Screener Review: SPL 2: A TIME FOR CONSEQUENCES (2015)

As far as screeners go, SPL 2: A Time For Consequences marks the first time I'll be reviewing a foreign language film that wasn't subtitled. In that regard, the film was still a treat to enjoy from start to finish despite not getting the full context of much of the dialogue, although many of the scenes were suggestive in understanding what was happening and how, which essentially helps.

Soi Cheang takes the reigns as director for the new film with returning actors Wu Jing and Simon Yam now joined by Tony Jaa, Zhang Jin and Louis Koo all toplining the cast. The film sets another high mark in 2015 for Jaa whose year went off with a bang back in Spring with Furious Seven for Universal Pictures, and Skin Trade for SC Films, so to see him in a production like this was a real treat to see next to, and especially following Wu's own starrer, Wolf Warriors.

Jill Leung and Huang Ying wrote the script for the new film which sees a bit of role swapping since the 2004 movie; Wu takes point in the role of Kit, an undercover cop whose cover is blown after a botched operation, leaving him trapped behind enemy lines in his own drug-infused delirium while his uncle and superior officer, Wah, desperately tries to pull him back in. Meanwhile, Jaa plays Chai, a guard who works in the very same prison and gets the ultimatum of his life upon learning that his daughter, Sa, needs a life-saving bone marrow transplant, and that Kit is the only known match.

Alas, saving her life could very well mean taking on the entire criminal backdrop of the facility Chai incidentally works in, headed by courrupt prison warden, Ko Chun, played by Zhang Jin. Similarly, it's crime boss Hung Mun-gong (Koo) who himself needs a heart transplant soon, while his brother Hung Mun-biu (Jun Kung) remains on life support as the only witness who could testify against him and his underground organ-suggling organization. With Ko and Mun-gong holding all the cards, it's up to Chai to make the biggest decision of his life and help Kit bring down Ko and Hung once and for all.

Imaginably, the collective reaction regarding the long-awaited sequel to Wilson Yip's SPL was general excitement with speculation surrounding the casting of action star Donnie Yen which ultimately didn't come to pass. For Jaa and Wu fans and while a pairing with Yen may still be a long wait at best, this was probably a good thing with both Wu and Jaa having shown tremendous ability in screenfighting throughout their respective careers. Overtime, they've sharpened up quite nicely as noticeable actors who can channel distinct range while depicting their usual action styling for fans, making them both valuable assets to the action genre with international appeal. With this, SPL 2: A Time For Consequences serves a worthwhile opportunity for viewers and producers to see two of today's biggest action talents as more than the kicking muscle they flex.

The supporting talents of the film also do great justice throughout in packaging the overall thematic setting of this particular film, introducing interwoven drama, layers of obstacles and just the right amount of emotional content to keep you engaged in some of the high and low dramatic points. Koo and Yam share some interesting and memorable moments in their respective roles while Ken Lo's role as Kwong, Chai's colleague in the prison, is far from wasted.

The film dabble beyond its language barriers with scenes in Cantonese and Thai, and even a touch of English, which is very inviting, and proves pivotal to the overall story and the obstacles our characters face; It was delightful to see and notice a few key cast members of the film interchanging between languages while other characters faced hurdles which only made the film more interesting as it went along and didn't underhand the acting in any noticeable way. Keep that in mind with young actress Unda Kunteera Yhordchanng who plays Chai's daughter, Sa, is the very core that helps drive the story forward through much of the peril and turmoil our protagonists face.

Alas, at the end of the day though and aside from other aspects of the film, it's the action that tells the biggest part of the story, and I can't say it disappoints. It was a bit of a morale booster as well, having especially seen Wu's directorial debut, Wolf Warriors, where fight choreographer Nicky Li styled the action himself. In that review, I stated that the fights were a let-down while acknowleding that he's done way better and can choreograph the hell out of a fight scene, and needless to say, while some of the editing and fight design don't really top that of the first film, SPL 2: A Time For Consequences largely proves my inital point correctly.

While it's not long before we see Wu and Jaa trading blows in a very small room, nothing gets spoiled or over played between them. Jin, who does look a little too superhuman from time to time as the proficent fighting villain of the story, does a terrific job throwing his weight around nonetheless as a formidable action-capable actor with a growing resume of his own next to films like The Grandmaster and Rise Of The Legend. That said, the spectacle of the action sequences here don't take away from their intentions. Li's fight choreography is peppered with hard-hitting and bone-crushing action and enough visceral brutality to please the R-rated moviegoer, and it also brings actor Zhang Chi to the forefront as Wu's nominal opposite in a thrilling fight scene involving a baton, and a hail of pocket knives.

Admittedly, SPL 2: A Time For Consequences could have been an entirely different film depending on one's own interpretation, and it may be easy to forget this is a sequel after a while of watching. Surely enough, we're made sure not to with the help of a familiar seven-note motif that cues us in when the third act begins. If you saw the first film, you know what I mean, and if you haven't, you'll know it when you hear it.

Conclusively, having seen the film with no English subtitles to help, I was able to understand some of the most important aspects of the story. Perhaps this made a lot of other things less obvious about the film that otherwise would have been so if there were subs to begin with, but I guess that's what's so commendable about good filmmaking in this instance and the universal elements that are presented.

Still though, I might review this once more when it opens here in the U.S. in January when we do get to see it with English text. For now, I'll leave off with this much: a third film is in development as of July and with more info still needed on who will partake in that production, hopefully we won't have to wait a decade before that happens. Until then, SPL 2: A Time For Consequences has yet to fully roll out to all other markets, but trust when I say that it will be worth the wait. If you're a fan, you're going to love what this brings to the table.


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