I attended the 30th Toronto International Film Festival (September 8 - 17, 2005) and was fortunate enough to attend the world premiere of Yip Wai Shun's latest film. Here is my review.
In 2003 martial arts fans were treated with the deadly art of muay thai and muay boran in Ong Bak. A year later Banlieue 13 gave us a glimpse of parkour. In what appears to be, in some respects, an appropriation of Hong Kong action in many of today's films one may ask: Is Hong Kong action cinema no longer at the forefront of bone-shattering goodness? Any such fears are given the smack-down courtesy of Wilson Yip's SHA PO LANG (SPL), an utterly brutal take on the 'good cop versus bad gangster' premise starring Donnie Yen, Sammo Hung, and former wushu master Jing Wu all of whom credit legendary Yuen Wo Ping for alot of what they know. Simon Yam rounds out the principal cast members.
SPL is a dark, unforgiving action thriller that begins with detective Chan (Yam) recovering from a deadly strike ordered by crime boss Po (Hung). Frustrated at the number of failed attempts to capture Po over the years, Chan eventually gives up and looks forward to retirement. Tension is introduced to the ranks when his replacement, Ma (Yen) a highly disciplined but violent martial arts expert joins the already troubled precinct. Truth and justice is given a twist when one of Po's henchmen kills Chan's undercover operative.
SPL continues to unfold in a series of bloody assults as each member of Chan's team is brutally murdered by Po's right-hand man Jack (Wu). SPL is highlighted by some of most intense action sequences ever put to film in recent years. Wilson Yip wisely gave Donnie Yen free reign to choreograph all of the martial arts sequences of SPL. Without ever resorting to excessive edits, the brawl between Donnie Yen and Jing Wu was incredible and downright ferocious! The speed at which these guys were hammering each other with their mad martial arts skills had the audience whooping and hollering from the beginning and up until the disemboweling end. And no one will ever forget that it was SPL who gave us the first ever onscreen showdown between Donnie Yen and Sammo Hung; this was an absolute blast! We're talking about pure Hong Kong action from the late 1970s, early 1980s!
After the screening, director Wilson Yip and stars Sammo Hung and Jing Wu addressed the audience for a 20 minute QA session. Sammo was his jovial self, as always, and quite enjoyed his moment in the spotlight.
Okay people, remember the name: JING WU. He's primed and ready to become next in line after Jet Li, Donnie Yen, Sammo Hung and Jackie Chan as the premiere Hong Kong action cinema star. You folks will most likely be hearing alot more about JING WU for many years to come.