Thai action star Tony Jaa and Mainland action star Wu Jing become an unlikely team in this thematic sequel to Donnie Yen’s 2005 groundbreaking action thriller.
Chatchai is a Thai prison guard whose life has been turned upside down due to his daughter Sa having leukemia. The doctors have found a donor but are unable to contact him. Despite protocol, Chatchai sneaks his way and finds the name of the donor. Like the doctors, he cannot locate him. It turns out the donor is an undercover Hong Kong cop named Chan Chi-Kit whose undercover work has caused him to spiral down in world of drug abuse. Chan is undercover to stop a black market organ smuggling ring but when his cover is blown, he finds himself in prison in Thailand.
When Chan attempts to take on the guards, he finds himself taking on Chatchai not realizing that they are the ones who are looking for each other. Meanwhile, the prison warden, Ko Chun is in cahoots with the organizer of the organ smuggling ring, Hung Mun-Gong, who is terminally ill himself with a rare heart condition and the attempt to kidnap his own brother is the reason behind Chan’s imprisonment. While the elder Hung brother awaits for something to happen to his brother, Chan and Chatchai soon realize everything that is going on and they must work together to put an end to Hung’s smuggling ring once and for all, and to do that they must take on the deadly Ko Chun and his men.
In 2005, Donnie Yen broke ground with the original Kill Zone, or SPL as it is known in Asia, with his frenetic choreography that included wushu champion turned action star Wu Jing as one of Yen’s best adversaries on screen with a knife vs. baton fight that showcases the speed and agility of both combatants, as well as Yen’s first foray into adding mixed martial arts to his choreography. Flash forward ten years later and we have a thematic sequel that now bring Wu as a new character and a protagonist.
However, the top billing actually goes to Thai action star Tony Jaa, who makes his Hong Kong debut as the embittered prison guard Chatchai, who faces a crisis involving his sick daughter and sometimes finds it difficult to balance work and home. Jaa does quite well in his Hong Kong film debut as he combines his hard hitting style with playing an emotional father whose concern for his daughter is his number one priority. As for Wu, he too is an embittered soul as Chan, whose his undercover work has forced him on an addiction to drugs and it is a botched kidnapping attempt that makes his downward spiral even further downward.
The villains of the film are in the form of Max Zhang and Louis Koo. Koo, who has been constantly appearing in many action films today, plays the quieter villain in black market organizer Hung, whose look is quite visceral, sporting a look that could possibly scare the bejesus out of someone. As for Max Zhang, sporting a more conservative look has a façade that truly makes him a force to be reckoned with and in addition, Zhang definitely has the action skills to boost as like Wu, Zhang is a trained expert in the martial art of wushu.
The action choreography is done by former Jackie Chan Stunt Team leader Nicky Li. Jaa and Wu adapt well with their distinct styles used in the choreography. Li knew how Jaa and Wu are in terms of their skills and agility and puts them to good use. Wu even has a nice one-on-one that leads into the climactic fight against Zhang Chi, who plays Max Zhang’s knife wielding assassin Ah Zai. As a matter of fact, it is clear that this particular fight pays homage to the classic riff between Yen and Wu but done at a more steady pace rather than at breakneck speed as well as adds a bit of CGI for Zai’s knife throwing riff. The finale, which starts with Wu and Jaa taking of Zhang’s men before he gets in on it does have wire enhancements but for some reason, it still looks good and the action earned the Best Action Choreography Award at this year’s Hong Kong Film Awards.
Kill Zone 2 may not be as exciting and fast paced as its predecessor, but it does hold its own and can be seen as a standalone that is driven by the emotional performances of Tony Jaa and Wu Jing in addition to this duo and Max Zhang’s action skills.
WFG RATING: B
A Sil-Metropole Organisation Ltd./Bona Film Group Co. Ltd./Sun Entertainment Culture Ltd. production in association with Maximum Gain Kapital Group Ltd. Director: Soi Cheang. Producers: Wilson Yip, Paco Wong, Michael Selby, Ren Yue, Jeffrey Chan, Guo Xiongcao, and Tong Choi-Chi. Writers: Jill Leung and Huang Ying. Cinematography: Kenny Tse and Samuel Fu. Editing: David Richardson.
Cast: Tony Jaa, Wu Jing, Max Zhang, Simon Yam, Louis Koo, Ken Lo, Jun Kung, Dominic Lam, Babyjohn Choi, Unda Kunteera Yhordchanng, Zhang Chi.