Yes, special appearance by Tony Jaa, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves, and get right down to business.
This film was EXCELLENT!
And by that, I mean just what I said. It is no exaggeration that this film is a treat in every way, and should not be missed by any fan of the genre.
Originally touted as SPL III in the Sha Po Lang saga, director Wilson Yip and screenwriters Nick Cheuk and Lai-Yin Leung give the film the teeth and strength to stand on it’s very own. Among the many films churned out that are packed with the action we all love, but lack power in their storytelling, Paradox is a film in which everything seems equally balanced in the mix.
The performance in the film by Louis Koo, who plays a Chinese police hostage negotiator whose 16 year-old daughter goes missing in Thailand, is the true magnet that draws you in to the story and holds you there. Paradox was compared to Liam Neeson’s TAKEN films, but I only saw any resemblance in the smallest of ways.
Koo showed us the true frustration, fear and anger of what a loving parent who had lost the one thing that mattered in the world to them would be like, even with all the police resources at his disposal and still seemingly helpless.
Louis Koo’s intensity was never overplayed in any way, even though some may have thought him an odd choice for a martial arts film, and the director did an amazing job of keeping everything in this movie on point not sacrificing story for action at any time.
But the action was very cool.
Louis Koo was the magnet that drew us in to the story, but he was not the only one to hold our attention. As Koo’s character was searching for his lost child, he teamed with a Thai police officer played by Yue Wu, who was an expectant father-to-be. Wu’s character bonded quickly with Louis Koo’s in the attempt to find the missing girl, and when the fist and feet began to fly, Wu simply stole the show!
One scene in particular, has Wu, attempting to find a hacker/computer expert to help fix some doctored video footage that might lead to the girl’s whereabouts, ends up in a fight with two to three attackers in a small apartment room, and clearly the attackers are outmatched.
As I have stated before, the strong story leads you, but from one great fight lover to hopefully many more, I could not wait for Yue Wu’s next fight sequence throughout the film and was never disappointed.
I mentioned before a special appearance from Tony Jaa, and even though Tony only had limited screen time as Wu’s Thai police partner Tak, your inner fight fan cheered like a kid when Jaa leapt into action. If there was a description of each of these characters fighting styles Louis Koo would be simple and direct, Yue Wu would be the insane speed and agility and none other than the Thai warrior himself Tony Jaa would be the bone crunching power.
With every punch, kick, elbow and flying knee strike Tony Jaa delivered to American criminal Sacha, played by Chris Collins, it literally hurt to watch, and I think I was sore the next day from it (or maybe I’m getting older and it was from my own workout that night).
Chris Collins was a great choice in casting this movie, and although he was more the main henchman than the true villain played by Gordon Lam (A World Without Thieves, Exiled, Gen-X Cops), he was a worthy adversary to all three heroes in this film. It goes without saying that the ingredients for this film of Koo, Wu and Jaa played well, but the true master of action chef that tested all their skills in his fight choreography was the legendary Sammo Hung.
Sammo Kam-Bo Hung is widely known for his original pairings in the movie acting trio of Jackie Chan, Yuen Biao and himself in his early film career, and as he has aged his keen skills as a choreographer have definitely remained razor sharp. His style can be seen in each action sequence, but never overpowers the actor’s true skills but only guides them in the precise direction we love to see them go.
I half expected Sammo to make a cameo appearance some how in the film, and was only a bit disappointed that it did not happen, however the Marshal Law (CBS TV series) star’s magic could be felt regardless. He even made Louis Koo, a predominately dramatic actor, direct and dangerous with a simplistic style similar to boxing and military combat technique, and I would love to see him choreograph a full movie starring Tony Jaa at some point.
Maybe even throw Donnie Yen into the mix.
But no action thriller is complete without a believable villain, and Gordon Lam delivers. Even though Collin’s Sacha is the muscle, Gordon Lam is the brains as a crooked political counselor for the powers that be using any means necessary to procure whatever the local government officials need, and keep the activity under the radar.
You will long for the villain’s demise as the story carries Louis Koo and Yue Wu through the back alleys and prostitution districts of Bangkok, cheer when the inevitable unleashing of the ferocious Tony Jaa occurs and even chuckle a bit at the blindfold wearing, sledgehammer wielding Koo as he lends his enraged spirit to a captured henchman during an impromptu interrogation scene.
The films runtime is 1 hour and 36 minutes, and not a second of it is wasted, so find your copy, fix the popcorn, kickback and enjoy, and above all else, share it with fellow film lovers.
They deserve a good time too.
Review by Scott Davis
(Resident of Winston-Salem, NC has studied the martial arts since the age of ten, and at 48 years of age is still an avid practitioner. A fan of the martial arts and action genre films from an early age when everyone else watched football on Saturdays, he tuned in to Black Belt feature.)