Limbs are twisted, bones are shattered, necks are snapped and coincidences are brandished with breakneck abandon throughout “SPL 2 — A Time for Consequences,” a frenetic follow-up — but most assuredly not a sequel — to producer Yip Wai Shun’s 2005 action-thriller, “SPL: Sha Po Lang” (released in North America as “Kill Zone”). Soi Cheang takes over as director for this latest, unrelated outing, deftly balancing operatic outbursts of emotion and bodacious bouts of butt kicking while Simon Yam and Wu Jing, veterans of the earlier film, appear in different roles. Well Go USA Entertainment plans a spring 2016 release for this turbo-charged smackdown, which savvy genre fans doubtless will devour with all the enthusiasm of a child unwrapping presents on Christmas morning.
There is, of course, a narrative to justify all the full-contact fight scenes, though it may be hard for anyone reading a review to trust an accurate plot synopsis. In fact, it might be hard for anyone actually watching “SPL 2” to believe what’s going on from time to time. Screenwriters Jill Leung Lai Yin and Wong Ying blithely rely on contrivances and happenstances that even Charles Dickens at his most shameless might have deemed too severe a strain on credibility. But, really, that’s all part of the fun.
Kit (Wu), an undercover Hong Kong cop, gets much too serious about his bad-boy role playing to the point of becoming a drug addict, while infiltrating a gang that kidnaps innocents and ships them off to Thailand for organ harvesting. Unfortunately, his best efforts to appear complicit are not quite good enough: His cover is blown, and he winds up in a Thai prison where the sharp-dressed warden, Ko Chun (Zhang Jin), is in league with the effetely amoral Mr. Hung (Louis Koo), the mastermind behind the organ harvesters, and one of the new guards is Chatchai (Tony Jaa), an honest man driven to desperate measures because his young daughter Sa (Unda Kunteera Yhordchanng) needs a bone-marrow transplant.
Is Kit a perfect match for Sa, bone marrow-wise? Of course. But it takes a while for Chatchai to realize this, because of an inconvenient misplacement of a cell phone. And speaking of cell phones: There is an extended mashup of wholesale mayhem and incongruous comedy during a bravura sequence where, in the middle of a violent prison riot, Kit frantically scrambles amid the prisoners-versus-guards scrum to find someplace, anyplace, where he can find a cell-phone signal so he can contact his superior, Wah (Yam), who just happens to also be his uncle. And even while the riot rages, Ko Chun takes care to remain sartorially splendid — straightening his tie, adjusting his cuffs — between pummelings of prisoners.
There are more than enough protracted shootouts, vicious slicings and dicings, and sensationally exciting sequences of hand-to-hand, foot-to-face combat throughout “SPL 2” to distract the audience from the storyline’s outrageous implausibilities — the most implausible of which involve the fortuitous discovery and repair of Kit’s own cell phone — and a subplot involving Mr. Hung’s determination to exploit his brother as an unwilling heart-transplant donor to amp the suspense quotient.
Helmer Cheang and action director Li Chung Chi offer an impressive array of rock-’em-sock-’em setpieces — including a battle royale at a cruise ship terminal, and grand finale in a Hong Kong high-rise — and the performances, especially those by Wu, Koo and Zhang, are thoroughly attuned to the movie’s overall tone of fever-pitched martial-arts noir melodrama.
Film Review: 'SPL 2 — A Time for Consequences'
Reviewed at Toronto Film Festival (Midnight Madness), Sept. 18, 2015. Running time: 120 MIN.
(Hong Kong) A Well Go USA Entertainment (in U.S./Canada) release of a Sun Entertainment Culture presentation in association with SIL-Metropole Organization, Bona Film Group and Maximum Gain Kapital Group of a Tin Tin Film production. (International sales: Bravos Pictures, Hong Kong.) Produced by Yip Wai Shun, Paco Wong. Executive producers, Alvin Chau, Alex Dong, Chen Yi Qi, Yu Dong, Andrew Chu.
Directed by Soi Cheang. Screenplay, Jill Leung Lai Yin, Wong Ying. Camera (color), Tse Chung To; editor, David Richardson; music, Chan Kwong Wing, Ken Chan; production designer, Horace Ma; costume designer, Bruce Yu; sound, Phyllis Cheng; action director, Li Chung Chi.
Tony Jaa, Wu Jing, Zhang Jin, Louis Koo, Simon Yam, Ken Low, Philip Keung, Jun Kung, Aaron Chow, Babyjohn Choi. Al Wan, Zhang Chi, Kaman Yuen, Unda Kunteera Yhordchanng. (Cantonese, Thai, English, Mandarin dialogue)