Directed by Wilson Yip
Official Selection, 2017 Vancouver International Film Festival
Is there a more bone-crunching movie franchise than the SPL series? Each film is a discrete story united only by the body-breaking ferocity of its hand-to-head combat, and the latest, PARADOX, is no exception. Reuniting director Wilson Yip (Ip Man) and all-around legend Sammo Hung, this is as good as Hong Kong action gets these days: rugged, passionate, and wildly creative.
Louis Koo plays Lee Chung-chi, a Hong Kong cop whose daughter disappears while on a trip to Thailand. With the help of local cops and none other than Tony Jaa, Chung-chi thrusts himself into an investigation that ends up ruffling the feathers of neighborhood power-players.
Koo has a furrowed way of looking deeply into the distance for answers he’s afraid to answer in himself. He’s tormented by guilt: was it he who drove his daughter to Pattaya to begin with? Is his cold cop ruthlessness – the very attitude he’s taking to the investigation – precisely what alienated him from his teenager? Following a fine Hong Kong tradition of soft male melodrama within hard nihilism, PARADOX roots the proclivity to provoke pain in the sincere melancholy over loss, guilt, and helplessness, the kind of extreme violence that’s fueled by the passions of a Teresa Teng ballad.
That paradox is carried through Hung’s remarkable character-driven choreography, full of toughness (especially when Jaa is involved), as well as surprise, fear, and desperation. As he’s done his entire career, Hung leverages surfaces (floors, stairs, walls) for power and misdirection, keeping movements grandiose and our eyes guessing. We marvel at what bodies can do while the story reminds us of the disposability of bodies, especially those of women, in a stratified economy. And as the blood puddles and the heaviness of Chung-chi’s agony peaks, we see how bodies diminish, losing value as they are punctured and bruised, leading to a climax as explosive as it is inevitable. –Brian Hu