When an undercover cop gets too close to revealing the mastermind of a drug syndicate, his cover is blown. Double-crossed and under a false identity, he's thrown into a Thai prison, where a guard discovers the inmate - claiming he's a cop - is a bone marrow match for his dying daughter ... and his warden may have an even deadlier operation hidden within the prison walls.
Directed by Pou-Soi Cheang (Accident, Motorway), the film is a breakneck story of dirty cops, prison riots, and black market organ transplants, all brought together by a non-stop series of inventive, bone-crunching setpieces. Rated 100% on Rotten Tomatoes, Kill Zone 2 was named a "Film of Merit" at the 2016 Hong Kong Film Critics Society Awards and Chung Chi Li (Ip Man: The Final Fight) won a Golden Horse at the 2016 Hong Kong Film Awards for Best Action Choreography.
“Someday, when you look back you’ll know sometimes the wrong thing can happen at the right time.”
When a film throws in everything but the kitchen sink, a sense of desperation is evident. Whether it’s studio intervention, failing box office numbers, or an appeal to a wider audience bloating a film can have serious consequences beyond artistic achievement. ‘Kill Zone 2’ on paper seems like a mess born from too many cooks in the kitchen. However, after sinking your teeth into its many layers you’ll find that even though the recipe stinks the dish is quite tasty.
This sequel in name only from director Pou-Soi Cheang is part operatic thriller, part gory horror, and part frenzied action epic. ‘Kill Zone 2’ headlines Thai martial arts star Tony Jaa but he plays second fiddle to Chinese actors Jing Wu and Simon Yam. For once it's nice to see Jaa work his acting chops in an ensemble rather than spend 90 minutes jumping over elephants. The film opens on a young girl underwater struggling for the surface. The image is cast in a red filter giving the frightening scene a level of unforgiving dread. Then Mozart’s “Requiem” fills the room. I’m instantly sensing that Brian De Palma or even Martin Scorsese influenced the film I’m about to watch. ‘Kill Zone 2’ may have a boring title, but in the end it’s beauty and bravura will wash over you like a good 1970’s De Palma film.
A group of slick and well financed men abduct a young pregnant woman. Juxtaposed against this horrific scene is a Hong Kong police department’s missing persons unit briefing. It’s clear that the abductors are organ traffickers looking for specimens. Shipping containers with patients are loaded up for Thailand. Jing Wu plays Chan Chi-Kit an undercover cop who is in too deep. With the help of his uncle Kit has infiltrated the ranks of the organ trafficking crime boss Mr. Hung. A brilliantly photographed shootout at a ferry terminal exposes Kit’s cover identity. In no time he is shipped off to a Thai prison run by a dapper warden (Jin Zhang) who collects specimens for Mr. Hung’s operation. Working at the prison is Chatchai (Jaa) a guard who takes hush money to support his sickly daughter who is in need of a bone marrow transplant. Through a number of facepalm-worthy coincidences it’s revealed that Kit is a donor match for Chatchai’s daughter. Running parallel to this subplot is Mr. Hung’s attempt to kill his brother and steal his heart due to years of failed surgeries. When Chatchai and Kit eventually join forces against Mr. Hung the convoluted and melodramatic plotting take a backseat to some very impressive action set pieces. Between the multiple subplots ‘Kill Zone 2’ asks its audience to suspend disbelief often to get the movie rolling.
With choreographed fight scenes, gory battles, and confusing plotting, director Pou-Soi Cheang utilizes broad operatic themes to barely connect these elements into one cohesive film. Giant musical flourishes from Vivaldi soar over ensemble fight scenes. Each fight could carry an entire film separately! The camera keeps rolling through scenes without obvious cuts. Some VFX is wildly apparent, but the momentum caused by the uncut appearance makes the action flow steadily. With minimal cutting these scenes are not only exciting but also visually interesting. Its exhaustive at times to watch everything in the frame but this tension allows the audience to feel sucked into the busy sequences.
I’ll admit the story is a bit tough to follow on the first watch. By choosing a non linear structure the emotional payoffs arrive late and at the expense of losing the audience’s attention. I found myself rewinding a few times to catch dialogue I had missed or action beats that appeared out of nowhere. No matter the subplot Cheang develops he keeps the momentum rolling. However, when Tony Jaa wraps a chain around his arm there is no turning back. ‘Kill Zone 2’ is a melodramatic popcorn flick of the highest order. With slick action, amazing photography, and emotional tension you’ll wonder why more American films don’t borrow this formula.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
‘Kill Zone 2’ arrives on Blu-ray thanks to Well Go USA. The film is pressed onto a BD50 disc housed in a standard keepcase. The disc opens to the Well Go USA logo followed by three trailers before settling onto the Main Menu.
‘Kill Zone 2’ is presented with a vibrant 1080p transfer in a 2.39:1 aspect ratio. Even skin tones and fine detail are present. Contrast is a bit high in some scenes with a darker than expected image. Some interesting lighting and effect choices throughout the feature can distort the overall image quality but these artistic decisions only add to the film’s many layers rather than distract the viewer. Bright colors to pop and blacks are consistently dark throughout the feature.
‘Kill Zone 2’ is supplied with 4 different audio tracks. You get: Cantonese DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, Cantonese Dolby Digital 2.0, English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, and English Dolby Digital 2.0 For an international martial arts film this is no surprise. I’d recommend the Cantonese DTS track (or the DD 2.0 Cantonese if you don’t have the equipment) because it allows the original recorded dialogue to be heard. Considering there are a number of different languages spoken in the film this is your best choice. Avoid the English tracks as the dubbing takes a severe toll on the front and rear channels. Dialogue is clear throughout the feature if difficult to hear at times. Make no mistake this is a loud operatic action film that deserves a medium to loud volume setting to achieve maximum effect. Surround channels are nicely utilized to carry more than just ambient effects. Creative use of the sound staging gives the viewer a unique experience rather just just an oppressive use of loud music and dialogue. Bass levels are clear and wide allowing the epic musical themes to sing across a well balanced mid and treble voice.
Making of Featurettes (HD)
-The Story (2:26)
-The Fights (3:15)
-The Vision (2:47)
Deleted Scenes (HD)
-Welcome to Rehab (1:40)
-Police Harassment (1:32)
-Kit's Apartment (2:18)
-Kit: Undercover Cop (1:53)
-Prison Punishment (3:39)
-Chai Reads Sa's Letter (1:56)
-Wa's Warning (3:11)
-Sa's Song (00:59)
Trailer (HD) (1:33)
At first it appears that ‘Kill Zone 2’ is attempting to smash 3 different movies into one. The exaggerated lengths to which Cheang connects these plots would derail any other film. Somehow with the exceptionally well staged fights and tense drama this brawling thriller is able to serve both it’s convoluted story and the characters while beating the crap out of them. The stakes are always sky high in ‘Kill Zone 2’ with the emotional beats hitting just as hard as the ones from Tony Jaa. Recommended for martial arts fans and for those wanting a little more emotional weight to their gory action movies.