SPL 2: A Time For Consequences (Saat po long 2)
China/Hong Kong (2015) Dir. Cheang Pou-soi
Some readers may recall the 2005 Donnie Yen film Kill Zone (originally titled SPL: Sha Po Lang in its native Hong Kong) – well, forget it because this film is a “sequel in name only” affair which makes little sense. To confirm its distance from the original, Donnie Yen isn’t in this film but it does star Thai sensation Tony Jaa. A fair trade?
The plot is rather involved and initially confusing thanks to the use of sudden flashbacks to reveal it. At the centre is Kit (Wu Jing) an undercover Hong Kong cop trying to infiltrate a gang of human traffickers who send Hong Kong locals to Thailand then harvest their organs. The mastermind is Mr. Hung (Louis Koo) who is need of a heart transplant himself, selecting his brother Man-Biu (Jun Kung) as a suitable donor.
A reluctant Man-Biu tries to flee the country forcing Hung to sends his men to capture his brother but Kit has already warned the police leading to a shoot out which sees Man-Biu injured. Kit’s cover is blown, expelled from the gang and ends up in prison in Thailand where one of the guards Chatchai (Tony Jaa), an honourable man whose nine year-old daughter Sa (Unda Kunteera Yhordchanng) has leukaemia and needs a bone marrow transplant. A donor has been found in Hong Kong but Chatchai can’t get in contact with him, unaware that the donor is in fact Kit.
SPL 2 is arguably most noteworthy for being part of Tony Jaa’s comeback/redemption after the public breakdown that followed his stratospheric rise to fame with the Ong Bak films. While Jaa fans will be pleased to hear that, despite being a decade older and with a couple of extra pounds on his chiselled frame, he is still kicking prime butt Wu Jing is the star attraction here.
Wu Jing, along with Simon Yam who pays Kit’s uncle and police superior Chan Kwok-wah, return from the first SPL film but in different characters since this film has no relevance to it as already established. The action is split between Hong Kong and Thailand for the first half of the film, settling in the latter location for the second half where some of the cast magically reveal themselves to be bilingual.
Chatchai’s story thread is one largely built around the near misses he has with his potential donor Kit which includes an almost comical and possibly offensive mix-up with Kit’s lost mobile phone in Hong Kong. I say offensive because a Down Syndrome fisherman finds it in the sea and of course hangs up on all the garbled Thai messages and calls he keeps receiving. It might be innocent but it just doesn’t feel it.
Overcoming the language barrier elsewhere is a handy translator app everyone has on their phone which spares us a lot of confusion while celebrating the advances of modern technology. A mobile phone also provides unintentional giggles during one of the big fight scenes as a riot breaks out in the prison and Kit is trying to get a signal on his phone while simultaneously fighting off a number of attackers – including prison guard Chatchai!
This particular scene has been presented as a single tracking shot (similar to a fight in Jaa’s Warrior King) which flits between multiple fights up and down the prison yard, with bodies flying everywhere. While tightly choreographed and precisely executed, it does get a bit silly when Jaa and Jing fall from great heights onto a concrete floor yet get up unhurt and resume fighting.
It’s probably just as well that the film is loaded with spectacular and often bloody fight scenes to distract us from the overcooked plot. Oh yes, there is plenty more to add to the summary shared earlier. It seems that the prison Chatchai is a guard at is a home base for kidnapped kids which are to be sold off as unwilling organ donors, run by the eternally suave and ice cold Ko Hung (Zhang Jin). Chatchai stumbles upon this operation and is bought off by Hung with enough money to save Sa.
There is STILL more but we’ll leave it here otherwise this review will become a full-blown recap. There is a lot to keep track of but it is actually easier in practice than it sounds once the flashbacks stop and the plot threads converge. However one senses there are two really good films that could have been made from these storylines, which would have reduced the near two-hour run time and made for a tighter and more intense film.
Not that this is lacking in intensity, the fights and brutal violence see to that. The film climaxes with a superb three way clash which pits Tony Jaa and Wu Jing against Zhang Jin. This is great stuff but the flow is marred by cutaways to other scenes and a hokey ending that would even embarrass Hollywood! One can also see the excessive use of wirework which Jaa is famous for eschewing, which he *might* have capitulated on for a couple of spots.
Also deserving credit in the fighting stakes is Zhang Chi playing a silent knife-wielding assassin who literally slices, dices and kicks some impressive rear end en masse. Obviously this isn’t a film where award winning acting is paramount but the cast largely hold their end up with Louis Koo taking on a rare nasty role, in which his matinee idol looks are largely obscured as the seriously ill Mr. Hung. Unda Kunteera Yhordchanng is also adorable as young Sa.
Arguably the biggest handicap for this film – aside from the needlessly busy storylines – was to attach it to the previous SPL film when it is sufficiently entertaining enough to stand on its own two feet with a different title. It probably panders too much to the excesses of modern action films but as pure popcorn mayhem SPL 2: A Time For Consequences is kick ass fun!