If you don't know who Donnie Yen is, allow me to explain: he'll hit you so hard that you'll lose your sense of taste. Literally. At least his character Detective Jun in the excellent police actioner Flash Point will. Yen has been long known to fans of Hong Kong cinema as "bar none, one of the finest actors working in martial arts movies today" (thanks, Clarence), and he certainly keeps his streak alive here. Working once again with director Wilson Yip (the two last made Kill Zone together), Yen's acrobatics may not be as high-flying or as fanciful as they were in the classic Iron Monkey, but rest assured that for devotees of bone-crunching kung-fu, Flash Point is made to satisfy.
Det. Jun is a standard of action films from America to the East - The Cop Who Plays By His Own Rules. He's got the black leather jacket, the swagger, and the blatant disregard for departmental regs when it comes to taking down the bad guys (an early scene with his superiors, where they list all of the injuries he's inflicted during arrests, is fairly funny, and where you learn that he has, in fact, beaten someone so badly that they permanently lost their sense of taste). His partner Wilson (Louis Koo) is undercover trying to bring down a gang of three brothers who are smuggling their contraband in and out of Vietnam. As in most of these films, there's the requisite tension - "will he be caught?" and "how badly will they kill him if he is?" are the questions of the day here. Obviously things go sour - Wilson is exposed and injured gravely, his girlfriend threatened, colleagues are murdered, and it's time for Det. Jun to do what he does best.
Which is to lay waste all over everything with his hands and feet, sledgehammer style.
The story is simple, and won't tax your brain in any way. However, after the first ten minutes, where we briefly see Yen in action as well as a brawl between the gang of brothers and some unhappy customers, the movie slows down some. Not that it isn't good - it is - it's just more of a procedural feeling as the cops try to make their case against the criminals, it falls apart, and then everything's up for grabs. But about two thirds of the way through? Shit goes DOWN, big time, and from that point on the movie hardly stops to breathe. Shootouts and chases and fight scenes, oh my. And it's all kickass.
Apparently MMA (or mixed-martial arts) has become bigger over the last few years in Asia, and this movie reflects that. Seems that Yen (who also choreographed all the fights and is credited as the action director, along with taking a producer role) brought in a team of experts, whom he asked to make the hand-to-hand scenes more realistic and give them more of a street fighting vibe. As such, there's lots of take-downs and grappling and elbows and knees fly with savage abandon, and it's all pretty exhilarating. The final fight, between Yen and the big boss Tony (Collin Chou, Seraph from the Matrix sequels), goes on for over ten full minutes and is brutal, bloody, and exhausting - in the best possible way. Yen and Chou are amazing martial artists and superb athletes, period, so this fight scene easily goes down as one of the best ever put to screen (or one of the greatest that I've seen, anyway).
Dragon Dynasty's DVD is up to the usual standards this fine label is becoming known for. The 2.35:1 widescreen transfer looks and sounds superb, so crank this baby up and hear with crystal clarity the beautiful sound of fist meeting face as the sight of it sends you into the stratosphere. Sadly, I was only able to procure the single-disc release (the 2-disc has a whole lot of special features I'm sure are worth checking out), but it's still got a commentary track by HK cinema expert Bey Logan and the man himself, Donnie Yen. That's it for extras, though, which kinda sucks. But as a rental, I guess it ain't too bad.
So basically the bottom line is this: you dig the mad skills of the badass that is Donnie Yen? You like a great action flick with some serious kickassery? Then you owe it to yourself to pick up Flash Point. In the early going it may seem like it's taking too long to the good stuff, but take heart; that's merely the set-up for what becomes a walking, talking advertisement for the explosiveness of Asian action greatness. If you're into this kind of thing, I simply can't recommend it highly enough.