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cast: Donnie Yen, Louis Koo, Ray Lui, and BingBing Fan

director: Wilson Yip

83 minutes (18) 2007
widescreen ratio 2.35:1
Cine Asia DVD Region 2 retail

RATING: 6/10
reviewed by Jim Steel
So what do you do if you're a powerful totalitarian state who's taken over a territory that had a nice little earner in crime thrillers? Why, you keep making them, but you set them in the time before the takeover. After all, this sort of thing just does not go on in the People's Republic. Hong Kong now has a pre-takeover mythical adventure-packed past, much as America has its wild west or Italy has its sword and sandal era. How this will continue as fashion, architecture and technology start to walk away from 1997 remains to be seen, but at the moment it works just fine. Let's face it; the audience aren't exactly coming here for historical verisimilitude. This is billed as a kung fu action movie, after all.

The plot of Flashpoint (aka: Dou fo sin) concerns a police team, led by the easy-going father figure of Inspector Wong (Kent Cheng), that are trying to defeat a gang lead by a trio of Vietnamese brothers (Collin Chou, Xing Yu, Lui Leung-Wai). The main man is Detective Sergeant Ma Jun (Donnie Yen), the experienced loner who tends to do things his own way and is constantly walking a tightrope concerning suspension. He has a habit of putting suspects in hospital. There is also Wilson (Louis Koo), who is so far undercover that even his girlfriend (Bingbing Fan) doesn't know he's a cop. Having said that, she doesn't appear too phased when she finds out. In fact, all of the women in this film are little more than ciphers who are given as much character development as the cars - not that there's much in the way of Bergmanesque self-questioning evident amongst the men either.

There are a few deleted scenes where the Viet brothers interact with their mother (Ping Ha), who is suffering from dementia - which, unlike most deleted scenes, would have added a bit more depth to the film but, as mentioned above, it's not that kind of a film anyway. Ma Jun's more distant relationship with his mother (Lan Law) is contrasted with the Vietnamese gang, but to no great effect. Then there is Wong's female replacement (Qing Xu), who is never seen out of uniform and who is treated with disinterest by the team. Most of the team seem more interested in showing off to each other and at times you wonder why they don't just get a room and spare the viewer the macho posturing.

So far, so negative - but most of the above criticism is irrelevant. This is an enormously enjoyable action adventure. The fights and chases are gripping, the camerawork is superb, and the action never lets up. The film is, unsurprisingly, very violent, and is capable of shocking on occasion, such as when Ma Jun is involved in a running battle in a market place. There's also a beautifully choreographed gunfight near the end, for those who are starting to weary of the fistfights. The style of fighting is MMA (or mixed martial arts), and is an everything-goes type of fighting that seems similar to the Korean kempo style.

There is even the occasional dash of humour. Fittingly for a territory that was founded by Scottish opium smugglers, the police brass band murders 'Scotland The Brave'. It's a cruel revenge. There is also a moment when one of the characters drops his mobile phone down the toilet and has to try and fish it out from the s-bend, and we feel we might be in for a Trainspotting type of incident. But no: this is a martial arts movie. He gives up and, instead, punches through the porcelain.

While the film is a fun way to spend an evening, it only takes up one of the DVDs in this double pack. The second disc is packed with stuff that doesn't add much at all to the experience. There is an 18-minute 'making of' documentary; a short documentary on 'ultimate fighters' that is shot in a gym; interviews with Wilson Yip, Donnie Yen, Louis Koo, Collin Chou, Ray Lui, Xing Yu, Kent Cheng, and Irene Wang; four deleted scenes; trailers; and a list of where to find Easter eggs in some other films (Dragon Tiger Gate, Dead Man's Cards, and Welcome To Dongmak Gol, in case anyone's looking for them). Ah, Easter eggs: the DVD equivalent of locked grooves. They won't be missed when the format finally goes the way of the passenger pigeon. There are two in here (Easter eggs, not passenger pigeons), but I'm damned if I could find them. Life, as many of the characters find out, is just not long enough.

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