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Flash Point (Dao huo xian)

A movie directed by Wilson Yip and Donnie Yen

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Lacks the RAW Intensity of "Shah Po Lang" But this Prequel Still Rules as an Action Film!

  • May 19, 2009

FLASHPOINT is the third collaboration between Wilson Yip and Donnie Yen. This is the prequel to the highly successful "SPL: Sha Po Lang" (a.k.a. Killzone, U.S. title). Directed by Wilson Yip with fight choreography directed by Donnie Yen, "FLASHPOINT" looks very promising. How does it compare with one of my favorite action films of 2005, "SPL"?

Synopsis partially derived from the DELTAMAC dvd back cover:
Pre-1997, a hero's story. The timeline is just before Hong Kong was turned back over to China. Police Inspector Jun Ma (Donnie Yen), Serious Crimes Unit. Inspector Ma is fast, precise and brutal - Ma is all-business, his superiors often doesn't agree with his methods. Ma detests crime and his life long nemeses are a Vietnamese gang of three brothers - eldest brother Archer, the bully; second brother Tony (Collin Chou), the cool calculator; youngest brother Tiger (Xing Xu), the fighter. Their skills have seen them grow steadily in the criminal world. In order to further infiltrate the gang and fight them from within, Ma has planted a mole, Wilson ( Louis Koo), who has managed to gain the complete trust of the gang and has become their personal bodyguard. Over the years Wilson has become more and more unhappy with Ma's impulsive and unruly style, their disagreements in their way of working has led to constant arguments and altercations.

Unlike Yip and Yen's other 2 collaborations, SPL and Dragon Tiger Gate, "Flash Point" is all business. It is a straight-forward action film, losing all excess "meat" like intricate storytelling and character development. Donnie Yen once again reprises his role as Inspector Ma, the film is made for Donnie Yen fans--it is all Donnie!! If you're an action fan, then this film will satisfy. The result is "more style than substance". At least, it is not pretentious to resort to canned melodrama, it doesn't attempt to impress with complex emotions and doesn't do anything fancy. It isn't a perfect film, it has a very simple motive: to entertain us with "popcorn" action entertainment.

One fault that the film may have is that the villains; Tony and Tiger are skilled martial artists in real life but they are pretty much one-dimensional villains with the usual stereotype. Although Tony (Collin Chou, Matrix Reloaded) is shown as a skilled fighter, his character is a bit uninteresting. Another is that the police force is so inept in protecting witnesses. It seemed so unreal that Wilson's girlfriend (Beautiful Fan Bing-Bing) would be so unprotected. Also, what is up with movies portraying cops as lacking in common sense? Sometimes, it really bothers me that movies nowadays, cops are being portrayed to be so untrained in dealing with dangerous situations just so the screenplay can get to where it wants to go. The plotline in Flashpoint is unimaginative and pretty routine. The plot is so stripped down that "simple" is an understatement.

Thankfully, to the film's credit, the film does deliver in the action sequences. Yen is his usual "COOL-over-acting" self. Yen is an actor who likes to show off and his acting abilities may oftentimes be lacking, Donnie Yen is still being Donnie Yen with his bit of over-acting. He eats up the screen with the film's final fight finale, Yen is intense and enraged, righteously focused and skillful in the encounter and most of all: Fonzie-cool. The Martial Arts fight is very well done, and stays within the realm of Inspector Ma's character in SPL. Yen uses the usual mixed martial arts style of Boxing, furious kicks and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. The fights are fast-paced and visually stunning, it certainly entertains with maximum impact. As with SPL, the fights are filled with intensity that you could almost feel every bone-breaking hit (and misses). Collin Chou is to be credited that his caliber as a martial artist makes him a worthy opponent. Like him or not, Donnie Yen does have the presence of an intense, highly skilled fighter, he is quite convincing as a butt-kicking action hero. He is ultra-cool in the final fight finale, which in my observation, sometimes Donnie Yen tends to make too much effort in looking cool; the fights may feel unrealistic but still looks pretty stylish and intensely entertaining.

Action fans will definitely embrace "FLASHPOINT". It is far from perfect, but with its "pure" screen action sequences, it does entertain and is never boring. Sometimes, viewers just want action and the fight sequences on display is hard-hitting and tough enough to satisfy those fans. The plot is hollow and a bit sloppy; "FLASHPOINT" will definitely NOT unseat "SPL: Sha Po Lang" as the BEST Wilson Yip-Donnie Yen collaboration. With its truly unforgettable Yen-Wu Jing alleyway duel/Sammo Hung-Yen final fight, SPL outshines everything `Flashpoint" has to offer. As an action film, Flash Point is a satisfying enough diversion. This prequel could have been so much better, but thankfully, it is NOT much, much worse.

