Chris Knipp Writing: Movies, Politics, Art

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PostPosted: Tue Jun 26, 2018 7:21 am 
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A trip to Thailand

Paradox is as adept as many other Hong Kong action movies, including the two previous of the 'SPL' franchise to which it is linked. This one takes us from Hong Kong to a new location and a kidnapping for very nefarious purposes. The themes of pregnant daughters and organ theft are interwoven in a pretty disturbing way. But they're there not so much for any depth of exploration as to function as engines for action requiring a variety of bad guys and some frenetic running around.

At the center is Hong Kong cop Lee Chung-Chi (the handsome and buff and newly martial-arts-ready Louis Koo). His teenaged daughter Wing-Chi (Hanna Chan) brings the unwelcome news that she's pregnant by some uneducated stranger she wants to marry now. Rather than blessing this union, Lee gets the boy arrested, and this leads Wing-Chi to flee to Thailand, where's she's kidnapped by organ thieves to provide a heart transplant for the aging and ailing mayor of Bangkok seeking reelection. Given that his brutality has set off the fate of his daughter, the heroic Lee isn't so heroic after all, an aspect that might have made for richer treatment than it gets here.

The mayor and his breathtakingly unscrupulous manager Cheng Hon-Sau (Gordon Lam) provide one subplot. The organ theft kingpin, a burly and crude American called Sacha (Chris Collins) whose cover is a meatpacking plant, is the other. Lee links up with local cops Chui Kit (Wu Yue) - whose wife is pregnant (another, parallel, subplot) and ranking officer Chai (Vithaya Pansringarm) - a little too close to local government bosses to be honest. They are joined, all too briefly, by the acrobatic Thai martial arts star Tony Jaa, as a another local cop. As Lee pursues his search sometimes with fellow cops, sometimes on his own, he's occasionally also helped by a good-hearted hooker (Jacky Cai).

If a righteous, vengeful cop wiping out a horde of bad guys in a warehouse is your thing Paradox will be all you need. The action sequences are relentless and hyper-active. The scenery is pretty. The bad guys are really bad. But there isn't enough complexity to the plot to make this stand out from so many Hong Kong action movies with cops and bad guys. The local industry is shown by this festival selection to be producing this genre as well as ever, but it becomes ever harder to bring out a truly original one.

If Paradox stands out from its peers, it could be for the preponderance of brutal hand-to-hand combat, which includes a wealth of knife-cuts and spurting blood, all executed with precision and clarity. A man listening to a beating heart may be the most memorable image, however. Sammo Hung was in charge of the fight choreography. The work of dp Kenny Tse is impeccable. The writing of Nick Cheuk and Lai-Yin Leung could have been more plausible. For a convincing tale of organ theft, go to Stephen Frears' 2002 Dirty Pretty Things , or for a truly great film about a dicey heart transplant, watch Claire Denis' 2004 L'intrus/The Intruder.

Paradox / 殺破狼・貪狼 (Sha po lang: taam long, "The Killing Wolf "), 98 mins., opened in China, Singapore, Hong Kong, Taiwan and Thailand in Aug.-Oct. 2017, showing at San Diego and Taipei Nov., releasing i South Korea and Japan in 2018. Screened for this review as part of NYAFF, showing 4 Jul, 2018 at 7:45 p.m.

Reviewed in Hollywood Reporter and Screen Anarchy.

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