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Flash Point (Wilson Yip, 2007)


While watching the flurry of nigh-incomprehensible cuts in the fight scenes of Paul Greengrass’s The Bourne Ultimatum, I worried that the prevailing trends toward hyperkinetic editing might mean that the days of impressive chop-socky choreography were on the wane. Luckily, Wilson Yip’s Flash Point shows that that’s not yet the case in the world of HK action films, where more restrained filmmaking and more impressive athletics still reign and entertain. Near the start of Flash Point, which stars Donnie Yen as a police officer who has irked Internal Affairs because he’s too rough on criminals, we’re shown a scene in which his character is reprimanded for his rough handling of a felon. He’s threatened with suspension if he doesn’t tone down his brutal behavior. He grudgingly complies, and as a result much of Flash Point’s run time is spent waiting for him to snap. It takes about two-thirds of the film’s length for it to happen, but when a bad guy injures a child, Yen finally goes ballistic, unleashing a flurry of violence in time to salvage the film somewhat.

Set in Hong Kong before the 1997 Handover, Flash Point is strikingly shot, even before the fighting begins. Yip employs a bright color palette and a strong sense of humor throughout, making the wait for the action less painful that it otherwise might have been. Nonetheless, there’s far too much in the way of routine characterization here. Eyes will likely glaze over during the densely plotted first hour, in which a romantic subplot, and some unintriguing undercover intrigue are deployed to little effect. In many respects Flash Point is the same film as Yip’s SPL, which also starred Donnie Yen, although the Yen’s mixed-style fighting doesn’t quite have the same impact here as it did there.

Still, the final half hour the film is not exactly disappointing. Beginning with a bloody fight inside an elevator, the final act of Flash Point features a series of inventive, well-choreographed set pieces. Once the movie kicks into high gear, it rarely lets up. The face-offs are filled with brutal limb-busting. Even the gunplay is more kinetic than usual. Perhaps the most impressive displays of athletics are showcased during the training clips that accompany the closing credits, though. Ultimately, Flash Point is a solid if unspectacular entry in the Hong Kong action genre. Fans of the genre will likely leave it satisfied, although it's not as likely that they’ll feel satisfied the whole time they're watching.


Jeremy Heilman