Friday, October 5, 2012

Kill Zone - Two Crimes for the Price of One

OK. School has started, our brains are settling back in to a schedule, winter is rapidly arriving here in the Frozen North, and we are back on track for your all of your blog reading pleasure.

So, what is this deliciousness that we speak of this week? Why, yes. It is YET ANOTHER Donnie Yen film. And, if you are unfamiliar with how the Mavens feel about Mr. Yen, I suggest that you go back several blogs to read our dissertation on how amazing he truly is. (insert angel choir here)

But, rather than overkill you with adoration and drooliness, let's just talk about the awesomazing film that is  "Kill Zone" (Saat Po Long), starring Donnie Yen (swoon), Sammo Hung (pumps fist), Jacky Wu (Oh, THAT guy), and Simon Yam (NICE HAIR!!!). It is in fact an epically sad, unbelievably tragic, kidney punching, high action Hong Kong cop flick with as many twists and turns as the Iroha-Zaka road in Japan. Seriously. This movie is a series of:

"You... me? No. NO! NOOOOO!"

And that is what makes his a great film!

So, the technicalities: "Kill Zone" was written by Wilson Yip (IP Man 1 & 2, Flash Point, Dragon Tiger Gate, etc), Kam-Yuen Szeto (Exiled, Flash Point, Shamo, etc.) , and Wai Lun Ng. It was directed by Wilson Yip and released in 2005 by Dragon Dynasty. (YAAAY!!!) And yes, it is presently 2012. But no matter how you slice it, or in this case beat the living daylights out of it with your bare knuckles of brutality, this film is rather timeless and still brings us to our feet in all of its brutal punchy glory!

OK, so... on with the film, right? RIGHT!

Our movie opens up to a beautiful oceanside beach scene. We see Inspector Chan Kwok-Chung (Simon Yam) walking along with perhaps the most adorable little girl to have graced the screen in the last 10 years. It's a loving scene, heart wrenching with love... AAAAAND you're going to need to remember this. So, "put a pin in it" and be prepared to come back to that later.

Insert credits... Insert images of Sammo Hung playing the role of a super bad-guy... Aaand we're launched onto the scene of a twisted, bloody car wreck involving two cars.  Just tires and glass and blood and metal bits all over the place.So, what happened here?

Wait for it... 
wait for iiiiit... 
(insert flashback montage)

See, 15 minutes ago Inspector Chan was transporting a witness and his family, including the aforementioned painfully adorable little girl, to a courthouse to testify against the infamous Wong Po (Sammo Hung). Being the super supreme bad guy that he is, OF COURSE Wong Po doesn't want this witness to testify. So, in 3 flicks of the wrist Wong Po calls his "goon squad" into action. Short and sweet here, they T-bone the car, killing 5 of the 7 passengers inside, none of which were wearing their seatbelt, so this doesn't come as a surprise. And, to make matters just about 25% worse, some kid in a white "Thriller" style outfit walks up to the car and slits the throat of the witness, "just to be sure" that he can't testify. Write this down. You'll need to remember it later.

The only survivors are Inspector Chan, who has a HUGE chunk of glass shoved into the back of his head (shudder), and the little girl who is banged up really badly. Now, being the man of ultimate responsibility that he is, he adopts the girl and raises her as his own child. And quite honestly, you really get the sense that he has deep fatherly love for this little girl. And who wouldn't? SHE'S SO DARN CUTE!!!! But enough with the girl... for now.

We're launched forward several months to find Inspector Chan and the little girl back at the hospital where he is having a following screening for his accident. It is here that the doctor tells him that he has an incurable/inoperable brain tumor growing at the site of the aforementioned "glass in the skull" wound.

Donnie Yen's character hasn't even shown up yet and we're already getting punched in the gut emotionally! 

Ok, so. While Insp. Chan and the doctor talk about the situation, his adopted daughter wanders off, and eventually happens upon Wong Po who is visiting his wife who has recently had another miscarriage. Naturally mourning the situation, he is a little teary and the adorable little girl asks him what is wrong and shares her candy with him. (OH GOD... it's so cute and endearing that it hurts.)

When Chan finds her talking to his arch-nemesis of all crime-dom (yes, this is a new official word), he yanks the little girl back to him and lays down an "I am SO gonna bust you Wong Po" threat, which naturally doesn't  ruffle Wong Po's feathers, because he's juuuust that bad. This starts a storm of insults and threats that will help motivate the action and punching for the rest of the movie, including a crazy bumper cars, car-bashing, golf clubs sword fight in the middle of a country rode which is entirely out of the blue, but sort of awesome none-the-less.

All in all, this just affirms the hatred, contempt, cat & mouse relationship between these two men.

