I was more than surprised by this movie. After being disappointed by not one but five action flicks, Kill Zone 2 not only delivered on the story, but on the visuals as well. I don’t know if we have The Raid to thank for an increased awareness in Asian cinema when it comes to film/digital quality, but if so… thank you Raid.
Not to get all "back in my day," but when I first got into Asian cinema during college, the thing that I really liked was that the film quality was really good. Then there was a bit of a bust and every studio went back to cheap looking film. Clearly technology has gotten cheaper and so the quality of movies has gone up as well. I know this all seems unimportant to the review, but when you see Kill Zone 2 it looks like it was produced in Hollywood. In particular, there is one scene involving a phone falling into the water and the way it looks when it’s falling is actually quite beautiful and metaphoric.
The story is layered quite well. It spans from Hong Kong to Bangkok and gives each city’s actors their fair share of screen time. Though I will instantly tell you that that means that Tony Jaa never really “goes off” in the movie until the very end.
The story is basically two fold. There’s a human trafficking ring that the Hong Kong police are trying to shut down by sending in an undercover cop. He’s hooked on smack, but getting the job done. The kidnapping ring as they call it, is run by a rich sick dude in Hong Kong who funnels the people out to a prison run by one of his operatives in Bangkok. The sick dude needs a heart and decides that if his brother isn’t going to give him his, he’s going to take it by force. This is where the undercover cop comes into play as he’s invited to his first kidnapping.
Tony Jaa works at the prison, but he’s naïve to what really going on there. His daughter is sick and he’s basically just keeping his head down and trying to find her a bone marrow transplant that matches. Eventually, the undercover cop ends up in the prison after being exposed. Now he’s collateral for the rich dude to get his brother released to him.
As I said, the story is layered and there’s more layers that I won’t reveal to you. They are clever and while at times they feel conveniently added to the story, when you really look at them and look at the way they’re included you’ll find that it’s anything but convenient. You will spend some of the movie wondering when the other shoe will drop and the way that they reveal it was anything but typical. It was handled incredibly well and so there’s some major kudos to the writer of the movie.
For any martial arts film you need impressive bad guys. Obviously the sick rich dude isn’t going to throw down, but he surrounds himself with two awesome fighters that are both given great scenes to showcase their skills before their final battles. The setup is typical, but its executed so well. The Warden in particular had an awesome look. Seeing him fight in an expensive tailored suit was actually pretty incredible. As for the other fighter, I don’t want to spoil it. You’ll know him when you see him.
Really my one and only gripe is that Tony Jaa wasn’t given enough solo fight time. I mean he has a couple of moments when he goes off, but in large part it felt a bit like a Jackie Chan movie in which there’s only a handful of scenes in which he’s actually fighting. Which is actually good. I have to admit that it was a stronger movie and made Jaa come off as a stronger actor because of it. He’s leaps and bounds better than his first movies and is on his way to being an even bigger international name. That and if I really need to see more fighting from him I could go watch Ong Bak.
Wu Jing also does some great martial arts in the film. I really have no idea if he’s trained at all. He might have some training, but for the most part everyone he fights makes him look really good. They sell his moves for him so even if he isn’t trained in martial arts, he’s presented as knowing quite a bit. He also carries the other half of the movie for the most part and shows why he’s getting more and more roles. I actually became a bit of a fan of his after seeing this movie. Especially after a scene in the hospital that I won’t spoil for you because it’s really emotional.
Kill Zone 2 isn’t perfect. There’s a few spots that could have used another pass to really make it great, but it’s probably the best movie from the East that I’ve seen a couple of years. I enjoyed the story and the care that was used in layering it from beginning to end. The visuals were extremely impressive and the fighting was memorable and reinvigorated my desire to see more martial art films. And best of all, I have no clue if it had anything to do with Kill Zone 1 and didn’t need to know in order to enjoy this film.
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