The last twelve years have been a pivotal period of growth for actor, stunt performer and filmmaker Alex Chung. From his birth into stunts and independent cinema to a full-fledged resumè in the field, his latest endeavor, Contracts, stands on its own as a true testament of his dedication to the craft.
“The existence of this film is ironically not a result of a clear ambition to make a feature-length chaotic martial arts action film with no funding, yet that is what we ended up with.” says Chung, whose earlier evolution of the project was intended to be a 45-minute prequel to a small string of independent action shorts from 2009 and onward.
“I had always imagined attempting my first feature once I had a script that was perfect, the desired amount of funding, and basically all of the planets lining up. I realized the naiveté of that and decided to take the leap. What ensued was several exhausting years of finishing this film, all completely out of pocket.”
It was in 2017 when we finally saw some trailer footage highlighting progess in hopes of an online release. At the same time, Chung already had his hands busy with the creative innerworkings of his Foolhouse Films banner where he’d already cooked up a delightful raft of independent shorts such as Reverse, the Hit Me trilogy (in which I share a cameo for the third installment) and earlier on with action horror, Werewolf Assassin.
His persistence in growing Contracts into a more viable feature didn’t arise until cast and crew members screened the footage in the middle of production. With what would ultimately become his feature debut, he was apprehensive about the extra labors involved, which is understandable. Evidently though, he found himself pushing the needle (and the envelope in a few cases) forward.
Chung adds, “I’m not sure how to feel about this monstrosity I’ve committed so much time to. Is this first accidental feature a good representation of me as a filmmaker? I don’t know. But now I stand beside this film without regrets. Circumstances don’t matter. This film shows what me and my team are capable of and we have a lot more in store. Contracts is just the beginning.”
Jaded assassin Anthony Lo (Alex Chung) is tapped on the shoulder by Marc Sullivan (Jermaine Carty), who commands a band of killers dedicated to achieving world peace by any means necessary. Sullivan seeks Anthony’s help to find and eliminate a rogue assassin who’s picking off Sullivan’s crew one by one. In exchange, Sullivan offers Anthony the opportunity to get revenge on the person who killed his ex-wife. Meanwhile, shadow agent Rebecca Fields (Christena Gaunce) climbs the ladder of power, using Sullivan’s team as her own private assassination squad.
Chung, in his own director’s statement, prides his latest film humbly as “an action buffet with no CGI, no wires, and no stunt doubles” while showcasing “some of the best action and stunt performers from Toronto” – and with a talent roster of performers nowadays credited on shows like The Boys, Titans, Wu Assassins, xXx: Return Of Xander Cage and Suicide Squad.
Chung’s own credits list a few of these, along with Heroes Reborn, Syfy’s 12 Monkeys, NBC’s Taken and James Mark’s upcoming sci-fi thriller, Enhanced. In addition to writing, producing and directing Contracts, Chung also serves as the film’s key fight choreographer – just as he has on all his own shortfilms – and with one of the sharpest of eyes anyone of his craft has ever had on fight scene direction.
Having earned the privilege of screening one of the earlier versions of Chung’s new film, I can certainly cosign him on the fight finale: “…I can say this about our film’s climax with full confidence: you’ve never seen an end fight like this before.”
It’s true, and I stake my own life on it.
Chung’s trevails of late from Foolhouse just saw him win first place accolades at the Love Shorts Film Festival for romantic dramedy, Heart Strings; Judges at Toronto Short Film Festival also drew out the Audience Award along with Global Shorts gracing him an Award of Excellence. His recent dramatic thriller Beneath Her also just won best experimental short in the World Premiere Film Awards.
Stuff like this is often why I’ve made a stink in private chatter with some action fans who are constantly hard-up for the next action movie thinking martial artists are the key to everything. They’re not. What you also need is a good director who not only knows his way around shooting action, but is also willing to exhibit versatility as an artist and content creator.
Chung, if nothing else, is exactly that kind of filmmaker. Contracts is just the latest indication of his own growth as an artist, and just as he so states, I certainly hope this won’t be the last of him.
The film will make its world premiere at the 14th annual Toronto After Dark Film Festival on October 21 Stay tuned for futher acquisition and release updates.
Full disclosure: Alex Chung also shares occasional film reviews as contributor to Film Combat Syndicate in addition to media uploads and management once in a blue moon for our YouTube channel.