First of all, this has to be hands-down the most intense Hong Kong martial arts flick of the year. With no story continuation from any previous film, this is a sequel only in name to 2005’s SPL: Sha Po Lang that starred Donnie Yen and Sammo Hung. Some former cast members do return (Yen and Hung excluded) but they play new characters different from the original film.

Directed by Soi Cheang, SPL II: A Time for Consequences stars Thai martial artist Tony Jaa as Chatchai, a prison guard who seeks the job purely to raise money for his daughter who suffers from leukemia. Wu Jing plays Chan Chi-kit, an undercover cop trapped in prison after a botched crime operation. Chinese actor Zhang Jin plays Ko Chun, the warden of the prison Chatchai works at.

Hong Kong actors Simon Yam and Louis Koo play Chan Kwok-wah and Mr. Hung respectively. Yam’s character is an uncle to Chi-kit and Koo guest-stars as the boss of an organ trafficking business. With an ensemble cast that not only features different nationalities, but also different languages, it may seem difficult to fit all of them into a single movie.

But SPL 2 manages to do just that, and in sleek fashion. With just two hours to work with, each character’s backstory is made clear and unique, with time taken to establish their motivations and purposes. The characters may come separately, but their plots are all intertwined within the bigger picture as everything comes full circle towards the final quarter of the film.

Jaa and Wu are decent as actors, and most of the humour is derived from the language barrier in their interactions. With regards to action flicks, plots are usually secondary to the fight scenes, and this is no exception. The premise makes sense at first, but as the plot develops along with the fast pace of the action scenes, the structure begins to blur and you may find yourself just looking forward to the fights.

The major fight scene that caps action flicks like these is easy to spot, and it surely does not disappoint. There were even moments that had me cringing – worried for the characters because of the intensity of their fight choreography. In a movie starring genuine martial artists with minimal visual effects incorporated in the scenes, to say the action sequences were gripping is definitely an understatement.

SPL 2 – A Time for Consequences is now showing in theatres.

Directed by: Soi Cheang
Genre: Action, Crime, Drama
Running time: 120 minutes
Classification: NC16
Rating: 4/5