Donnie Yen, next to Jackie Chan, is my favorite action stars in Asia. His work as an action choreographer has become increasingly in demand over the last few years, and after watching Kill Zone it´s apparent just why. This is a film where we watch as cops fall from grace, no longer upright in their quest for justice, instead eager to do anything at all to take down an enemy. When a local mob boss kills a material witness in a trial against him, leaving the witness´ daughter an orphan, main cop Chan vows to bring him down no matter what the cost. Having recently discovered an untreatable brain tumor, Chan is on the verge of retirement when this all happens. Of course, plot is dumb, but action is here! And I gotta say, it’s about time Hong Kong filmmakers started taking their martial arts movies seriously again.
Yen is doing double duty here with his role in the film and acting as fight choreographer. His choreography delivers some wonderfully brutal fight scenes that leave you begging for more. However, not without flaws; several plot turns challenge credibility, and the overall story isn’t as focused as it could have been. There’s also one other small matter I’d like to bring up regarding this DVD release in the next paragraph. Well actually it’s not a small matter, it’s quite significant mainly because it has nothing to do with the film itself, just a generic movie title.
The film’s original Hong Kong title is SPL, which stands for Sha Po Lang, three words derived from Chinese astrology each representing a different star capable of good or evil depending on their position in the heavens. When this got released in U.S. shores it got the title change for unknown reasons. Donnie Yen, who, while brilliant in the action scenes, seems out of place in such a dark, brooding crime film. The other nitpick involves the script. That aside, Kill Zone is fast-paced, stylishly-lensed, and packed to the hilt with cold, realistic action.
Overall as a film, it works well and there is enough here to warm the hearts of those who aren’t necessarily interested in the overall message the film tries to convey. Kill Zone comes as a breath of fresh air to Sammo Hung, whose prolific film career in Hong Kong Cinema has somewhat languished in the past years. The acting, even though the plot is thin was really, really impressive, I can’t stress that enough. Everyone involved contributed great performances to the film and really added depth and believability to the film’s story. If you’re a fan of Donnie Yen, this is a must own.