Another badass testament to Donnie Yen’s inimitable action-star prowess, this Hong Kong cop flick centers around two partners, one an ace officer, the other an undercover mole, as they attempt to take down a ruthless drug ring. We see Yen’s Det. Sgt. Ma get in the face of the central baddies, three evil Vietnamese brothers/dealers, before getting in an altercation with one of their henchmen; we soon learn that this “henchman” is in fact Wilson, Ma’s close friend and partner, deep undercover with the dealers. Losing his marbles, as these tortured undercovers usually do, Wilson begins a tenuous romance with a devoted former flame. As Ma and Wilson bust one of the brothers, and get closer than ever to dismantling the drug ring for good, Wilson’s girlfriend gets kidnapped; the two must set straight their resolve, their partnership, and their sense of righteousness to take down the bad guys, get the girl, and get out alive.
If that last part made the film sound like something you’ve seen before, you are not entirely inaccurate, at least in terms of narrative. While the plot moves along at a clip, slowing down only for the wholly successful love story involving Wilson, there is very little here in terms of overarching narrative that brings anything new to the table. That being said, the details are rock solid, and contribute just as much to the overall package as anything else; Wilson’s tiny, noodle-littered apartment, Ma’s relationship with his mother, and the oddly calm locale where the climax takes place are all wonderfully evocative touches that keep the film from feeling like some generic actioner. But, of course, the main distinguishing factor between this and similar Hong Kong (and American) cop flicks is Donnie Yen’s work as the lead and as the action choreographer. Faster and more built in his 40′s than many of his more youthful contemporaries, Yen lets actor Louis Koo, who cuts an endearing figure, run with the more interesting acting role, while Yen, himself, coasts on style and physical presence alone. Apparently, Yen made this film after an excursion to the U.S. inspired him to incorporate more MMA moves into his wushu, and the result is a more contact-heavy, brutal flavor to his typically elegant movements. The other cast members are proficient enough, but it is clear that Yen is the clear standout in terms of technique; Yen’s similar Kill Zone benefited from having Sammo Hung, who once took on Bruce freaking Lee on film, as the villain, but the baddies here are young guys just waiting to get their Donnies Yenned. Nonetheless, this is a stellar example of the potential of HK action cinema, even when it’s slightly derivative, and yet another showcase for badass mofo Donnie Yen to be a badass mofo.
Recommended to fans of contemporary Hong Kong action cinema with only a touch of melodrama, or of Donnie Yen. For a Yen crash course, I’d start with either Kill Zone or especially Iron Monkey; however, this is no weak link, but rather another in that league of action flick.