The last five years have been terrific in keeping up with actor and martial artist Jean-Paul Ly. A career comprised of nominal stunt performance and small roles that eventually paved the way for his stellar reception in Jailbreak now brings us front and center with Magpie and Colin helmer Marc Price, whose name became central to the posterity of martial arts cinema back in late 2017 with UK production, Nightshooters.
The action and comedy turn up some robust and energizing performances from the very start; An audibly forte shot of a bloody skull inaugurates the narrative telling of Marshall (Adam McNab), an independent filmmaker hungry to complete his latest no-budget, over-the-top zombie movie featuring washed-up action star, Harper (Doug Allen). Their beleagured seven-member team including boom mic/sound guy Oddbod (Nicky Evans), practical effects and demo expert Ellie (Rosanna Hoult) and production assistants Jen (Kaitlyn Riordan) and the hapless Kim (Mica Proctor) are all confronted with the near-intolerable shortfalls of indie cinema, except for at least several factors most of them didn’t see coming.
Adjacent to their abandoned tower block is another building in which they suddently bear witness to a grisly gangland killing committed by maniacal crimeboss, Tarker (Richard Sandling) and his merry band of arsonists and thugs led by O’Hara (Nicholas Aaron) and Noodles (Ben Shafik). Spotted and forced to run and hide, guerilla filmmaking turns into guerilla warfare for the wayward film crew in a deadly race against the clock to fight their way out by any means necessary.
As much as Nightshooters plays on its nifty handful of action movie tropes, the film isn’t too self-aware for its own good; Nods to the likes of John Wick, Die Hard and The Accountant play second fiddle to character development, rousing comedy and drama from our cast. Snarky jabs, headbutting and angst are all rudimentary to what we see in the almost sibling-like scenario that is Marshall’s film crew, whose closeness is further made clear with the grim reality of tragedy they begin to face when Tarker’s men raid the building.
Evans provides one of the strongest and definitive performances of the film next to Hoult whose portrayal of the inventive, resilient and no-nonsense Ellie fittingly keeps the incorrigible, flirtatious and often intoxicated Harper at bay. Sandling and Aaron are fantastic at keeping the momentum going on the villain end of things with’s Aaron’s portrayal of a boisterous O’Hara being as one of the most fun to watch.
Price’s script illuminates his cast with gusto, depicting characters on both ends of the good and evil spectrum that are fun and compelling, and drawing on a healthy balance with some of the best in cinematic fight action fans could hope for. Not to be outdone by his initial strengths in action acting, and at certain points, Jean-Paul Ly’s performance will impress and even surprise you as Donnie (an eponymous homage to one of Ly’s own favorite martial arts stars), Harper’s stunt double, and a guy who can do a hell of a lot more than throw a punch on camera.
When things get sticky, Donnie reluctantly finds himself leading point on all matters of kicking most of the butts in the movie – a tool that Price brilliantly builds on through O’Hara’s pique demeanor in satirical reflection of fending off the Asian protagonist who can fight small armies and walk away almost unscathed.
Ly’s involvement on Nightshooters was also much more intergral; Filming lasted nineteen days in November and December and another scant three days from January to April. Prior to that, Ly (having supervised fight action as he did on Jailbreak and The Prey) oversaw two-and-a-half weeks of fight rehearsals with a five-man unit alongside fight choreographer Donovan Louie. He also had to assemble at least one key sequence with action actor Hung Dong via Whatsapp due to Dong’s travel time and distance – Such is a tip of the iceberg that is independent cinema, and one that a film like Nightshooters chisels away at with entertaining, fictitious irony.
Per Ly’s usual applications, the fights in Nightshooters don’t disappoint, featuring at least six core fight scenes – three of which are also host to performances from Karanja Yorke, and Film Combat Syndicate favorite Marcus Shakesheff who also gets to weigh in on the humor. Price and director of photography Tom Barker capture it all with a steady balance between movement and angling, and with it, adduces competent fight scene cinematography in conjunction with Ly’s continued integrity as a rising star on both sides of the lens.
The body count definitely picks up plenty for a good remainder of the cast as well in key moments; Ellie’s arsenal of makeshift weapons and vicious boobytraps promise a steady delivery of slapstic, in addition to a staple amount of gore when needed. Some of the CG is a little worse for wear but it’s enough to suspend disbelief and enjoy what you see on screen next to an explosive finale to bookend things.
A moment of reprieve arises for our surviving cast before the last shot of the film pans over to one of the crew’s faces, bloodied and exasperated. It’s an almost poetic moment culminating the film in its entirety given the narrative, and you’re more than welcome to draw your own interpretations on depth, while also surprisingly elegiac if you chose to interpret Nightshooters in the months leading up to its release as a light-hearted action comedy. It isn’t.
You are definitely inclined to view Marc Price’s latest spectacle as something much more darkly comedic in its attributions to hard-R entertainment. Laughter aside, characters you care about will surely add to the body count. The bright side to that is it adds to the sympathy and emotive drive that comes with rooting for a group of underdogs you would least expect to see live to see another day against a horde of killers, making Nightshooters worth every shot it takes.
Cast: Jean-Paul Ly, Nick Aaron, Nicky Evans, Rosanna Hoult, Richard Sandling
Director(s): Marc Price
Writer(s): Marc Price
Fight Choreographer: Jean Paul-Ly
Producer(s): Michelle Parkyn
Executive Producer(s): Bart Ruspoli, Freddie Hutton-Mills, Ian Kirk, Neil Ouzman
Production Company: Nowhere Fast Productions
International Sales: Lightining Entertainment (email@example.com)
UK Distributor: Ascendant Releasing
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Marc Price blitzes you with straightforward action and comedy that doesn't hold back its intent. Invest in a DVD or Digital release this Boxing Day going forward and you will get what you pay for, threefold.
- Storytelling that carries its own weight makes way for fun performances and action sequences that don't run stale.
- CG issues are obvious, but a nitpick that doesn't affect the film negatively.