“Keep your melodrama out of my action” I could hear myself yelling in my head as SPL 2: A Time for Consequences introduced a daughter that needs a bone marrow donor, a man who needs his nephew, a man who needs a heart transplant, and a whole lot of fates crossing paths. Yet, by the end of the 120-minute runtime, I was enamoured by its willingness to be more than just good action. Between canvases of blood and bone is an intricately detailed web of ridiculousness that somehow cascades into itself to create a perfectly wound action film.
It’s not at the same level of The Raid 2 (few things are), but SPL 2 is also going for something a lot different. Tonally, it’s a martial arts film that makes every kick sound like a shotgun blast and slows everything down the moment a pivotal plot point is present. It throws sappy romantic music behind beautifully choreographed fight sequences, and also introduces a CG wolf for no real reason other than symbolism. It’s not a serious film, yet it tackles all of its absurdity with an earnestness that is infectious.
What you need to know for the plot is that Kit (Wu Jing) is an undercover cop who is trying to bring down an illegal organ harvesting operation, being conducted by Mr Hung (Louis Koo). Mr Hung runs the operation because he requires a heart transplant but the only one who matches his 100% is his brother. Meanwhile, Chai (Tony Jaa) works in a prison to raise money to help his daughter afford a bone marrow transplant to treat her leukemia. The warden of the prison, Ko (Zhang Jin), is also in cahoots with Mr Hung and helps his organization run smoothly. From this point on, SPL 2 becomes too complicated with constant threads criss-crossing one another until they all finally meet at one succinct point. It’s terribly convoluted, but somehow wraps up really nicely.
What bums me out about the film is that it likes its story a bit too much. Sometimes its compelling enough, but the ludicrous idea of fates constantly overlapping feels too cheap. Then there’s an issue of pacing, which the film struggles with when it’s not knee-deep in brutal violence. Specifically, characters don’t understand each other because they speak different languages, which leads to a translation app being used frequently between characters to communicate. It’s funny the first time, and even works within the context of its end use, but it derails the momentum frequently.
While everyone is also extremely committed to the soap opera-like mentality of the plot, it sometimes feels like it gets in the way while the speed of the film is still rising. An action sequence within a prison comes to mind as it ends rather abruptly, and I’m still not entirely sure why. When narrative gets in the way, it also always feels necessary in some messed up way because of how Soi Cheang has structured the movie. It’s a weirdly romantic, violent, and detailed story, but one that comes together perfectly by its conclusion, even if some plot points feel flat or contrived.
It would not be smart to finish this review without explaining how incredible the action is in SPL 2, though. The choreography is brilliant and a camera that tends to go from a catch-all mentality to focusing on specific blows for greater effect. Wires and CG help give each fight a distinct visual style and set the tone for the rest of the film. Everyone is completely serious about what they’re doing, even if it becomes insane and over-the-top. If there is one thing that explains why SPL 2: A Time for Consequences should be seen, it’s that it is never afraid to be too serious under the weirdest circumstances.
Screening courtesy of the Toronto International Film Festival