Kill Zone on DVD

Sunday, 07 March 2010 09:34

“Kill Zone” is an award-winning police action-thriller that packs quite a punch! This modern action/thriller stars two giants of the martial arts genre - Donnie Yen and Sammo Hung. Yen, probably best known to British audiences for his roles in “Shanghai Knights” and “Iron Monkey” is Inspector Ma, a fearsome cop who finds himself entangled in a deadly war between gangsters and his shady colleagues.

Hung (Martial Law, “Dragons Forever”) is gang leader Wong Po, a slippery customer who escapes justice and then marshals all of his resources to take down Detective Chan (Simon Yam) and any associates who tried to get him locked up. The resulting bloody war between the two sides culminates in a classic, bone-crunching showdown between Yen and Hung. Whilst watching “Kill Zone”, Western audiences will recognise elements of the TV series Miami Vice and Life on Mars. Visually, Wilson Yip’s movie matches the former’s glitz, bleached skies and neon cityscapes.

Kill Zone on DVDIt also shares the theme of manipulative gang baddies tormenting the police and pushing them to the edge of the law and beyond. From Mars it plays with the plotline of a good cop trying to pull his wayward colleagues back from the brink, and trying to show them that they can remain on the right side of the law and get results. The film feels like it is only skimming the surface of the complex emotions that could underpin such a story, and instead goes for broke in terms of style and action.

The editing is way too in your face to begin with, with all manner of tricks like picture-in-picture, crash zooms, slow-mo and mono-colour tinting holding the viewer back from investing in the plot. The style does settle down eventually though, and the film gets on with the job of entertaining instead of simply being flashy.

There is no denying that the main event is the fight between Yen and Hung’s characters, and although it largely lives up to the hype, it also slightly distracts the viewer from the rest of the film. You just want it to happen now rather than have to wait for it.

As I say, it is worth the wait, though, and the actors do a good job of driving a lust for revenge and confrontation. Hung is perfect as the sleazy and self-assured Po. Sporting a sharp suit, pony tail, beard and a grey streak in his hair, Po chomps cigars and scowls menacingly as all baddies must. When he is temporarily put behind bars, you know he has full confidence in his crew to get him out again, so he lounges – much to the annoyance of the detectives who want to see him crack. He also keeps his distance from the action most of the time, lurking ominously and letting his henchmen do his bidding.

His right-hand man is Jack (Jacky Wu), a baby-faced psycho-assassin with a stunted sword and bleached hair. All good action movies should have a great henchman, and Wu equips himself brilliantly. His kills are clinically brief, bloody and brutal, and always delivered with obvious relish.

Standing against Po’s gang are the police, each of them a different shade of grey in terms of their willingness to bend or break the law to take Po down once and for all. Yam really works his character’s crooked and slightly unhinged nature. Inspector Chan is told early on in the film that he has a potentially fatal brain tumour, and this is all the incentive he needs to push himself harder and harder. He is a man who potentially has nothing to live for, and so his all-consuming hatred of Po becomes his life. Most of the remaining police unit are mere cannon fodder, but at least they serve a purpose.

Donnie Yen has the tough job of shining in a film alongside Sammo Hung, and he is more than up to the task. For the first half an hour or so, his character does not have a big part to play, but slowly he works his way into the tightly-knit crew led by Chan, who he is soon supposed to be replacing.

Once Po eludes a jail sentence and Chan’s plans for revenge start to fray, Inspector Ma comes to the foreground and reminds us what a stunning action star Yen is. Whilst he does not generally deliver the incredible weaving and leaping about that Jackie Chan is famous for, nor the blacker-than-black cool precision of Jet Li, what he does have is immense physical presence, lightning-fast hands and feet, and a real sensation of power behind each and every blow. He always wears an expression of eagle-like concentration and determination during his fights (which he choreographs). And he can act! Here he plays a good guy, but he is just as great as a baddie.

“Kill Zone” is a solid action/martial arts/police thriller. It takes standard ingredients, adds a few potent stars of Hong Kong cinema and ends up being satisfying and yet also leaving you somehow wanting more. Whether that is down to the relatively short running time (88 minutes), or because the film does not fully exploit the revenge/unlawful policeman theme enough, I am not quite sure - probably both. Fans of urban kung fu should check it out, though – this is one “giants of the genre” tussle they cannot afford to miss! And watch out for the shocking twist ending...

Both Blu-ray and DVD versions include a whole raft of special features such as a making-of documentary (fair), an interview gallery and a feature commentary by genre expert Bey Logan. Both versions also include an optional English 5.1 soundtrack, which is neither fantastic nor terrible, but rather somewhere in between. I recommend sticking with the English subtitles instead to hear the movie as it was intended.

The absolute stand-out special feature is the “anatomy of a scene” section, wherein the two main fight sequences are meticulously covered through behind the scenes footage overlaid with a superb commentary track from Donnie Yen (whose English is amazingly good) and Logan. Highly commendable.

“Kill Zone” (certificate '18') is out now on DVD (£17.99) and Blu-ray (£24.99) from Cine Asia – or get it for less at www.culttvstore.com

 

Movie Review: “Kill Zone” (2005)

 

Last modified on Thursday, 10 May 2012 16:37

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