With Dada Chen at NYAFF 2013

With Dada Chen at NYAFF 2013
With Dada Chen at NYAFF 2013

Friday, March 14, 2008

ACF 086: Flash Point

Flash Point / Dao huo xian
Directed by Wilson Yip
Hong Kong, 2007, 88 min

Two days ago I attended a special preview screening of this terrific Hong Kong cop & criminal action caper. As the poster art above indicates, it opens in theaters today, March 14th.

The film stars Donnie Yen (who also produced and served as Action Director) as Jun Ma, a detective in the Serious Crimes Unit. He's a tough-as-nails type who has no problem laying a heavy dose of whoop-ass on the bad guys. In fact, his use of excessive violence has brought him to the attention of his by-the-book superiors on the force. They are none too happy about his methods, though they can't deny the results achieved.

The film is set in 1997, just before the handover of Hong Kong to the Mainland. The only reason I can think this has been done is to avoid suggesting that police would use such techniques in Communist China. But that's just speculation on my part.

Anyway, a gang led by three Vietnamese brothers is the target of Ma's investigation. Archer Sin (Lui Leung-wai) is the eldest, but he's ceded leadership of the gang to Tony (Collin Chou), the middle brother. Tiger (Xing Yu), as his name implies, is a ferocious fighter, though his older brothers are by no means shabby in this regard.

Louis Koo plays Wilson, an undercover cop who's infiltrated the gang. His cover gets blown, Tony gets arrested, and the other two brothers briefly flee the territory. But they come back intent on freeing Tony no matter what it takes, body count be damned.

Donnie Yen, right, gets a little hang time

The fighting scenes are terrific. If jaw-dropping, take-your-breath-away action is to your liking, this film is for you. There was one bit that involves a fallen tree trunk, a speeding car, and a rifle with a sniper scope that I just could not believe. It was so outrageously imaginative, well choreographed, and crisply edited. I'm sure my mouth must have hung open for some time afterward.

At the same time, I was really pleased that the overall story played so well. Often in this type of genre fare, when there's no action going on, the film slows down or stalls dead in the water. Here things moved along much better than I expected, a tribute to a decent story arc and to interesting supporting characters and sub-plots. Veteran character actor Kent Cheng is perfectly cast as Inspector Wong, and lovely Fan Bing-Bing provides a lovely respite from all the testosterone as Julie, Wilson's girlfriend.

Detective Ma is ready to get it on

Dragon Dynasty is presenting the theatrical release of Flash Point in three cities. The label, and its parent company The Weinstein Corportation, has been criticized by some for releasing Asian films directly to DVD without giving them any widescreen release. While the DVD packages have been outstanding, I fully support the notion that many of these films deserve, and would do well enough to justify, a theatrical release, even if only a limited one.

Now that Dragon Dynasty is coming through in that regard, Asian film fans have two reasons to see this film in a theater. First off, it's a really solid work, very engaging, and it merits viewing on a big screen. Secondly, if Flash Point does well in theaters, it will hopefully encourage the release of more such offerings before they come out on DVD.

Flash Point will be playing in the following three cities:

In New York City:

ImaginAsian Theater, 239 E. 59th Street, Manhattan
Quad Cinema, 34 W. 13th Street, Manhattan
Main Street Cinemas, 7266 Main Street, Queens

In Los Angeles:

ImaginAsian Theater, 251 South Main Street
The Fairfax, 7907 Beverly Blvd
Regency South Coast Village, 1561 W Sunflower Ave

In San Francisco:

The Lumiere, 1572 California Street

Check with the theaters or in your local newspapers for start dates (I'm not sure if it's March 14th at all locations) and for showtimes.

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