You wouldn’t be wrong for thinking there’s a crisis in the modern form of action filmmaking. It seems as if the standard is to just shake the camera frantically and cut the images quickly that the action isn’t really seen as much as it’s felt. With a few exceptions, action films have become a disorienting experience, one with little respect for visual coherency or spatial relationships. Not all is bleak. There are still those rare gems that remind us why we love the bone-cracking fisticuffs of the action genre. One of those shining examples is Kill Zone 2, the new action film from director Pou-Soi Cheang, which is not really a sequel to 2005’s Kill Zone as much as its own standalone film. Kill Zone 2 is a movie that doesn’t feature the most original storyline, but features some of the finest action to grace the screen in recent memory.
Kill Zone 2 treads in some familiar tropes of Hong Kong cinema. Chan Chi-Kit (Wu Jing) is an undercover cop trying to break up a crime syndicate, going as far to ingest a number of illegal drugs to prove his criminal background. The next job for Chan is aiding in the kidnapping of a husband and wife, the husband being the brother of a wealthy industrialist who is dying with a degenerative heart condition. With a rare blood type, the industrialist needs his brother’s heart to live, and has no qualms about killing his own brother to facilitate his own survival. The kidnapping doesn’t go as planned and Chan’s cover is blown by his uncle (Simon Yan), also a police officer. It’s not long before Chan finds himself in a prison in Thailand.
In Thailand, Chatchai (Tony Jaa) is a prison guard with a sick daughter desperately in need of a bone marrow transplant. Working in a corrupt system, Chatchai is one of the few honest men in the dank hellhole that is the prison. After a number of run-ins with Chan, the two finally unite to blow the lid off the conspiracy that runs through both Hong Kong and Thailand, as the dying industrialist uses all of his influence to get the heart that will keep him alive.
Frankly, the story of Kill Zone 2 is pretty overstuffed with an abundance of characters and intertwining relationships. At times it can be hard to remember who is on what side of story, but it doesn’t take long for the film to simplify the stakes for the characters and the audience. Once the formalities of the setup are out of the way, we can get to the bread and butter of Kill Zone 2 – the action. And the action is phenomenal. Lengthy shots of pure visual clarity highlight the speed and masterful choreography from Tony Jaa and Wu Jing. The hand-to-hand combat on display is consistently astounding, fists and feet moving with speed and fury.
There’s a stunning sequence during a prison riot, and Pou-Soi Cheang follows multiple threads of action, never losing sight of the central story in the midst of the visceral chaos. Kill Zone 2 isn’t just hand-to-hand combat scenes, as there are a number of wonderfully effective shoot ‘em up sequences to complement the fisticuffs. The violence on display features its fair share of blood but never comes across as gruesome or macabre, and there’s seemingly always an unexpected moment to amplify the insanity.
Kill Zone 2 is an astoundingly fun action film that feels both excitingly fresh and somewhat a throwback to a more visually coherent form of action filmmaking. It has its minor issues with its overstuffed narrative, but those are easily overlooked when the fists, bullets, and knives start flying. And they’re often flying in some of the best action sequences since 2011’s The Raid. Kill Zone 2 is a must-see film for die-hard action fans.
Kill Zone 2
- Overall Score
Featuring some stunning action sequences, Kill Zone 2 has all the badass action that die-hard action fans crave.