[Review] SPL: Gearing up for TIFF’s Midnight Madness!

殺破狼Over the course of summer, TIFF has launched a series of late-night cult movies – formerly known as The Best of Midnight Madness. I got tickets last weekend to attend the screening of SPL (Sha Po Lang) «殺破狼» starring Donnie Yen, Simon Yam and Sammo Hung. This was a super exciting downtown adventure for me because it was my first time attending Midnight Madness! I’ve watched my fair share of Hong Kong action films in the past but let me tell you…it is SO much more awesome on the big screen.



SPL generated much buzz  back when it was released in 2005. It was anticipated to be the film to resurrect the epic Hong Kong action thrillers from the 80s (HARD BOILED, THE KILLER…etc). I have never seen SPL before but Reel Asian office volunteer, Matt, assured me by saying that “it’s one of his favourites”. This sounds like something I’d like!

SYNOPSIS: Detective Chan (Simon Yam), an articulate senior detective nearing the end of his career, is taking care of the daughter of a witness killed by ruthless crime lord Wong Po (Sammo Hung). Martial arts expert Ma Kwun (Donnie Yen) is set to take over as head of the crime unit, replacing Chan who wants an early retirement.

– IMDB (Easternlight Films)

I’m not the biggest action fan but I love storylines involving gangs, mafia, yakuza, triads…etc. There’s just something about a group of people in suits and shades that slo-mo walk behind an exploding car while the beat drops in an Eye of The Tiger-esque song. IT GETS ME EVERY TIME

sooooo coooool!

SPL had all the ingredients of a solid action film. The acting was above average and the fight scenes, choreographed by Donnie Yen, were amazing! It wasn’t groundbreaking in respect to its genre but I definitely enjoyed it. Here is the reason why – change of environment, atmosphere and people.

When I was growing up, my family would watch a lot of Hong Kong films. During our weekly get-together dinners, a relative would somehow always have a copy of the latest Jet Li movie. This was how I’m used to watching Hong Kong action films. It probably wasn’t the best way to receive a profound cinematic experience though, as I usually forgot about the movie in a few weeks.

Experiencing SPL in theatres at Midnight Madness has made me appreciate the movie on a greater scale. The best thing was being apart of the audience. I usually watch these movies with my family but it’s totally different being able to share the experience with a room of strangers. This screening of SPL wasn’t your typical Hollywood flick that could be watched across the nation’s chain movie theatres. It’s specific niche programming and I know that everyone in that room have some sort of affinity for films like this. I can appreciate that. Even though we were all strangers, it’s really cool knowing that films can unite fans together.

What really got me was when the audience starting cheering during the movie. If I tried to pull something like that at Cineplex…people would tell me to shut up. But in that theatre, everyone collectively cheered alongside the action. When Sammo Hung first appeared on screen – everyone applauded. When Donnie Yen whipped out the nightstick extendo – the audience went crazy. It was so much fun!

This scene was worthy of a standing ovation

If you’re into this type of stuff, then I highly recommend you try out a screening. I left the theatre around 1AM with a big smile on my face and an eager anticipation for TIFF’s 2011 Midnight Madness programme.