films.
But sadly, this one simply doesn't contain enough action to keep the target viewer engaged. But the good news is that the genre is alive and well, and the quality of Hong Kong action movies (martial arts and others) appears to be increasing with the passage of time.