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Original Title:
Dao huo xian

Hong Kong 2007

Action, Crime

Wilson Yip

Donnie Yen
Louis Koo
Collin Chou
Fan Bingbing
Ray Lui
Xing Yu
Kent Cheng
Ha Ping
Xu Qing
Kent Cheng
Lan Law

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Flash Point

Story: Inspector Ma (Donnie Yen) has to answer a commision concerning his brutal arresting methods, and it's not the first time. However, Ma doesn't care about any of it, as his sole purpose is to get as many criminals behind bars as possible. The case he is currently working on revolves around three fugitives from Vietnam, who are giving the police a hard time with their illegal activities in Hong Kong. It proves to be very difficult to get near to the three, but fortunately undercover cop Wilson (Louis Koo) undermines the gang. Thanks to him the police can soon apprehend the criminal Archer (Ray Lui). The other two heads of the gang Tony (Collin Chou) and Tiger (Xing Yu) really aren't happy about how things evolve and so they assassin any witness that could give a testimony against Archer at his trial. Eventually, there is only Wilson left and it's not that easy to get him down. But Tony manages to kidnap his girlfriend Julie (Fan Bingbing) and uses her to apply pressure on him.
Inspector Ma is done with the rules and regulations of the police force and goes on a search for Tony and Tiger to free Julie and face the leaders of the gang in a bloody showdown.

Review: "Flash Point" is straighforward action cinema, going back to the roots in the 80s. If you are looking for a plot or well drawn characters, then you really should skip this one. Here, everything is simply about the action, which is finding its way into the movie rather late, namely during the last third, but when it kicks in it has one hell of an impact, and almost makes you forget about the disappointing rest of the film. I actually didn't expect much after the slightly disappointing "SPL" - even though "SPL" is nonetheless a very good movie, which I had to find out once again after a second viewing - and yet even these low expectations couldn't be met. Somehow I expected "Flash Point" to be more gritty, enthralling and interesting. Granted, if you compare it to director Wilson Yip's and Donnie Yen's second collaboration after "SPL", namely the incredibly ridiculous "Dragon Tiger Gate", this movie almost seems profound. But then again, as you may have guessed, this really doesn't mean much...

The plot is as hackneyed as it gets. We have a cop who doesn't stick to the rules, doesn't comply with formalities and moreover also seems to like beating up suspects. The only thing that makes this though cop look at least somewhat human is the short scene with his mother and his friendship with undercover cop Wilson. Apart from that Inspector Ma only lives for his profession. What's interesting, though, is that Donnie Yen apparently is playing the same cop as in "SPL", which gives the movie a nice touch. Still, when it comes to it, it's the same old story. Yen's portrayal equals the effort of a emotionless wooden puppet, and yet he can't refrain from putting himself into the spotlight over and over again to stress his incredible coolness. Even though this might not be as intrusive as in many other works of Yen, of which some almost seem like a mere advertisement for the self-proclaimed phenom Donnie Yen, the audience might still get bothered by it and even find it ridiculous at times.

Playing alongside Yen, Louis Koo's ("Election", "Throw Down") acting almost seems award-worthy, but as you may have guessed right again - that doesn't mean much. Koo's character is as shallow as Yen's or Fan Bingbing's. Talking about latter, it seems that she is merely in the movie, because the script needed a good-looking girl to be kidnapped. Therefore, it's no surprise that the unnecessarily long introduction somewhere along the way gets quite tedious, as we can never emotionally relate to any of the characters.
The film is also full of plot holes and logical missteps. Why does no one think of protecting Julie at the hospital? Or why does one of the police women run into an elevator, which doors are closing, while Ma is trying to disarm a criminal in the elevator, who is shooting around? Apparantly Hong Kong's police force doesn't seem to be the smartest.
When you think about it, you can really say that the first two thirds of the movie are completely unnecessary and serve no purpose. We are just waiting for the moment when Donnie Yen is finally allowed to let his fists do the talking.

You won't have missed that "Flash Point" is a return to trash-loaden 80s cinema, both storywise and concerning badly written characters. Despite the fact that the movie stands out with a polished look and seems to be produced with a good amount of money at hand, the end product is unoriginal to the core. The script jumps from one set to the next without any real reason, and can't win our interest for anything happening on screen. This becomes especially apparent when you listen to the very nice soundtrack by Kwong Wing Chan ("Infernal Affairs", "SPL"), that promises thrill, tension and keeps adrenaline pumping through your veins. But in fact there is nothing happening on screen that's actually thrilling. The chasing scenes are uninteresting and even the dying scenes of some of the supporting characters can't touch us in the slightest. The disappointment keeps piling up to the very moment were we think that nothing can save this movie anymore - but then the showdown finally kicks in.

The showdown starts off with a brutal brawl at a snack bar, whereas there isn't only lots of props, tables, chairs etc. the protagonists are thrown on, thrown through or hit with, but you can also physically feel the pain and violence involved in these scenes. Donnie Yen once again shows that he has a knack for choreographing great fight scenes. This time there are no fancy moves, but instead it all looks very natural and smash-mouth style. The energy and the adrenaline involved in these fights is something rare to be seen from Hong Kong movies nowadays.
After a shootout that's not worth to write home about, we get to the long awaited showdown between Donnie Yen and Collin Chou ("The Bodyguard from Beijing", "Matrix 2+3"). This match is unexpectedly long and makes up for many of the film's flaws. Sadly, the fight sometimes also becomes a victim of Yen's tendency for narcissistic self-portrayal, as the match is never turning out to his disadvantage. It seems as if it's just about Chou getting his ass kicked over screen in the most brutal and high-impact style possible. Yen once again uses many throws and grappling moves, and as the fights refrain from showing any unnecessary elegant moves, they seem very genuine and refreshingly uncontrived.

For action fans "Flash Point" actually has something to offer thanks to a great finale and punches/kicks you almost feel on your own body. The fights are very adrenaline-loaden and painful, therefore make any martial arts fan's heart jump for joy. However, the rest of the movie is simply 80s trash without any real plot or characters we can relate to. "Flash Point" only seems to aim at pleasing action fans, and it delivers in this respect, even though rather late in the movie. Thus, if you don't care about action then you shouldn't bother with this movie. Otherwise watch it.

(Author: Manfred Selzer)
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