The zone is even deadlier. And killier.
A while back, martial arts icon Donnie Yen brought the thunder in Kill Zone, an effective Hong Kong actioner punctuated by one the great cinematic knife-fight scenes ever filmed. This is where you track down Kill Zone and buy it.
Here then is the sequel, Kill Zone 2 which is not really a sequel but a completely different set of characters placed in the Kill Zone universe (I suppose). The big risk with this kind of approach is, of course, bidding farewell to your big star from the first movie. So who do you replace Donnie Yen with?
Gold star out of the gate to the filmmakers then for the standard-bearers they recruited: Tony Jaa (Ong Bak) and Wu Jing (Wolf Warrior). Not bad.
Jaa is Chatchai, a Thai prison guard working at a ruthless jail that, unbeknownst to him, is the nerve center of a diabolical organ theft ring. Chatchai is a pretty decent dude under an enormous amount of stress — his daughter is stricken with cancer is in desperate need of a bone marrow transplant (you can sense where the moral conundrum is coming).
Meanwhile, Wu Jing’s Chan has just found himself dropped in the very same prison, fighting for his life, pleading with anyone who will hear him that he’s a cop and he was set up. Naturally, this means a world of hurt and that’s where the film’s central action sequences lie.
Our two heavyweights do eventually smack each other around but no fear — they ultimately team up for some truly bodacious throttling. And that’s what will decide if your money is going into the studio’s pockets.
My recommendation: keep your wallet closed.
I say that with disappointment in my heart because there is a lot to like about Kill Zone 2. A lot. Not the least of which is the glorious comeback of the once invulnerable Tony Jaa. After some truly awful outings, Kill Zone 2 returns Jaa to the grounded smackdowns he made his bones with. That trademark Thai pugilism is in full effect, with elbows to the head, knees to the sternum and so much more. Wu Jing is up to the task as Jaa’s kung-fu counterpart, though his fight scenes come across as more deliberate and choreographed than Jaa’s.
The highlight of the action is a prison riot, which features a spectacular one-shot sequence (using some light smoke and mirrors, but still) tracking Jaa and company on multiple levels, dropping the hammer.
Alas, where Kill Zone 2 suffers is in the pacing department and, ironically, the endgame action stuff. The film runs just north of two hours but features enough soft spots to derail the momentum. This is especially glaring in the home stretch, when the film suddenly slows down (despite a two-on-one fight to the death happening simultaneously) and takes on a bizarre mystical quality.
Which leads to my second issue: a complete botching of the big final battle. We’ve built to this the whole time and as if the scene-switching to less interesting side stories wasn’t distracting enough, the brains behind the fight opted to layer in obvious wire-fu and visual enhancements, wrapping up with the one of the absolute worse finales to a fight scenes I’ve ever seen. In a post-The Raid 2 world, you got to be better fellas.
Well Go USA’s Kill Zone 2 (Blu-ray) offers a 1.78:1/1080p transfer, a Mandarin DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio track (with English subtitles), a making-of featurette, and deleted scenes.
Flashes of excellence hamstrung by some odd decisions make Kill Zone 2 an underachiever.