SPL Sha Po Lang (2005)
Producer: Carl Chang
Screenplay By: Wilson Yip Wai Shun, Szeto Kam-Yuen, Ng Wai-Lun
Cast: Donnie Yen Ji-Dan, Sammo Hung Kam-Bo, Simon Yam Tat-Wah, Wu Jing, Liu Kai-Chi
Known as the movie that brought a revival of the dying kung fu movies genre, SPL was first shown in the Toronto Film Festival, and instantly earned international acclaim. Three of the best martial arts superstar, Donnie Yen, Sammo Hung and Wu Jing, all joined forces to bring an epic battle onto the big screen. The combination of superb directing by Wilson Yip and acting veterans such as Simon Yam and Liu Kai Chi also successfully added an emotional element to a kung fu film that will prove to be one of the best for years to come.
Inspector Chan (Simon Yam) has all the reasons to hunt down Triad leader Wong Po (Sammo Hung); because of him, a witness and his wife were killed in a car accident. Chan himself is diagnosed with a brain tumor and with his days numbered, adopts his dead witness’ daughter.
3 years later, Inspector Chan is retiring and the case was going to be handed over to detective Ma Kwun (Donnie Yen). Together with their sidekicks Wah (Kiu Kai-Chi), Kwok (Danny Summer) and Lok (Ken Chang), they join forces to bring down Wong Po.
However, an unexpected video tape gives Chan a final chance to frame Po for the murder of an undercover cop. But their efforts end up in vain as a backup tape shows that Po was not the killer. Po, however, will not let the cops get away this time. With knife-wielding assassin Jet coming into action, Wah, Kwok and Lok are all killed. All these deaths put the entire case into danger and Ma Kwun is willing to give up his badge and his gun only to be able to help Chan on his own. None of them can leave Po get away with everything.
Before Ma Kwun shows up, Chan goes to Po’s office and is defeated by the gangster. After defeating Jet in an epic alley fight, Ma Kwun finally meets Wong Po and engages themselves in another epic fight that will surely earn acclaim from all martial arts fans.
Sha Po Lang and fate
Sha, Po and Lang are the three belligerent stars in Chinese astrology and each star represents the fate of each character. As the plot line gradually unveils in SPL, each of the main characters, Ma Kwun (Donnie Yen), Wong Po (Sammo Hung) and Chan (Simon Yam) have their own history of misdeeds and this results them to follow an undeviated path of action, ultimately causing their tragic fate to unveil before them at the end of the movie. The family relations is also greatly emphasized in the movie, with a considerable amount of time developing the emotional line of the main and even sub characters of SPL. But what is honourable in SPL is that Director Wilson Yip has managed to combine drama and action into one piece without making the fighting scene look pretentious, everything seems so naturally occuring, well, at least for the first three quarters of the film.
Brilliant martial arts choreography
But by the time you get to the end, you might as well have forgotten what the whole movie was about and focus totally on the spectacular fighting scenes. The martial arts choreography by Donnie Yen shows him at his best, and proves why today Donnie Yen is the most popular kung fu star in Hong Kong. While his counterparts like Jet Li and Jackie Chan have moved on to non kung fu roles with mixed success, Donnie Yen continues to create great martial arts films with diversity. It is not difficult to see Jackie Chan and Jet Li acting the same way in most of their kung fu movies but for Donnie Yen, his diversification in martial arts streams and brilliant acting enables him to become a different character in every movie. In SPL, Donnie Yen successfully combines a mixture of Chinese traditional kung fu, Japanese Jujitsu and western style wrestling to dramatic effect, and the fighting scenes run with such lightning speed the intensity is just breathtaking.
SPL also saw Wu Jing at its best. despite not having any meaningful dialogue in the movie, his appearance doesn’t fail to awe and the skills he shows with the knives are astounding. The alleyway fight between Wu Jing and Donnie Yen will enter the hall of fame as one of the best kung fu scenes to be shown in the cinema, as both fight with real intensity.
SPL is definitely one movie that kung fu action fans will not dare to miss.