by HELEN GEIB
Flash Point is a first-rate new action drama from Hong Kong. In the vagaries of film distribution, it received (an admittedly very limited) theatrical distribution in America before its recent release on DVD. I owe my good fortune in seeing this film in the theater less to its artistic quality than to the current fad for mixed martial arts.
Flash Point owed what little publicity it received to its incorporation of mixed martial arts (from hereon, “MMA” for the sake of brevity) into the fight choreography. Notwithstanding, descriptions of Flash Point as a movie that’s all about MMA fighting are about as accurate as the descriptions of Redbelt as a movie about MMA, providing two more reminders to take marketing campaigns with a enormous grain of salt.
The fight choreography is by Donnie Yen, who also stars. In his expert hands, MMA is simply one more weapon in the choreographer’s arsenal. The film’s first strength as an action picture is its great variety. There are car chases and foot chases. Fights in the open and fights in confined spaces. Gunfights and hand to hand combat; objects to hand become weapons, too. One on one fights and one against many. The MMA comes in as Yen continually mixes up the fighting styles, to exciting and occasionally, brutally powerful effect.
The film’s second great strength as an action picture is its pacing. The fights and chases are well spaced through the film and well integrated with the drama of the storyline. Yen must share primary credit with director Wilson Yip for the excellent staging of the action, the third element that makes it work so well.
Flash Point co-stars Louis Koo, one of the top dramatic actors in Hong Kong films. The film makes a very wise division of labor between Yen and Koo, who play cop partners targeted by a revenge-minded drug smuggler. Simply put, Yen is responsible for the action, and Koo is responsible for the drama. It’s a strategy that pays ample dividends. Yen is fantastic in the action scenes, Koo carries the drama effortlessly, and the film consistently works in both arenas.
New releases this week: Boarding Gate, The Eye, Flawess, Meet the Spartans, Semi-Pro, Vince Vaughn’s Wild West Comedy Show