Soi Cheang may not be a familiar name around these parts yet, but he is fast making a name for himself in mainland China where he is the only Hong Kong film director apart from Stephen Chow to join the Billion Yuan Club, when his 2014 hit The Monkey King made more than 1.05bil yuan (RM630mil) at the Chinese box office during last year’s Chinese New Year season.
Best known for his award-winning films like Motorway (2012), Accident (2009), and Dog Bite Dog (2006), the Hong Kong director, whose full name is Cheang Pou Soi, is now adding martial arts actioner SPL2: A Time For Consequences to his name.
Action movie fans should remember the original SPL (also known as Sha Po Lang in Mandarin, and Kill Zone in the United States) in 2005, a violent crime-action drama starring Donnie Yen that had some of the most vicious martial arts scenes of its time.
Fast forward ten years, and SPL is back with a prequel, with the original SPL writer/director Wilson Yip serving as the producer this time around. Director Cheang has assembled an exciting new cast, recruiting Thai action icon Tony Jaa and mainland action stars Jacky Wu Jing and Max Zhang Jin. The film retains its dark atmosphere, with Hong Kong actors Simon Yam and Louis Koo playing out the good versus bad sides in the plot.
Commenting on his casting, director Cheang said: “I wanted to make a Soi Cheang version of SPL. The story is completely different, but preserves certain parts of the classic, such as the fierce fighting.”
“The challenge was in choreographing the fight scenes to show a distinct difference in styles that kept the character for each of the fighters.”
This includes Tony Jaa’s muay thai, Wu Jing’s mixed martial arts (MMA), Zhang Jin’s clean cut gentlemanly style, and Zhang Chi’s flying daggers.
In SPL2, Ong Bak star Tony Jaa plays a Thai policeman who gets a job as a prison guard to make extra money as his daughter is suffering from leukemia.
Coincidentally, Cheang’s daughter was suffering from cancer during the filming of the movie. She was only five but had a tumour as big as a fist; which fortunately turned out to be benign. When asked about her current condition, Cheang replied that she has since recovered, but the process was very taxing.
“I was initially concerned that I would not be able to continue with the shooting of the film, as I had to care for my daughter. In retrospect, I feel it was an opportunity for me to learn more about the roles of a father and a daughter dealing with illness. It helped me to direct Tony using my own experiences. My daughter has not seen the movie yet. It is after all an action movie, and she being a little girl, has not shown much interest. But, I hope to show it to her when she is grown up,” shared Cheang, who admitted including his conversations with his daughter in the movie.
SPL2: A Time For Consequences is currently showing in cinemas nationwide.