Now, back at police headquarters we see Insp. Chan having a meeting with his special ops group. They're about to send in an ever-so-hesitant officer into an undercover scenario within Wong Po's ranks. And, it is at this point that our minds get totally distracted wondering how an undercover cop can slip into the ranks and immediately move into the position of "secondary right hand man to senior bad guy", because we're pretty sure that job position is far more difficult to acquire than your regular old job promotion "within the company". And, let's be honest, that crap ain't happening for "average Joe" in this economy either, undercover or not.


The point here is that Wong Po is big and powerful, and without seriously solid evidence, they're never going to be able to bring him down.

So, once the meeting is over, Insp. Chan tells his bestest buddy on the squad about his brain cancer over the slurpiest, sloppiest lunch ever. And it is here that we realize why very few "eating scenes" are ever shot. (shudder) Now, his bestest buddy happens to be known to us as "Angry Guy", because this guy manages stress and anger as well as my 8 year old handles the mere presence of hornets/moths/spiders/bees/flies/gnats/butterflies...


SO, while Insp. Chan sort of nonchalantly blows off the fact that he is dying and his "daughter" will be left as an orphan again, and that Wong Po will never get caught before he dies, and... and... and... Angry Guy slams down his coffee cup and makes a scene in the middle of the restaurant. He then proceeds to tell the other guys on the squad which forms the beginning of an elaborate plan to ensure the safety, security, and long term provisions for Chan's daughter.

Now, for reasons not explained, we soon find out that Chan is retiring "tomorrow", which feels entirely abrupt and poorly planned considering where the "team" is at in the busting of the Wong Po posse. But, he's retiring none-the-less and he will be replaced by Insp. Ma Kwun (Donnie Yen). Chan's superior gives him a verbal lashing about stepping outside the bounds of the law to accomplish his task, and then makes sure that he prepares everything well for Kwun. But, with a smile, a nod, and a "James Bond driving an economy car"sort of way, the team takes off to bust one of Wong Po's posse's who are trafficking women and drugs just around the corner.

As they make their speedy getaway, they nearly run headlong into the arriving Insp. Kwun. Insp Chan tells the men who he is, that he's taking over, and then out come the urban legends about Insp. Kwun... that he's a super bada$$, that he used to be a special ops force, that he killed a guy with one punch... And, for that most part all of that is true. All but the killing part. No, no, no... he just caused severe brain damage to a guy with one punch. Just launched him up and nearly over his car with one punch. But no. No death. Just maiming the brain into a pile of pulsating tapioca. And, it is here that Mr. Angry has another fit and calls the whole thing a bunch of crap.

Dude... they make meds for that ya' know.

OK. SO, the team flies onto the scene in their "economy wheels" and bust up the drugs/hookers party, shoot a bunch of guys, make a few arrests, and then grab a bag full of money and hide it in the trunk.

These are the cops, right? 
What are they doing with that drug money? 
(insert the reminder of the elaborate scheme from the aforementioned scene). 

And, for a minute there the guys honestly thought they were going to get away with it... considering that they actually hid the whole deal from Insp. Chan. But, as everyone knows there is ALWAYS a snitch just around the corner.

Now, through a fairly epic juxtaposed montage we see Kwun arriving at the precinct, walking through the special ops department with some SERIOUS swagger, observing the desks of the various men, profiling them on what he sees, attempting to get to know them a bit before their first official meeting... His intentions are pure. His swagger is tough. His fists, deadly. (drooool)

WOW... That was a COMPLETE aside!

...and now we're back to the here and now and "first in line to senior bad guy", aka "The Snitch", who just happens to be dressed like an organ grinder's monkey, arrives to tell Wong Po that his business has been broken up by the cops and that his money has been confiscated. And, we're not talking $500 here. We're talking hundreds of thousands of moolah having been stolen. SO, what does any bad guy do when he's been ratted out by a double agent? He takes that agent out to the swamp, plays golf with his head, and then has him snuffed out by an organ grinder's monkey... Errr, I mean his first in command.

NOW, tucked in here is a moment where Insp. Kwun goes out for an obligatory visitation with the guy who's brain he destroyed. The mentally reduced individual is adorable, the exchange is sweet, the "flashback of destruction" is awesome and reaffirms that Kelly HONESTLY believes that Donnie Yen could outrun a cheetah, and through it all we learn a bit more about the man that Insp. Kwun has become as a result of the circumstances. AAaaawww...

The next day Kwun is introduced to his team, and then they collectively head out to the swamp to check out the dead body, who just happens to be the secret agent that Chan sent into the lion's den a few days back, filled with promises of being protected and all. Hhhrrmmm, I guess that didn't work out too well. On the hiking trail to the murder scene they run into an odd character carrying a video camera. They sort of harass this "special" kid. But... meh. Whatever right?

