Nobody goes to kung-fu movies for character development or nuzzling-lover interludes, so it's anyone's guess what Hong Kong action fans will make of the first hour-plus of Wilson Yip's new "Flash Point." The film's only 87 minutes long, and we spend much of it watching lone-wolf detective Ma Jun (martial-arts star Donnie Yen) bristling at the restrictions that prevent him from kicking bad-guy butt non-stop. (Jun once wailed on a suspect's head so enthusiastically that the man "lost his sense of taste forever.") We also bide our time commiserating with undercover cop Wilson (the suave, Alain Delon-like Louis Koo), who's waiting for the axe to drop in the gang of smugglers he's infiltrated; and with his girlfriend, Julie (dewdrop cutie Fan Bing Bing), who wishes Wilson had a job with a less-uncertain — or is it less-certain? — future.
All of this rampant niceness is very lightly punctuated with little eruptions of wall-running and perp-hurling; there's a not-bad car chase, too. But really — where's the serious havoc?
It finally arrives in the movie's last eight minutes, when Ma Jun — pretty angry by now with the lack of mayhem — faces off against a snarling gangster kingpin played by Collin Chou (whom you might remember as the slap-master from the second and third "Matrix" movies, if you remember those movies at all). Their confrontation is carried out in a flurry of mixed martial arts, that venerable blend of wushu, taekwondo and plain old street beat-down, and they really go at it. As a very casual observer of this film genre, I was interested to note that the high-flying drop kicks associated with the famous fight choreographer Yuen Woo-ping a decade ago appear to have been superseded by a more down-to-earth elbow smash to the side of the head. Yen and Chou employ this move very persuasively, and they're of course ferociously adept at all the traditional punishments as well — the foot-smacks, leg-sweeps, body-slams and so forth. If only there were more of these things. What we have here, from the chop-socky point of view, isn't a feature film; it's a YouTube video. In fact, it is a YouTube video. Right now. Check it out.
Check out Kurt Loder's review of "Funny Games."
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