A few years ago in 2005, Donnie Yen starred in a movie directed by Wilson Yip called S.P.L. (a.k.a. Sha Po Lang and released in North America as Kill Zone) as a tough Hong Kong cop named Ma Jun. Two years later, Yen reprised the role and Yip got behind the camera again for Dou Fo Sin, which Dragon Dynasty has now released on DVD as Flash Point.
This time around, Ma Jun is told by his superior officers to tone down his extreme methods. It seems a lot of people get hurt whenever he cracks a case. He argues that all he's trying to do is stop crime, but they don't see things the way he does. Regardless, Ma Jun is back on the streets and a gang lead by three drug dealing Vietnamese brothers is wreaking havoc on the streets. A cop named Wilson (Louis Koo) goes undercover to get in tight with the bad guys but things soon turn sour and the bad guys retaliate in spades.
Jun knows his superiors aren't going to like it when he turns up the heat but he also knows that he has no choice. This is made all the more obvious when a clever bomb placed inside a chicken kills off one of their own and shows Jun that these thugs mean business. The gang has not only targeted Wilson, but his girlfriend Julie (Bingbing Fan) as well and Jun and Wilson find themselves with no choice but to take the fight to enemy territory.
Flash Point definitely takes its sweet time to start moving, and a lot of action fans may be put off by the fact that the first hour of the film contains almost no action at all. The plot builds slowly and deliberately but once the hour mark hits, watch out, all bets are off and Yen and his team explode on the screen in a barrage of mixed martial arts and impressive gunplay. In short, the last half hour of this picture is so strong that it completely redeems the slower first two thirds. The violence hits hard and fast and it carries some seriously solid impact.
Yen carries the film with a consummate sense of cool. He's slick in his black leather jacket and he carries his hot tempered cop through the movie with a whole lot of tough guy style. Louis Koo is solid as his partner Wilson and while he spends most of the film getting the crap kicked out of him (eliciting a fair bit of sympathy in the process) he makes for a good counterpart to Yen's lead. The bad guys are sleazy and nasty enough that you don't mind the fact that they're really one dimensional, as they exist for the sole purpose of giving Yen someone to fight.
While the film isn't perfect - aside from the slow start there's also some bad CGI work and more than a few melodramatic clichés - Flash Point is never the less an entertaining cops and robbers action film. A few clever moments make you wonder as to Ma Jun's sanity and the effectiveness of his methods, giving us something to think about, but first and foremost this is simply a quality action film. Those who don't mind the slow boil technique employed will be amply rewarded with the payoff.The DVD
Flash Point hits DVD in a 2.35.1 anamorphic widescreen transfer that looks pretty solid despite a few minor flaws. A couple of the darker scenes exhibit mild compression artifacts and some shimmering is noticeable on diagonal lines in a few scenes. Aside from that, however, the movie looks quite good. Detail is strong in the foreground and background of the image and color reproduction, while intentionally toned down to give the film a rougher look, is pretty realistic. Skin tones are quite natural and black levels are strong and stable. There aren't any problems with grain or print damage and overall, this is a fine transfer.Sound:
Dragon Dynasty provides a nice selection of audio options for the film - Cantonese Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound, Cantonese DTS 5.1 Surround Sound, and English Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound. Optional subtitles are provided in English and Spanish while closed captioning is available in English only.
The film plays considerably better in its original Cantonese but those who don't do well with subtitles should be pleased with the quality of the English 5.1 mix as it's pretty active and well balanced. The Cantonese DTS track is the best of the three options, however, as it has marginally stronger bass and just a little more punch in a few of the action scenes. Regardless of which option you go for, expect an active surround mix with nice directional effects, clear dialogue, and strong bass response. The score, which sometimes feels out of place in the film, also sounds fairly lively and is reproduced here with nice, sharp clarity.Extras:
The supplements for this release have been spread across the two discs in the set. The first disc contains animated menus, chapter selection, and an audio commentary with Donnie Yen and noted Hong Kong cinema expert Bey Logan, who has appeared on a few Dragon Dynasty releases at this point in the game. This is a pretty decent track with Logan prompting Yen with intelligent questions about the making of the film and keeping him talking and on topic. They cover some of the difficulties of the intricate fight scenes, the casting and location shooting used in the film. It won't change your appreciation of the film if you didn't enjoy it in the first place, but fans will probably want to give it a listen as it's quite informative.
The second disc starts off with a Behind The Scenes Gallery that is made up of three separate featurettes:
Collateral Damage - The Making Of Flash Point (18:09): This is mostly some random behind the scenes footage shown back to back with pertinent clips from the film but a few of the cast members do talk about their work on the film with Yen discussing his various injuries. The bulk of this is on set footage, however, and more interview bits would have helped give this more (and very welcome) context.
Flash Point Explored (28:27): Allows the film's writer to explain a bit about some of the character traits explored in the movie. The principal cast members all show up on camera here and talk about their various parts, what they liked about them, and why they were interested in the story, with Yen talking about how he wanted to bring out everyone's real potential with this film rather than let some of the performers just play typical screen idol roles. This is a much more substantial and interesting piece than Collateral Damage as it actually gives us some insight into things. There's also some interesting behind the scenes footage here that shows how the movie's climatic fight scene was put together.
Perpetual Motion (2:32): This is just a brief look at the training that the various players went through in order to get into shape and prepare for the film's fight scenes. It's marginally interesting, even if it is really too short.
Up next is a section that focuses on the cast and the martial arts used in the film, starting with a featurette entitled Gladiators (3:04) that is nothing more than some mildly interesting and very random behind the scenes fight footage. After that, check out Mixed Martial Arts On Display (7:03) where a cute woman named Kea Wong takes us into a gym where we get a look at some mixed martial artists training and competing.
The Promotional Gallery section a featurette called On Dangerous Ground: An Exclusive Interview With Leading Man And Action Director Donnie Yen (31:48). Yen sits in front of the camera and talks about a few of his recent films leading up to this one and then he talks about what he liked about the project and about his experiences working on it. This is a pretty interesting look back at some of Yen's work and it's interesting to hear from him about how he got to be where he is in the entertainment industry. Also in this section is Gala Premiere (2:38), which is simply footage from the film's opening night in Hong Kong. Finally, this section also contains three trailers and two teasers for the film.
Last but not least, Dragon Dynasty has included a selection of three Deleted Scenes running a combined 3:04 - Three Men And A Little Lady, Nowhere To Run and Dissention In The Ranks. These aren't particularly substantial and were probably cut for pacing reasons as they add very little to the film.Final Thoughts:
Dragon Dynasty have gone all out with their release of Flash Point and given it a solid audio/video presentation with more extras than you can shake a stick at. The movie itself takes its time to really pick up steam but once it does, it proves to be a pretty enjoyable and intense action movie experience. Recommended.