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Kill ‘Em All (2012)

February 15, 2013
Let’s start off by noting that this check never wears those snakeskin pants in the movie.

MY CALL:  Slo-mo over-staged fights you’d likely see rivaled by a Karate school demo at your local county fair.  This movie tries to accomplish a lot, and I can appreciate that.  Just know that it succeeds at very little beyond entertaining me enough not to turn it off.  IF YOU LIKE THIS WATCH:  MUCH, MUCH, MUCH better fight filming/editing, choreography, tricks and acrobatics can be enjoyed in Ong-Bak (2003), Chocolate (2009) and The Raid: Redemption (2011).  These three movies offer very different styles (and different, personalized martial arts styles), so don’t think to yourself “seen one, seen ’em all.”  Of course, with those movies you either endure reading subtitles or terrible dubbing in lieu of awful acting.

This movie is littered with people who have done stunts for tons of kick flicks and also had roles in most of them.  Despite the mixed quality of the movie-fighting on their resumes, this movie features a lot of talented combatants giving this movie every opportunity to at least succeed in delivering awesome fight scenes.

We get a glimpse of several assassins going about their daily business until they are captured.  The buff chick who was the main villain in Raging Phoenix  (female bodybuilder Roongtawan Jindasing/Proongtawan Jindasing) is one of the bad guys who helps capture them.  They are gathered as prisoners in some underground “killing chamber,” from which only one will leave alive.

The crew is quite a mix.  Gabriel (Johnny Messner; Arena) is an explosives-loving assassin, Som (Zom Ammara/Ammara Siriphong; Chocolate) an attractive and reserved woman, Takab “The Frenchman” (Brahim Achabbakhe; The Kick, Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun Li), The Kid (Tim Man; Raging Phoenix, Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun Li) is tiny (5’3″) but has some solid moves like aerial cartwheel-sidekicks, 540 jump hook kicks, corkscrew-flair kicks and back flip kicks, Mickey (Rashid Phoenix; Thor 2, Fast & Furious 6; stunts) is child-like and doesn’t know right from wrong, Schmidt (Erik Markus Schuetz; Ong-Bak, The Protector) is pretty much a Dropkick Murphy temperamental thug, a Thai Buddhist by the name of Black Scorpion and the aging and fat real-life tournament fighter Jim Lewis who comes off a little like Gary Busey.

Their captor communicates with them via loud speaker and provides them with box lunches, sleeping bags and a bathroom in between ordering pairs of them to fight based on silly luck of the draw scenarios (basically liking drawing straws or picking a number from 1 to 10).  Losers die; winners get to pick a weapon from the weapon chamber.
So she kills him.

After demonstrating some kumite civil disobedience (i.e., refusing to fight to the death), their captor sicks his ninjas on them.  However, these are probably the worst ninjas ever and their failure to shut the door behind them permits the escape of the gathered assassins to “the next level,” during which hoards of armed screaming maniacs converge on them skill-lessly swinging weapons.  When this fails, their captor sends his two best enforcers (one of which is the attractive and sinewy Ammara Siriphong of Raging Phoenix).
But they decided not to kill each other.
So their captor sent these two toughies…
…and a whole lot of red ninjas with guns to stop them.

The fighting has some occasional (perhaps rare) strong technical elements when techiniques are examined individually, but it’s filmed far too close and edited into a choppy maelstrom of clips hardly enduring longer than a single technique.  What’s more is that the choreography seems to have two speeds: a slow attacker speed (holding back as if hoping to be countered or blocked) complemented by the adroit response of the person scripted to win the fight.

Perhaps these stunt guys aren’t good enough for full speed–even though they’re known, serially hired combat stunt men.  But it reminds me of martial arts demonstrations when the instructor says “now try to hit me in the head with a right hook,” then the participant winds up (basically smoke-signaling the move), and the instructor does an 80% speed technique to counter it and, if executing a combination of blows, separating each technique with a one second kiai while frozen in place–really, long enough for the attacker to find their senses again.  Done in this manner, individual techniques may look great, but to the viewer they also feel just as fake as they actually are.  Tim Man (as The Kid) is the only one with any talent–and he’s got lots!

Much more painful than this combination of pulled punches was the acting.  In a moment of lobotomizing idiocy, someone “hides” from someone else in this generally featureless square room to ambush his opponent.  Later, when a 110 pound woman is kicked through a brick wall, she gets up continues to fight at full force as if nothing happened!

In the end, the fight between The Kid and their captor, Snakehead (the legendary Chia Hui “Gordon” Liu; The Man with the Iron Fists, Kill Bill Vols. 1 & 2) was not at all redeeming.  Just more of the same.  Fans of Gordon Liu: beware.  This movie will be especially soul-crushing for you.

In the end, I was entertained.  But I will never see this movie again.  Much to the contrary, the fighters in the movie show promise, and I’d like to see them in more movies to see if this flick was just a fluke or not.

Maybe you other kick-flick lovers ought to give it a chance.  If you’re less of a choreography snob than I am, maybe you’ll enjoy it…as long as you plug your ears when the combatants try their hand at acting.

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