Nearly a decade since launching his feature debut efforts leading up to Kill Order (2017), James Mark has been gradually pursuing next phase of his career in entertainment, sharing in the decades-old legacy of stunt professionals staking their claim in the director’s chair. For this, the prospective lead debut performance of his younger brother, Chris Mark, in their freshman feature continued the trend in just a few years, albeit somewhat quietly with the arrival of a follow-up story that hereto invites actress Alanna Bale to join the elder Mark’s burgeoning indpendent action sci-fi universe with Enhanced.
It’s important, though, to mind the events of the first film as its sequel introduces new characters into the mix – its milleu, set in a world where former and current “subjects” of a government experiment, including Anna (Bale), are living lives as normally as possible, some even off the grid in hopes of dodging anyone questioning their whereabouts. Working at a garage with a local mechanic in hopes of attaining a passport from a seedy gangster with a little help from her boss, Anna’s options are nothing short of limited when tragedy strikes after using her powers in the midst of defending herself, forcing her on the run in the dark, wintery night, only to be pursued by a black-clad tactical unit led by Sgt. George Shepherd (George Tchortov), specialized in the capture and seizure of “subjects”.
Little do they know that in their wake is also the rogue known as Alpha (Chris Mark), once an upright, beleagured teenager named David who knew nothing of his past until his journey of self-discovery began with a violent clash with a similar unit. That was years ago, the teenager now is a but a schizotypal, supernatural being trapped in the flesh of a young boy, an entity whose sole desire to go “home” can only be met if he can hunt down other subjects whose DNA were mingled with his. Soon enough, for Shepherd, initially keen on following orders until he soon realizes the horrid truth of his own sneaking suspicions, it’ll be a choice of whether or not he should trust his instincts against the willful command of his own superiors, with Anna being the only other force standing in the way of the Alpha becoming too strong, even to kill.
Dialogue tends to linger every now and then in place of story progression and substance, so there’s just a bit of concern in terms of slowness in pacing, and the overall concept behind the Alpha’s existence doesn’t get explored much further beyond what Enhanced already presents. To the latter end, there’s a good chance that unless you’ve seen Kill Order, you won’t really understand the full scope of the vision, one that could culminate a deeper understanding behind the Alpha and his seemingly tragic existence.
Where the film does win you over is when it gets things going from the start, presenting an enticing sci-fi chase thriller with plenty of taut action and ample martial arts thrills, and only a few doses of humor to signal levity. The film’s opener introduces Shepherd and his men hunting their latest target whose abilities awaken, leading the chase to an office rooftop after a single leap and cornered into a battle with the clandestined unit, armed with light batons and folding shieds. Tactical footsoliders forced to defend themselves against psychokinetic bursts of energy and superhuman strength is the basic theme behind nearly each key fight scene.
Joined by a stunt team more than ready for the task of delivering the film’s action, including actors Patrick Sabongui and Eli Martyr among others, actress Bale, who was trained by Chris Mark who served as the film’s fight choreographer in prep for the film’s shoot, lends a more-than-able heroine to the current cadre of sci-fi action heroes and heroines alike. Opposite Tchortov is actor Adrian Holmes who plays the unrelenting Captain Williams, bent on overseeing the capture of as many subjects as possible on Shepherd’s watch, with Eric Hicks in the role of team member Scott, who remarkably survives his fair share of fracas when the subjects fight back.
The Kill Order saga is long past its nascency at this point, and with James Mark at the helm and having crafted an ongoing tapestry of science fiction intrigue with stars Chris an Alanna currently at the center, Enhanced paves the way for the kind of story that could grow even larger and more climactic if done right. The concept feels just a bit scattershot at times, much like Russell Mulcahy’s invocation of “The Quickening” in the cult fantasy sword classic, Highlander (one can only hope Chad Stahelski’s ambitions toward a reboot can fully flesh out its mythology for today’s audience), which isn’t to say or suggest the potential in Mark’s concept isn’t worth reconnoitering. It is, which makes Enhanced all the more worth watching, while I do recommend getting a look at Kill Order to help set the tone better.
Vertical Entertainment’s Enhanced opens on VOD beginning March 26.