The seemingly walled-off millieu that is the film industry is hardly inpenetrable these days with the numerous film artists that have emerged in the last twenty years. It has since spawned a generational talent pool and a raft of notable film projects to leave its mark on independent film and fan-driven martial arts and stunt professional history.
Independent filmmaker, actor and stunt performer Alex Chung is a biproduct of that history which now leaves us with Contracts, a movie nearly a decade in the making since its evolution from shortfilm treatment to the arduous, albeit peer-inspired effort of a full feature film. It’s also worth noting Chung’s successes in other genres from horror to romance and drams, while Contracts serves an ample entree comprised of a little of everything, and topped with a heavy dose of brutal, nail-biting action for the fans.
Penned by Chung himself, the story generally centers around a small group of assassins led by an ideologue with a god complex. One such assassin, Anthony Lo (Alex Chung), finds his services acquired by one Sullivan (Jermaine Carty) who brings word that a mysterious killer is going around town and leaving a trail of bodies in his wake – all of which happen to be assassins.
Sullivan brings aboard hulking newcomer, Headshot (Michael Carter) while treading a millieu of political opportunism in order to ascend his station with the leader of a criminal organization named Constantine (Neil Bishop), with whom duplicitous Senator Morris (Dan Sanderson) happens to be in bed. Meanwhile, the mission to find the killer murdering hired assassins in the city resolves to a more personal detail for Lo, a killer whose afflictions bring him face to face with his tragic past, and in the days ahead, a chance to seek unrelenting vengeance.
Contracts certainly had more simpler goals in mind before Chung upped the ante. The move is a bold and hugely worthwhile step as a property that inherently stands as exemplary of the greater objective for folks like Chung and many of his stunt cohorts who worked on this particular project – one that viewers can add to their own respective tiers of martial arts feature film favorites outside the sprawling library of shortfilms collated on places like YouTube, Vimeo and throughout social media.
Chung’s acting delivers a rough, otherwise solemn conveyance of his character. His character is a killer who kills for his own reasons; the question of ‘why’ is a prevalent conversation piece between Lo and Sullivan among a few others. The reasons for Lo’s own killings are never brought to the table, and as the story gets further in, the only reason that matters is the one that unfolds in the film’s own revelations going forward.
Several minor portions of the story are unwritten which makes it a small challenge to see some of the whys of the actions of a few of our characters. It helps mainly to stake a more straightforward approach at the film if it helps interpret things easier, particularly since some of it is suggestive enough to understand the purpose behind some of these events.
Chung’s speciality in stunts, screenfighting and action direction is on full display with plenty of screentime to balance out the drama. Without much hesitation, the first four minutes are everything you need to see what you’re in for in your introduction of Chung’s craft, unleashing an electric barrage of some of the most daring, hardcore martial arts action you’ll ever see.
Echoes of John Wick, The Man From Nowhere and The Raid sound off during moments of some sheer, outstanding stunt and fight work, the actors and his superbly talented stuntcast, including Margaryta Soldatova in a small whose own role lends an essential added weight to the story – aside from getting to go toe-to-toe with Chung in a climatic flashback fight sequence together. The action throughout the movie is especially some of the most violent, gory and gutwrenching with scenes indicative of those titles I mentioned, and even a few others I haven’t.
For those who haven’t read my disclosures in past articles, Chung also contributes on occasion to this site with film reviews from time to time, while most of his presence on this website dates plentily throughout the last seven years in my coverage of his work. I also share space on social media with many of his colleagues, including co-star Kyle Stewart, who’ve pursued stunts as a key career goal, and with that in mind, it’s important that I note that my acquaintances here bear no influence in my critique of this film – as easy as it is for perceptions to shape themselves.
For this, it is pertinent to make clear, still, how reconcilably fun and thrilling Contracts is as a martial arts action movie. The obvious shortcomings of low-budget, independent film production, while beleaguering for most directors like Chung are worth taking into account. Nonetheless, it’s a feasible and rewarding thing to watch as a milestone achievement, spawned out of what would have normally been a shortfilm entry in our regular column at The Hit List.
With Contracts, consider this to be Alex Chung’s calling card for martial arts action fans everywhere, as well as further posterity in his bailiwick. With a clear and present strive to surpass himself in the years prior and ahead, he deserves every ounce of support, creative space, and ceremony he can get.