Watching Tony Jaa in ‘Paradox’ can be as frustrating as premature ejaculation – it causes pleasure and disappointment at the same time.
Not because his performance is bad but rather because of the fact that the screen time of one of the most underrated action stars nowadays is very limited.
Nevertheless, Jaa shines with a spectacular, yet short appearance in one of the most staggering Asian productions of 2017.
For those of you that don’t know, Sha Po Lang comes from the Chinese astrology and each word represents a different star which can have positive or negative influence, depending on its position in the sky.
In other words, it is a metaphor for the eternal fight between good and evil.
The first movie of the series ‘SPL: Kill Zone’ aired in 2005 and starred the celebrated martial artists Donnie Yen, Simon Yam, and Sammo Kam-Bo Hung (‘Ip Man’).
The next installment ‘Sha Po Lang 2’ was released in 2015 with Tony Jaa, Jing Wu and Simon Yam in the leading roles.
‘Paradox’ (2017) is the third addition and it is rather a reboot of ‘Sha Po Lang 2’, meaning that it is more like a recreation of the movie with the same actors playing different characters in a similar, yet individual storyline.
If you want to know the full difference between a reboot and a sequel, then don’t forget to check out my amusing ‘Kickboxer: Retaliation’ movie review.
Now, let’s head to the movie that definitely deserves one’s attention.
‘Paradox’ revolves around the disappearance of the 16-years old daughter of the Hong Kong police inspector Lee Chung Chi.
When he learns that his daughter Wing Chi has been kidnapped in Thailand, Lee teams up with the conscientious local police detective Chui Kit and his superstitious sidekick Tak.
Together they unravel a complicated scheme for an organ trafficking ring ruled by the vicious American thug Sacha.
The three men start a deadly fight against a ruthless opponent in order to discover the fate of Wing Chi and destroy the black market organ smuggling organization once and for all.
On the road, they face high-level corruption, extreme violence and must overcome their worst fears in a game of life and death.
How far would a father go in order to save his kidnapped daughter?
The staggering answer lies within the ultra-violent ‘Paradox’.
Cast and Crew
A true legend in the Asian action filmmaking – Wilson Yip is the helmer of the movie.
Yip has a lot of cult flicks behind his back such as ‘SPL: Kill Zone’ (2005) and ‘Ip Man’ (2008).
The leading role belongs to the Hong Kong-born actor and martial artist Louis Koo (Lee Chung Chi), known for the cult actioners ‘Protégé’ (2007), ‘The White Storm’ (2013), and ‘Flashpoint’ (2007).
Another brilliant martial artist – the Chinese actor Yue Wu (‘Journey to the West’) plays the Thai police inspector Chui Kit.
The star from ‘Ong Bak’ (2003) Tony Jaa is in the role of Tak – a police officer with psychic abilities and serious fight skills.
Ka Tung Lam (‘Infernal Affairs’) is the corrupted politician Cheng Hon Shou and the debutant Chris Collins is the violent ring leader Sacha.
The beautiful Chinese actress Jacky Cai portrays the troubled prostitute with a good heart Siu Man.
Another renowned Thai actor – the veteran Vithaya Pansringarm (‘The Last Executioner’, ‘Only God Forgives’) is in the role of the corrupted police Chief Commissioner Chai.
Another legend responsible for the popularity of the Chinese martial arts genre – the stuntman Sammo Kam (‘Once upon a time in Shanghai’, ‘Ip Man 2’) is the main fight coordinator of ‘Paradox’.
Now, let’s see why Wilson Yip’s actioner surely deserves one’s attention.
The Positives of ‘Paradox’
Oh, there are a lot of them.
Emotionally intense, ‘Paradox’ marks one of Louis Koo’s best performances.
His portrayal of the devastated father who will stop at nothing in order to save his daughter’s life is dramatic, punchy, and mesmerizing.
Not to mention his explosive martial arts prowess which is spectacular to watch as the movie contains a lot of fight sequences involving Louis Koo.
All the actors deserve huge applause for their work because the performances are convincing and engaging.
Yue Wu as the Thai police inspector Chui Kit is excellent and besides delivering a mind-blowing action stunt work, he also shows remarkable acting capabilities.
Chui Kit’s empathy towards the tragedy of Lee Chung makes him forget all personal troubles and he readily joins Lee in the bloody war against a powerful nemesis.
The talented Wilson Yip once again manages to touch the right nerve.
The directing is slick and it is one of the reasons because of which ‘Paradox’ is so dramatically effective.
The use of the camera and the editing are flawless and Yip succeeds in depicting a mind-bending tragedy through the actions of his characters.
Yip masterfully combines breath-taking action with emotionally draining drama which holds the viewer’s attention throughout the entirety of the movie.
The skillful use of flashbacks adds some interesting additions to the story and most importantly, it is not excessive.
What makes Yip so good in this business is his talent for choosing the best cast possible.
That is why when watching ‘Paradox’ it is difficult to imagine that other actors could have played the characters.
The Action Scenes
Here is the time to start talking about Tony Jaa.
Even though the Thai sensation has limited screen appearance as the police officer Tak the movie benefits of his spectacular martial arts prowess.
Jaa has one very intense roof fight scene with the thug Sacha which is superbly choreographed and ends up in a shocking way.
The main fight choreographer of ‘Paradox’ Sammo Kam has done a great job in directing the intense fight sequences, especially in the second half of the movie where things start to escalate.
The characters rarely use guns but rather their fists and knives and at some point, it all gets frenetic and pretty bloody.
Louis Koo, Tony Jaa, and Yue Wu all deliver excellent martial arts performances and it is a pure pleasure watching them doing their stunts.
Don’t imagine some ridiculous screams and unbelievable fight moves, courtesy of the old Chinese movies but masterfully executed martial arts sequences like the ones in ‘Merantau’, for example.
We all know the importance of a satisfying ending when it comes to action-thrillers.
Well, ‘Paradox’ ends with an emotional blast that doesn’t disappoint.
The climax is violent, frenetic and all the characters meet their destiny.
For some of them, this is a tragic experience.
The action hits with full power and the violence is bloody and abundant.
It is quite shocking as well.
The Negatives of ‘Paradox’
There is no perfect movie, right?
Although being part of the best Asian action movies of 2017, ‘Paradox’ has its flaws.
While the writers Nick Cheuk and Lay-Yin Leung nicely build the story and the viewer ends up emphasizing the troubles of the three police officers, the overall writing is not top-notch.
While there are twists and it is visible that the story has heart, at some point it lacks depth, especially in the development of the characters, namely Tak (Jaa) and the villains.
That brings us to the next point.
Ten Minutes of Tony Jaa Are Never Enough
There is nothing wrong to create a striking cameo role which adds a pinch of salt to the movie.
However, the role of the celebrated Tony Jaa could have been more developed.
As the story begins to unfold, there are some hints that apart from having stunning martial arts skills, the police officer Tak also possesses psychic abilities,
Due to the limited screen appearance of this character, we never find out more about that, although we are certainly willing to.
Set in the violent streets of Bangkok, ‘Paradox’ is one of the best Chinese action movies of 2017.
It is a decent addition to the ‘SPL’ series and a spectacular standalone flick for all lovers of the intense filmmaking.
The brilliant cast, the expert directing, and the masterfully choreographed action sequences are the main driving force of ‘Paradox’.
Don’t miss this one if you like the killer combination of powerful drama and realistic action.
Good job, Mr. Yip!
Looking forward to the next SPL chapter.
What are your thoughts about ‘Paradox’? Speak your mind in the comments below!