Starring Gary Daniels, Darren Shahlavi, Chuck Jeffreys, Frank Gorshen
Fight Choreography by Tony Leung
Directed by Tony Leung
The film starts as a skilled boxer is ambushed and challenged by a serial killer for reasons unknown and is killed after a pretty good fight. You’ll recognize the boxer as Hakim Alston, who was first seen fighting Liu Kang in the first battle of Mortal Kombat, and one of the stars of the TV series WMAC Masters that ran in the mid- 90’s. This opening fight will pretty much spell out this film and whether you are onboard or not. The choreography is pretty good (It gets really good later), and the acting is fair, but not great.
The Killer is played by Darren Shahlavi, whom you’ll recognize as the main villain in Ip Man 2. The first thing you’ll notice is that Shahlavi is more skilled than the boxer character he played in that film, and really shows it off in this film. Anyway, the boxer is killed by a two-fingers-through-the-chest technique, and the killer escapes.
Enter cop Chuck Baker played by Eddie Mur-I mean Chuck Jeffreys, who looks like Eddie Murphy, talks like him, and sounds like him. I thought we had outlawed cloning humans? The difference here is that this guy knows martial arts. That’s right, a karate-kicking Eddie Murphy. Anyway, Baker is assigned to the case and has no leads whatsoever, and his police chief played by the Riddler himself Frank Gorshen, orders Baker to seek advice from Ken O’Hara (Daniels) the cop he replaced. We meet O’Hara as he plays with his daughter at the beach, and then has to sit her down to kick some ass when his accidently bumps into a thug and spills his Sprite, causing him and his buddies to attack O’Hara (you’ll recognize one of them as Keith Vitali) who beats all of the men down. O’Hara then delivers his daughter back to her mother just in time to meet Baker and refuse to help him, due to a traumatic experience he had long ago on his last case.
Meanwhile, the Killer goes after a Japanese Sensei, and the sword fight that ensues is the best fight in the film, full of spins and kicks and flips. What the Sensei doesn’t know is that the whole fight is being broadcast on the internet, and it takes Baker a little while before he realizes he’s watching a real fight live and not a movie, and heads there, but too late as the Sensei is killed and the dojo blown up. Unfortunately for the killer, that was O’Hara’s sensei, and along with the Sensei’s adopted daughter Kelly’s help and Baker’s, they all go after the Killer not knowing that they are all at the top of his list…
This film screams low budget 90’s martial arts film, but you can tell everyone’s having a good time. Gary Daniels has fights in this film that remind you why Jackie Chan and Sammo Hung had him in some of their late 80’s to early 90’s films. He is spectacular here. Darren Shahlavi shows off some spectacular moves and Chuck Jeffreys…is Eddie Murphy. There’s just no way around that. Chuck, go get your DNA tested, pal.
The fight scenes are choreographed and shot Hong Kong style, with wide shots for the kicks and closer shots for hand to hand. The three on one fight that takes place in Kelly’s apartment is awesome as hell, really reminding me of some of the fight scenes in the Lucky Star series (Sammo, Jackie, Yuen, and a host of HK comedians). It’s a really good fight I had to rewind to catch everything. The final fight is pretty good, but not as good as some of the earlier ones, since the final fight requires acting that no one in this film is good enough to pull off. The film does veer into WTF territory when we get a montage of Ken with his wife and kid at an amusement park that is completely unnecessary.
Yes, this is low budget, but lots of fun. Gary scores a cheesy, but fun film here.
(On a scale of 1-10, 10 being the best)
CHOREOGRAPHY: (8) Tony Leung knew what he wanted here, to make an American martial arts film with HK fight styles, and it works fairly well here. The actors are up to task and do a great job. The sword fighting scene and the 3 on 1 are the best in the film.
STUNTWORK: (8) Good wirework and some good stunts by everyone, especially the stunt person for Kelly. She gets herself tossed around and through things. A lot. Yikes.
STAR POWER: (7) Gary would finally get into an A-list film with the Expendables, and Darren Shahlavi would play Twister in Ip Man 2. Both men have a bunch of other projects on the way. Chuck Jeffreys…well, look for anything starring Eddie Murphy, and there you go.
FINAL GRADE: (8) A fun, rollicking ride that reminds me of the 80’s HK films of Sammo Hung filled with great fight choreography.