RECOMMENDED! For action fanatics...[4 stars]


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July 20, 2009
Great review, man. I just finally wrote about SPL earlier this month (I saw it years ago, loved it, but never wrote a review for some reason). I liked Flashpoint as well (never wrote about that one either...sigh), but SPL is still my favorite.
July 20, 2009
Thanks, Mike and welcome back! Yep, my fave Yen-Yip collaboration used to be "SPL" but now upon the release of their latest film; "IP MAN" has become my fave with "SPL" a close second. I hope you have that SPL review here...
July 20, 2009
Unfortunately it's not here--I didn't see a data point for it. I was planning on posting it here though. I guess I really need to see IP Man now.
July 20, 2009
I can create a data point for it for you. Would love to see that review, I intend to transfer/expand my own review for SPL myself. As for "IP Man", you may check it out right here if you wish...
May 22, 2009
I watched this a while back and wasn't aware that it was the prequel to SPL/killzone. I still think the final fight scene in this one was better than the final fight in spl. Although I agree with you spl had a better story and character dev. nice writeup
May 22, 2009
Yep, this was a prequel alright. The fight here was longer, but SPL had the better set up due to its emotions; which is why the final two fights in SPL had more narrative impact. I thought the fight here was a little too stylish while SPL's was more intense and quick. They're both good, but I just prefer SPL's. Have you seen "IP MAN"? if not, check out my review here.
May 22, 2009
Yes I have read your review, which was really good btw, and no I haven't watched the movie. But everyone and their moms have praised Ip Man as an awesome movie so I've got it on my netflix "saved" queue. Might need to get it from somewhere else since it doesnt look like they'll have it anytime soon.
May 23, 2009
hey, foboftheyear, make sure you also check out "Shadowless Sword"...I think it's also up your alley. oh, Ip man is available online at hkflix.com--all-region dvd or you may wait for the dragon dynasty release.
May 23, 2009
I"ve seen shadowless sword a while back and thought it was great. As for hkflix.com, never heard of it before. I'll check it out right now. thanx
May 19, 2009
I still haven't gotten around to this one but its on the list--great review. Everybody needs a little indless action now and then.
More Flash Point (Dao huo xian) reviews
Quick Tip by . February 09, 2013
posted in ASIANatomy
While lacking most of the emotional drama, and build up that made SPL so successful as an action film, Flash Point does come complete with hard-hitting fights and the usual over-acting from Donnie Yen as the tragic cop Inspector Ma. Still worth a watch if you are an action junkie.      See Full Review here.     
review by . September 01, 2010
posted in ASIANatomy
      FLASHPOINT      Depending on who you ask this is either a prequel to the excellent SPL [KILLZONE] or it is very much not. Depending on when you ask Yen himself I guess you will get a different answer, I know it sounds complicated. From what I have read star Donnie Yen before and maybe even during production was claiming this to be the second SPL film. But afterwards Yen denied the claims of this being related to SPL as it turns out it seems due to copyright …
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Winner of the 27th Annual HK film Award for Best Action Design. The Donnie Yen-Wilson Yip tag team return with the blistering actioner Flash Point. The actor-director combo previously made waves with SPL and Dragon Tiger Gate, reaching new levels of excitement with their depiction of onscreen martial arts mayhem. Flash Point is a return to SPL territory - at least character-wise. This prequel to SPL finds Yen's Inspector Ma involved in a difficult case versus a trio of deadly Vietnamese bad guys. Inspector Ma's partner Wilson (Louis Koo) poses as a member of the gang to keep tabs on the trio, leading to the arrest of Archer (Ray Lui of To Be Number One). However, Archer's cohorts Tony (Collin Chou of The Matrix Reloaded) and Tiger (Xing Yu of Kung Fu Hustle) are still at large, and will stop at nothing to prevent Wilson and other witnesses from testifying. When they kidnap Wilson's girlfriend (Fan Bing Bing) to blackmail him, only Inspector Ma is willing to come to his partner's aid - and whoever stands in his way had better watch out!
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Genre: Action, Adventure
Release Date: March 14, 2008
MPAA Rating: R
Runtime: 1hr 28min

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