So, there he (the special agent) is. Dead as dead can be, and containing no physical evidence as to whom the specific perpetrator is. Though the ops team has their own opinions on the matter.

"But if only we had some evidence. 
Like some evidence caught on film... 
Like the film you would put in a video camera..."
(scratches chin amusingly)

Back at the station the guys are sitting around rolling the utter lack of clues around in their head, completely ignoring that Kwun is in the room, talking to each other as if he were not there at all. Their obvious dislike and lack of acceptance of him is apparent here. The distrust is so thick in fact that you could spread it over toast and eat it for breakfast like Nutella. MMmmm, Nutella...

OH... and, remember that odd kid from the swamp? Well, while he was out trying to film swamp creatures and alien abductions, he just happened to get footage of the aforementioned golfing/murder spree.
"OOOOH!!! THAT filmed evidence!"
(slaps forehead)

"Angry guy" harasses the kid, confiscates the tape, gives Kwun the shifty "uh, I think your Mom's calling" look and then the team runs into a conference room whereupon they lock the door, draw the blinds, and view the tape... sans Insp. Kwun, their new team leader.


The team sees what really happened, and then they collectively decide that a little creative editing will help them make Wong Po guilty, even if he wasn't the trigger man. Does this sound like a bad idea? You can bet your sweet steamed sticky buns it is! While they show the film the Insp. Kwun, "Angry Guy" is sent out to harass the odd kid who provided the evidence, which he seems to be a pro at, and then confiscates all of his tapes in order to keep the "evidence" air tight... OR DOES HE??? 

And, as if that wasn't a bad enough idea, the team sans Kwun heads out to catch the actual trigger man and "take care of him". But they take two cars because "Angry Guy" is busy messin' up the weird kid's electronics shop (according to wiki). Sensing that something isn't right, and who wouldn't after that awkward video viewing exchange, Kwun follows the team out.

It is here that he witnesses the team murder the "organ grinder's trigger monkey", which results in a merciless beat down of flying gas cans in your face, fists, bloody bits and arguing in equal proportions.

And awesome, with all the sweat and blood and stuff. Kwun get's angry that they're using dirty tactics to fight crime. They point out that he nearly killed a man thus justifying their right to do illegal things to bring illegal behaviors to justice.

Wait! 2+9...+14...carry the one... divide by the square root...
(Yeah. We don't really understand the philosophical math on this one either.)

So, back at the office hundreds of young Wong Po punks show up stating that they are the killer, causing a near riot in the precinct. Kwun whiggs out and shouts to book them all and take their statements. Then, in the upper room the team, INCLUDING Kwun now discuss what they're going to do... They decide to head out and quickly arrest Wong Po who is celebrating the one month birthday of his actual child who has been born for real this time. And, let's be honest here. A beat down involving BOTH Donnie Yen AND Sammo Hung is going to be epic EVERY time. Except this time there is a stuffed pink panther involved, flying, punching, kicking, Donnie Yen laying down the "WAHPUTCHA WAHPUTCHA" in leather, some busted up furniture, and multiple guys needed to finally restrain Wong Po after they thoroughly re-arrange the lounge area of the department store in a fraternity party style manner.

Bloody Mess... 
and we're moving on.

Ok. Now, there has been a lot of back story here in the first half of the movie. However, the rest of the movie just completely flies by with the kicking, punching, Whaputcha's, spooty blood, etc. So, buckle in and be prepared to move at top speed here...

So, they go harass Wong Po down in his jail cell, trying to intimidate him into "confessing his crime". Great idea, right? Pfffft...  This is where Wong Po tells them that they'll never leave the station alive and they won't live to see morning. Nice move guys...

By now you've naturally figured out that the team has half screwed up, half jeopordized their employment status, and has completely guilted and dragged Kwun into their swirling whirlpool of lies, deception, and "two rights makes a wrong" situation. As a group they realize that they are still short on evidence and need to lie more to make the lies they've been telling MORE true so that Wong Po will be convicted.  Insp. Chun heads down to the evidence room to confiscate the bullet pulled off of the dead undercover guy. The youngest member of the team arranges to purchase a gun of the exact same model that was used so that they can fire off another round, replace the evidence, and then place the gun in Wong Po's penthouse. Angry guy and the "fourth Beatle"sit around, smoke, and drink coffee, waiting for the other foot to fall.
Hands in the center

While in the evidence room, Chun develops a nose bleed and passes out. Pesky brain tumor! So, smuggling the bullet out ain't happening.
Wong Po: 1
Special Ops: 0

