Review: Paradox (NYAFF 2018)

by Matthew Edward Hawkins

For a certain set of individuals… specifically hardcore Hong Kong cinephiles… all that needs to be said is that Paradox also goes by Sha po lang 3 (aka Kill Zone 3). But then again, those same folk have probably seen the movie already, given that it came out last year. So for everyone else… yes, it’s the third installment of what could be considered officially a franchise, one that sprung from a film that basically helped to rescue HK’s cinema scene from the brink of oblivion. Though there’s basically zero connection to the original, aside from the return of director Wilson Yip, plus Sammo Hung is as the fight choreographer, credited this time.

Alas no Donnie Yen this time, but the star instead is Louis Koo, and more or less everyone agrees that it’s one of his finest performances in recent memory; Koo assumes the role of Lee, a HK detective whose daughter runs away from home. Basically, he didn’t approve of his little girl’s choice of a husband to be. So much so that dad had the guy arrested. Plus he forced his daughter to get an abortion. Hence why she escapes to Thailand to hang with a friend, but ends up missing, so Lee heads on over to assist with the investigation that’s already in progress. One spearheaded by Chui, a fellow Chinese detective on the local police, played by Wu Yue, plus Chui’s partner Tak, who’s a Thai native and played by Tony Jaa. I initially assumed that Tak was in Sha po lang 2, which I never saw, but Wikipedia informed that this wasn’t the case. Though it’s a safe bet that Jaa was as god damn charming in that movie as he is in this one.

As it turns out, there’s also this politician with a bad heart, so the slimy assistant played by the always awesome Gordon Lam reaches out to an illegal organ harvester, who produces vitals from kidnapped victims… I think you know where this is going. The most important thing is this: the fight scenes, predictably, are AMAZING. I mean, it’s Sammo Hung calling the shots, what else would one expect? Yet also seeing Jaa pulling them off… it’s pure magic. The production values are also ultra-slick, as one would expect from any big budget HK production with the aforementioned big names involved. In the end, Paradox is… mostly okay. I mean, it’s no Sha po lang 1, but that movie was the right place at the right time. Which is not to say Sha po lang 3 is bad, just missing that little extra (to be more precise: Jaa is severely underutilized). Nonetheless, it’s a fine way to spend your 4th of July, especially since the AC at Walter Reade Theater is quite superb; the film plays at 7:45pm btw.

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