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Kill Zone 2 (2015) aka Sha Po Lang 2, Tony Jaa meets his equals in this gritty crime thriller martial arts film.

January 16, 2018

MY CALL:  So much more brutal, exciting and interesting than the first Kill Zone (2005), and featuring multiple excellent martial artists!  MOVIES LIKE Kill Zone 2: Well, this is a sequel… so Kill Zone (2005) along with the far more brutal The Raid: Redemption (2011).

Any else love it when Tony Jaa gets those rambunctious running starts?

Kill Zone (2005) was about revenge—mean revenge.  Now, ten years later director Pou-Soi Cheang (The Monkey King 1-3) escalates the plot to the black market organ trade.  But much as the Fast and Furious sequels expanded their family values and geographic coverage, this sequel accordingly spans Hong Kong to Thailand and includes more family ties than its predecessor and that sense of blood ties urgency is strong here.

Chan Kwok Chung (Simon Yam; Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life, Ip Man 1-2, Kill Zone) and his nephew Kit (Jing Wu; Wolf Warrior, Kill Zone) get caught up with organ traffickers who run a Thai prison and incarcerate Kit.  Our boss bad guy is in need of a transplant from his unwilling brother.  Chatchai (Tony Jaa; Ong-Bak, The Protector, Furious 7) needs a transplant for his little daughter, and he works with her godfather as guards in the Thai prison.  Oh, and the organ harvesting prison warden Ko Hung (Jin Zhang; Pacific Rim Uprising) is apparently an all-star ninja assassin in a three-piece suit.  With all this going on it should come as no surprise that the plot gets complicated.

Much as I found Kill Zone (2005) to outweigh its martial arts with drama, so follows part 2 for most of the first half of the film.  This had me worried at first.  Both are very gritty mainstream crime movies that are more about the crime-fighting than the kung fu fighting, except part 2 lets the kung fu (and muay thai) shine in the second half.  Instead of just bullet-ravaged bodies in firefights, we have guns disarmed in close-quarters, leading into modernized Asian action: kung fu while wearing suits because they offer such great mobility!

And speaking of martial arts, I felt that Tony Jaa’s acrobatic stunt talents were a bit underutilized, and his combat action and choreography in Furious 7 (2015) felt more “exciting” even if not technically richer or more stunt-heavy.  But let’s be clear.  I really enjoyed the action in this movie.  When the fights fired up, the combat was richer with grappling and stabbings than part 1 (which was more classically techniqued).

Like its atmosphere, the fight scenes mix the style of chaotic street brawls and classic kung fu cinema; even the action photography and editing fit this notion.

The best fights are saved for the end. The tonfa-knife fight in the lobby was great, and the final fight brought together the three best fighters in the film for a long, drawn out, wire-work spectacle during which Jaa appropriately explodes into a whirlwind of knees and skull-cracking elbows.  However, everyone gets their moments (and a LOT of them).  Which brings me to the notion that, much to my surprise, this was not a Tony Jaa movie.  This was a Jaa-Wu-Zhang triple showcase.

I appreciated the more visceral action, the amusing chaos of the prison riot, and the fact more than just one hero and one villain were able to brandish their skilled flare.  In my opinion, way better than part 1 and well worth owning.

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