Vivendi Visual Entertainment // 2005 // 93 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge David Johnson // December 10th, 2010
Donnie Yen will end you, boy.
Dragon Dynasty brings one of its more popular overseas actioners to high-def and the result is typically excellent.
Hong Kong cinema superstars Donnie Yen (Flashpoint), Sammo Hung and Simon Yam headline this crime epic about a retiring inspector (Yam) who's determined to bring down a ruthless kingpin (Hung), even if it means crossing the boundaries of police ethics. His successor, a bad-ass with a reputation of superior hand-to-hand skills (Yen) is dragged into the scheme with reluctance.
That's it, I'm calling it: Donnie Yen is my favorite import action star. That title originally belonged to Tony Jaa, but ever since he started stringing together nonsense in his Ong Bak sequels, I have to shift the award to Yen. Not only is he a dynamite big-screen martial artist, his movies are actually good. Witness Flashpoint, a nicely made cop revenge opus that is capped with one of the all-time greatest final fight scenes you will ever see.
Kill Zone isn't quite as action-oriented as that, but it's a better film. The obsession-that-leads-to-corruption storyline is well-paced and buoyed by some excellent performances from Ham and Hung. Yen's dramatic tasks are mainly limited to reacting to the boondoggle he's inadvertently found himself neck deep in, but he still manages to eke out some nice moments, specifically in an understated side story about his relationship with a perp he beat the living hell out of.
The big action doesn't show up until the end, but it's absolutely worth the wait. The story is given time to develop and the characters given time to evolve and/or perish brutally, setting the stage for some righteous payback. The second banana to Hung's gangster leader is played by Jing Wu, a guy who has some serious moves, and the big throwdown between him and Yen was foreshadowed from the start. And the fight doesn't disappoint, a lengthy knife-and-police-baton bout that is expertly choreographed by Yen and shot with a steady hand, ensuring that we soak up all of the remarkably artistry. Eventually we get to a slugfest between Yen and Hung, far more brutal and hard-hitting, but just as visceral.
And the ending? I won't reveal a molecule of it here, but suffice it to say, Hollywood doesn't have the balls to go where Kill Zone does.
Dragon Dynasty is one of my favorite studios and I'm heartened to see them embrace Bu-ray. Kill Zone receives a 1.78:1 revamped HD transfer that puts out a clean, detailed picture. A lot of stuff goes down in this film, especially in the end, and no matter how kinetic the scenes are, the boosted resolution keeps up. That fight between Yen and Wu happens at night in a moderately well-lit alley, but the clarity is highly respectable. The Cantonese track gets the 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio treatment (it's preferable to the 5.1 Dolby Digital dubbed) and it's robust and enveloping along with blasting out the memorable score well. Extras: interviews with director Wilson Yip, Hung, Yam, Yen and Wu and a content-rich commentary from the always-great Hong Kong cinema expert Bey Logan.
If you're looking for an antidote to shaky-cam, cookie-cutter mainstream action movies, Dragon Dynasty and Kill Zone have what you're looking for.
Not Guilty. It's the cure for the common beat 'em up.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Vivendi Visual Entertainment
* 1.78:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080p)
* DTS HD 5.1 Master Audio (Cantonese)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (Cantonese)
Running Time: 93 Minutes
Release Year: 2005
MPAA Rating: Not Rated