I really enjoyed this. It’s sort of a throwback to the nineties era of some of the best moody crime thrillers and all-out actioners. Director Wilson Yip impressively finds a balance between the two, resulting in an interesting story about police corruption and some breathtaking fight scenes that involve Donnie Yen and a number of ruthless Triads.
There are no morals in Kill Zone (unless you count the morality of revenge, that is), with Yip blurring the line between cops and criminals to devastating effect. Set mostly in ’97, Yip creates and unjust world made up of crooked cops and violent gangsters who control the streets and do whatever they want to get things done.
Inspector Chan (Simon Yam) is the most determined character of them all in his pursuit of crime lord Wong Po (Sammo Hung, Ip Man). Donnie Yen stars as Inspector Ma, a cop aspiring to do good once he takes over Chan’s unit in a few days time; inevitably, though, he ends up adopting the violent tactics of his enemies as he duels with them.
The film may be headlined by famous Wing Chun artist Donnie Yen, but Kill Zone is not specific to the martial arts genre of film. Yes, it incorporates martial arts, but this is not your typical martial arts movie (which may disappoint fans of Yen looking for an Ip Man-type action fest).
While Yen does most of the fighting in his usual breathtaking manner (check the incredibly-fast and complex confrontation between Yen and martial artist Wu Jing in an alley), Kill Zone is made up of well-developed characters and dark, genuine drama in-between fight scenes. Particularly, an impressive performance from Simon Yam pulls us deeper into the corrupt world, allowing us to witness the mental and physical trauma that comes with his character’s attempts to bring down his enemies.
Kill Zone proves that action, plot and solid acting can all coincide, and reminds me of the John Woo days of dirty-cop action cinema. There are a couple of plot holes (such as Wong Po beating a cop half to death, on film, and somehow getting away with it), but the drama/confrontations are captured wonderfully and the atmosphere is so tense that the film makes for a very pleasing experience overall.