SPL 3 Review: A gritty, brutal thriller to savor

“Paradox” is the third part in the “SPL”-trilogy and this time the title will probably only turn up with local distributors as the international title doesn’t give us any clue about the connection. Yet, the SPL-movies have always been pieces of work standing on their own two feet, simply sharing certain motives.

Hong Kong police negotiator Lee Chung-Chi has learned that his 16 year old daughter Wing-Chi has disappeared while in Thailand. He travels to Thailand and teams up with Chinese officer Tsui Kit and his partner. Tak, as they face off against American gangster Sacha, who is operating a black market organ smuggling ring.

As with the first part Wilspon Yip (also being responsible for the “Ip Man”-trilogy) sits on the directing chair. This means that the film is a lot more well-rounded as an action thriller than “SPL 2: A Time for Consequences”.

However, compared to latter it lacks a breathtaking finale. Maybe it’s just the drama-heavy epilogue that’s a bit annoying, though, since Paradox (SLP3: Tham Lang) actually features some very well scattered action scenes throughout which are innovative and violent thanks to Sammo Hung’s choreography. When the dust has settled no one will be saying that the action in this film is disappointing. But that special something is still lacking. Like the alley fight of the first installment or the two-vs-one finale of the second. Yet, the film still manages to surprise in this respect: Louis Koo really looks, when he isn’t shedding tears. As if being an almost unstoppable fighting machine.

Koo (“Three”) plays a father whose close relationship to his daughter has eventually led to his child distancing herself from him. That Lee didn’t just do some things wrong as a father but also as a human being is shown through flashbacks inserted every now and then. Koo is also allow to bestow a certain vulnerability to his character. In his fights, on the other hand, he is balls-to-the-wall and unstoppable.

This no-nonsense fighting style suits him well and can be showcased by Koo convincingly. And for some of the more acrobatic scenes a stunt double simply takes over. And here I am again talking about action scenes… But what else to do with a movie which greatest strength are its fights. Still, you should try not to be that disappointed about Tony Jaa (“Tom Yum Goong”) having just a small role, contrary to what the filmmakers wanted to make us believe when promoting the flick.

Instead, Wu Yue surprises in its role as a detective. Since he eventually proves to have more fighting expertise than Louis Koo (Co Thien Lac). Moreover, he also speaks Thai, alongside Gordon Lam (“Trivisa”), latter one sadly being a bit underutilized. Hopefully, we will see more of Wu in the near future. Chris Collins is quite decent as the villain who is pretty scary when fighting. Furthermore, director Wilson Yip knows how to make use of his international cast. And the shooting location of Thailand in order to create a movie which should resonate with international audiences as well.

The pictures also turn out to be a neat mix: On the one hand we have the lush green forests of Thailand and on the other grey, cold interior shots as well as orange-brownish, somehow dingy looking sets. Visually, the movie is convincing and regarding its score “Paradox” also delivers more than would have been necessary, thanks to Chan Kwong-wing and Ken Chan.

What needs to be pointed out on a positive note is the constantly high pacing which is also created thanks to a tightly written script. With its 100 minutes the movie doesn’t take the liberty of dragging on. And despite that the flick still reaches a climax during its action scenes. Forcing you to sit at the edge of your seat. Also laudable is that Wilson Yip doesn’t focus too much on the power of politicians and rich people.  Against which mere mortals stand no chance.

Maybe another negative aspect to point out is that there is another anticlimactic finale after the actual one. If you can live with that you get a gritty, brutal thriller to savor. Just as you would have expected from the series.

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