The young officer and Kwun head out to the pickup point. There's a sort of "shirt vs. skin" style soccer match going on... in the parking ramp. (... and yes. Our minds were a-whirl with all sorts of questions here) There are geeky girls dancing in the corner with a HUGE 1980's boom box. All is well on this typical night of late teens hooliganism. The gun arrives, the price has changed. The guys lack the monetary clams to cover it, so Kwun heads back to the station to get more money, leaving "young guy" all alone. Everything should be ok, right? (slaps head)

Not too soon after everyone runs out of the parking garage, leaving the young officer all alone. Well, wait. OK. He's not entirely alone. Remember that bad guy dressed in white at the beginning of the movie? Yeah. He's there. He goes by "Jack", and he unleashes the bloodiest, most brutal thrashing in all of murderdom.

Kwun arrives just before his death and is unable to stop the perpetrator of the hanous slicery, which pisses him off. And, if you recall from the "I will punch your brains through your head" montage earlier in the film, you know that you DON'T want Kwun pissed off. You will die.

So, now the tampering with evidence plan is out.

Wong Po: 2
Special Ops: 0

Wong Po sends his guys out and retrieves the extra video tape, and they ask nicely, thus proving Wong Po's innocence, though his generalized golf club douchebaggery is apparent. He is released from jail and you can BET that it's going to be a no holds barred payback of epic epicness, because this is Sammo Hung, and he's playing a bad guy.

Wong Po: 3
Special Ops: 0

This is looking bleak.

The "fourth Beatle" frets over the fact that his daughter is leaving "tonight" and that he doesn't know when he'll see her again. It is imperative that he get out, but he's also afraid of dying. WHAT TO DO!!! So, he and "Angry Guy" go out together... because after all there is safety in numbers. They meet the daughter, and while "Angry Guy" looks on at the loving scene, he realizes that he really ought to call home and check up on his "Angry Dad".

Turns out his Dad died three months back. Crushed, he hangs up the phone... and is promptly stabbed to stabby, bloody death by "Jack". And then, he runs up on the "Fourth Beatle" and murders him in a hanously pokey in the back fashion just as his daughter is walking away. Kwun happens upon the scene just in time to close "Angry Man's" throat up and hear the crime confession of a lifetime. And, this death scene is UTTERLY epic in a truly believable struggling to breath and fighting death the end sort of way. It is here that Kwun finds out about the hot money in the trunk, why Wong Po is as pissed off as he is, and the realization of the F-dom that they are in becomes apparent.

Kwun heads back to the precinct to confront Chan...

Back at the precinct, the duplicate tape is delivered, Wong Po is released, and the "man hunt" is ON for Chan and his posse. Chan pulls a "Ninja Cop" move in an attempt to get out of the precinct, but gets cornered in the mens room.

When they finally catch up to one another, Chan is SHOCKED to learn of the hidden money. Really and sincerely shocked! He and Kwun have a conversation about being cops, and then determine that the best course of action is to return the money and apologize for the situation. But, of course Chan couldn't agree to just that. No, no, no, no... he pulls a "fingers crossed behind the back" move and takes a fake bag to Wong Po's penthouse, where upon he pulls out a gun hoping to snuff out everyone and end this ridiculousness once and for all! But... Jack's in the room, and therefore squat gets accomplished.

When Kwun finds out that Chan left without him AND left the money behind, he gets pissed off and heads out to "fix" the situation. The Chief tries to stop him, there is an outburst, Kwun resigns, placing his gun and badge on top of a car. And, for those of you who are familiar with Donnie Yen's work... when you've got fists THAT lethal, a gun is just another accessory that matches your wardrobe.

Kwun arrives at the penthouse and heads to the alley entrance, where he is met by "Jack". And, what happens here is one of the most glorious, deliciously brutal, punchy McWhip fest I think I have EVER withnessed. Words can't really describe the brilliance of the choreography, staging, fighting skills, blood budget, etc that went into this.

But, "Jack" dies, Kwun awesome leather jacket is ruined, and he still has to get the money to its destination.

And, this next scene is one I will remember forever as MJ loudly proclaims "Oh.. HELLO Donnie Yen" when she saw it for the first time. And, to be perfectly honest, you are likely to do the same thing. Within mere seconds, two of our top favorite martial arts guys are brutalizing each other... and it's amazing. You're in awe. Sammo Hung throws down hard, Donnie Yen convinces us that you can in fact fight MMA style in dockers and still be bada$$. And, MJ personally adores the broken bottles bit. It's her favorite and she "squees" each time.

...and in the end you find yourself saying:


...But we can't give you the details because you REALLY need to experience this one on your own! So, hustle your bustle and get this bad boy rented for Friday night. You won't regret it!


The Mavens