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Dou fo sin (Flash Point)

(2008) ** 1/2 R
88 min. Third Rail Releasing. Directors: Wilson Yip, Donnie Yen. Cast: Donnie Yen, Louis Koo, Collin Chou, Fan Bingbing, Xing Yu.

Martial arts junkies won't want to miss Flash Point, a sequel to director Wilson Yip and star and action director Donnie Yen's S.P.L. (a.k.a. Sha Po Lang or, for us Americans, Kill Zone). With its emphasis on mixed martial arts, Flash Point proves that Donnie Yen is still working hard to push envelopes. For Yen, MMA is a new discipline, but you wouldn't know it from the spectacular results, and Yip's flashy camerawork keeps the film's pulse alive until the big finish.

The story is standard-issue cops versus gangland stuff. Yen again plays Hong Kong Det. Sgt. Ma Jun, whose motto is "My duty is to fight criminals," police brutality be damned. The first scene finds Ma Jun called to the carpet by his superiors, but will that stop him from kicking ass? Errr, no. Anyone who's ever seen an action film before (especially one from Hong Kong) will recognize the belabored personal melodrama and increasingly wan attempts to mirror good and bad guys. Both sides treasure brotherhood, and the three bad Vietnamese brothers are constantly tending to their 80-year-old mother (if you can call having her in the passenger seat during a high-speed chase "tending").

Though the film is pointedly set "before Hong Kong was returned to China," don't expect any political subtleties. An excess of dramatic cheese pads the film's first two acts, with dollops of action: the florid violence can get graphic, but in a surreal, comic-book way, and much of it is suggested just out of frame. After saving up the budget, Yip and Yen let out the stops. It's all about the extensive climax, a gunfight turned mixed martial arts throwdown between Ma Jun and the principal, sneering, smug villain Tony (Collin Chou, now appearing opposite Jackie Chan and Jet Li in The Forbidden Kingdom).

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Aspect ratios: 2.35:1 Anamorphic Widescreen

Number of discs: 1

Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround

Street date: 4/22/2008

Distributor: Genius Products

This two disc special edition features a clean and detailed transfer (with evident haloing and colors that seem a bit unnaturally boosted) and the choice of subtitled Cantonese or dubbed English soundtracks. Disc one offers previews for Fatal Contact, PTU: Police Tactical Unit, and Triple H: The King of Kings—There is Only One. More importantly, there's a commentary track with Donnie Yen and martial art cinema expert Bey Logan that's so chatty that they constantly overlap each other. Though Logan is fawning, it's an entertainingly inside-baseball discussion about working on a tight budget and prepping and shooting spectacular gun and MMA fight sequences.

Disc two houses the lion's share of extras. The "Behind-the-Scenes Gallery" includes the promo-heavy featurettes "The Making of Flash Point" (18:12), with its focus on approach and process, and "Flash Point Explored" (28:30), focused on character and, again, Yen's fight direction (segments include "The Good Guys," "The Bad Guys," "Mixed Martial Mayhem," and "The Point Man"). Participants include Yen, director Wilson Yip, and actors Louis Koo, Collin Chou, Lui Leung Wai, and Xing Yu, among others.

The bonus section "The Ultimate Fighters" has two short promo featurettes: "Gladiators" (3:06), a fighting and stunt B-roll, and "M.M.A. on Display", a piece hosted by Kea Wong at the DEF Boxing Gym in Hong Kong (as seen in the film). The "Promotional Gallery" includes the extensive "On Deadly Ground: An Exclusive Interview with Leading Man and Action Director Donnie Yen" (31:52), "Flash Point: Hong Kong Gala Premiere" (2:42), "Original Theatrical Teaser" (1:16), "Original Theatrical Trailer" (2:44), "TV Spot 1" (:18), "TV Spot 2" (:18), and "TV Spot 3" (:33).

Last is a suite of "Deleted Scenes" (3:03 with "Play All" option): "Three Men and a Little Lady" (1:14), depicting the gang meeting mom; "Nowhere to Run" (:49), a trim from the end of the car chase scene; and "Dissension in the Ranks" (1:01),two short scenes from the end of the hospital sequence.
Review gear:
Panasonic Viera TC-P55VT30 55" Plasma 1080p 3D HDTV
Oppo BDP-93 Universal Network 3D Blu-ray Disc Player
Denon AVR2112CI Integrated Network A/V Surround Receiver
Pioneer SP-BS41-LR Bookshelf Speaker (2)
Pioneer SP-C21 Center Speaker
Pioneer SW-8 Subwoofer

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