SPL 2: A TIME FOR CONSEQUENCES, the sequel to 2007’s SPL: SHA PO LANG (aka KILLZONE) finally came out 8 years later. Was it worth the wait?
SPL 2: A TIME FOR CONSEQUENCES (2015)
starring: Tony Jaa, Jacky Wu Jing, Simon Yam, Louis Koo / directed by: Cheang Pou-soi / action choreography by: Li Ching-chi
When SPL 2 was announced earlier in the year, it was easy to notice not much was going to return from the first movie SHA PO LANG (KILLZONE in the West). Absent are mega stars Donnie Yen and Sammo Hung. Simon Yam and Wu Jing return, albeit as brand new characters. We have a new setting, new set of characters, new story and new director, Cheang Pou-soi. SPL is back, but in typical HK fashion this installment is a sequel in name only. Usually, all these changes signify disaster, but it seems destiny had something else in store for this reinvigorated franchise.
SPL stands for Sha Po Lang, referring to the three stars in a constellation in Chinese astrology which are capable of good or evil depending on their positions in the sky. In the first movie, this was represented through the struggles of Donnie Yen, Sammo Hung and Simon Tam. This time we have Tony Jaa as Chatchai, a lowly security guard at a maximum security Thai prison. While trying to make ends meet, he’s trying to find a donor for his young daughter’s fight against leukemia. There’s also Jacky Wu Jing as Kit, an undercover HK cop trying to uncover a deadly underground human organ harvesting ring. Finally, Louis Koo is Hung Mun-gong, the kingpin behind the syndicate. It is this theme alone that seems to be the only holdover from the original.
The first film was really a dark police drama with a few short (but legendary) fight scenes shoehorned in after it was cast with legends Hung and Yen. This movie, however, is a martial arts movie first and foremost, with a story designed to set up as many great fights between the stars as possible. Though I never expect too much for the story in martial arts flicks, this story was engaging enough. It was held together with some compelling characters like Chatchai and his daughter, and always pushing forward to our next fight. If you pay too close of attention, you’ll notice the story tends to be over-reliant on highly improbable coincidences that really ask you to stretch your imagination. However, though the intersections sometime seem too tenuous and random, all is forgiven when you realize they’ve just used this coincidence here and there to set up the framework for some very fun and dynamic confrontations, including several scenes in the Thai prison early on.
While it’s great when a kung fu movie has a good story, what really makes or breaks a film is the martial arts. Fortunately this movie sets the bar higher than most films I have seen in the past couple of years. Li Ching-chi, a long-time Jackie Chan stunt coordinator, is the action director. This movie definitely feels in the Jackie tradition, with mostly “realistic” grounded fighting framed by wide shots and long takes designed to let the audience digest what is going on. Though I’ve never been a fan of the use of wires, its inclusion in this movie (with the exception of one character, discussed below) was mostly judicious, accentuating large movements or reaction shots.
Something I found very unique was the blending of fighting styles, as it really helped give personality to each of the main fighters. Tony Jaa’s fights seemed to always implement his trademark Thai boxing, featuring high flying knees and thundering elbows, while Wu Jing showcased his fast-moving and fluid wushu boxing. Jhang Jen seemed to resemble a video game character with a lot supernatural flips and kicks, and was the one exception to the “no-wires” fighting styles. Though the film could have done without the wires on him, it did help embellish him as a “boss villain” character. Overall, the fights were exciting, creative and plentiful.
Should I Watch it?
If you hadn’t gathered by now or just skipped to the bottom, this film is absolute fun. Tony Jaa is back in a form rivaling his best performance since ONG BAK, and Wu Jing makes a resounding bounce back after a few weak flicks. The story sets the table for a variety of great action scenes, which there are plenty. Though the plot gets a bit convoluted and seems to over rely on highly improbable coincidence, it’s done so to set up the plentiful action. My biggest complaint might be the title of the movie, which is somehow cheesier than the Western version of the first movie’s title “KILLZONE.”
SPL 2 is a completely different beast than SPL, packing a ton of creative and exciting combat in an action-friendly narrative.
Kung Fu Rating: (5 / 5) Story Rating: (4 / 5)