More than just another action vehicle for Ip Man superstar Donnie Yen (who, even in his early fifties, seems capable of taking down all of the Expendables), director Teddy Chan’s glossy thriller pays tribute to martial-arts cinema by casting enough Hong Kong industry legends to rival the cameo count of It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World.
It’s a pity, then, that it’s an undeniably bland film in style and story, despite a few elaborately staged fight sequences. Incarcerated for involuntary manslaughter, self-defense instructor and all-around badass Hahou (Yen) is given a chance for freedom if he helps the police chase a clubfooted serial killer (Wang Baoqiang) who has been targeting martial-arts masters.
All the victims are being dispatched by their own discipline — the kicking pro is kicked to death, the grappler gets grappled — and all signs point to a compulsory showdown between the psychopath and the admittedly out-of-shape Hahou. Skepticisms arise as to whether these opponents are actually in cahoots, and small metallic weapons are left behind as sinister calling cards, but that’s about all there is to the procedural plot.
Some will be captivated by the climactic wooden-staff battle on a busy highway, while others might prefer to rewatch The Raid — the new gold standard in bone-crunching physicality.