If there’s one thing you can take away from any film project or TV show, it’s that it’s always a sweet deal when people on set are emboldened by good chemistry. In an interview last month, actor Mark Poletti spoke emphatically about this synergy in the last several years with his lead actress, Julie Zhan, as well as the team he worked with in preparing and shooting his latest starring/directing shortfilm, Jack And Jill, which is finally heading out to film festivals from the starting line.
Poletti and Zhan have worked on several projects together in the last few years, including their spiritual predecessor, Cactus. Here, the two star as Logan O’Neill and Danielle Zhou, top-tier undercover agents both highly-skilled in hand-to-hand combat, and assigned by Commander Gracie (Bonnie Root) to infiltrate a notorious criminal organization led by Ajax through his exclusive preliminary bodyguard hiring process. The mystique of the plot begins much sooner as we learn that beyond their association as partners, one of the two agents has something much more at stake.
Poletti and Zhan both penned the script, and to their credit, are joined by a cast that lends itself to a steady balance of both poignant drama, and brutal fight scenery. Doug Birch chews it up nicely as our current villain, Arnold Uvarov – Ajax’s father, as he sits from his closely-guarded table to judge his auditionees.
The story unfolds pretty seamlessly, weaving back and forth throughout the exposition and right down to the central fight finale between our two stars, with key choreography done by Jerry Quill. Paired next to Poletti’s well-over 12 years of martial training and burgeoning film experience, Zhan’s adaptability to Wushu in more than a year’s time as a dancer by trade makes observing their screenfighting caliber together since Cactus, an indubitable plus. Aiding in coordinating some of the bigger wrecks for the central fight action is Jay Kwon, also an experienced action actor who trains with some of Los Angeles’s spritely best and up-and-coming in the stunt industry.
Aside from what you might take away from Jack And Jill with respect to the classic nursery rhyme, I won’t give away too much, although it’s worth noting that Poletti wishes to make Jack And Jill a three-parter that can build as amply on the story as possible. Projects like this are exactly the kind that any fan of action could and should want more of – easily doable as a TV drama or feature-length film given the right people and connections.
Watching action-capable actors perform to exponential results with sufficient lensing thanks to a requisite, “egoless” network between Poletti and his team should be a constituent experience for all. Sadly, it’s still a hard nut to crack for some directors in both indie cinema and the mainstream, and it’s because of egos, methinks – Sure, we’ll have our Deadpools and John Wicks as shining examples of better days to come, but it really does count to pay attention to people like Mark.
Having eased his way pretty slowly into film and coming from a crop of talented individuals that have emerged with the dawn of the internet post-2000, it would be wise not to drop the ball on Poletti. Jack And Jill is all but the latest proof of his ability to make decisions in crafting good cinema, with having Zhan as a versatile creative partner being one of them. As much as the A-list spectrum of the film business may slip at the expense of us paying anywhere from $15 to $30 for a movie ticket, at ten minutes with Jack And Jill, Poletti and Zhan will make your uphill trek worth every penny.
Native New Yorker. Lover of all things pizza, chocolate, pets, and good friends. Karaoke hero. Left of center. Survivor. Fond supporter of cult, obscure and independent cinema - especially fond of Asian movies and global action cinema. Author of the bi-weekly Hit List. Founder and editor of Film Combat Syndicate. Still, very much, only human.