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Review: Graceful ‘Kill Zone 2' showcases martial arts

Tony Jaa, left, and Wu Jing in "Kill Zone 2."
(WellGo USA)

In most of the world, “Kill Zone 2” is known as “SPL 2,” the sequel to director Wilson Yip’s and actor Donnie Yen’s 2005 Hong Kong action classic “SPL.” But the new film isn’t really a continuation. There’s no Yip or Yen, and the story’s entirely new. The title merely indicates a common interest in celebrating the genre’s ‘80s/'90s heyday.

Tony Jaa stars as principled prison guard Chatchai, whose sickly daughter needs a bone-marrow transplant. Wu Jing plays undercover cop Kit, a potential marrow donor who lands in Chatchai’s facility. The two men first fight, then form an alliance against a crime boss (Louis Koo) running an organ-theft ring.

The plot of “Kill Zone 2” is convoluted but not insignificant. Director Cheang Pou-soi (who previously made the excellent “Accident” and “Motorway”) treats this pulpy story as a loose metaphor for economic exploitation, with the needy pitted against the greedy.

There’s no need to plumb the movie’s thematic depths, though, to appreciate Cheang’s dynamic visual style, or his slow-motion fights set to pop ballads and classical music. A scene in which a bus crashes into a warehouse is a kind of spectacle with universal appeal.

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Mostly, just as “SPL” did with Yen, this sequel serves as an ideal showcase for talented martial artists. “Kill Zone 2” watches with awe as Jaa and Wu move with balletic force. There’s grace within their violence.

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‘Kill Zone 2'

Not rated

Running time: 1 hour, 59 minutes.

Playing: Arena Cinema, Hollywood


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