My first venture into German martial arts action cinema was a groundbreaking low-budget 2005 feature from Johannes Jaeger titled Kampfansage: Der Letzte Schuler. It was a narrative extension from an earlier shortfilm – one among many which opened my eyes at the time to Europe’s talent pool of online film and stunt creatives in the early two-thousandsies, and it has been a continuing pleasure to see this millieu flourish and evolve from its humble beginnings, eventually sprouting groups like Reel Deal Action as early as 2012.
Picturing firmly in this troupe are members Can Aydin, Cha-Lee Yoon, Phong Giang, Mike Moeller and Tanay Genco Ulgen, all of whom have since seen their careers grow and spawn greatness, and even a little acclaim to boot. It’s much deserved and anyone who has seen their projects online knows this as a matter of irrefutable fact whilst taking into account the progress we’ve seen for a number of similar teams over the last twenty years, like Zero Gravity, The Stunt People, LBP, Z-Team, Eclipse, Rising Tiger Films and Jabronie Pictures to name a few.
Looking at a company such as this one, of course one wonders what the next step is after making a name for itself with its own crop of shortfilm content online. Naturally, stepping into feature-length territory comes to mind – possible, for certain, although that sort of milestone is never easy to reach, and I will definitely have more questions about this particular process apart from my own chatter with Aydin twice in the last two years (throwing this in as a matter of full disclosure for those who’ve missed my earlier blog rumblings about it).
Alas, going into the latest debut pairing of film duo, Ufuk Genç and Michael Popescu with Plan B: Scheiss auf Plan A following its German release in June from 20th Century Fox, while there is no question regarding the niche this film is meant for, the film’s most inviting characteristics for moviegoers remain much more adamantly universal and multi-dimensional.
Consider the proliferation and popularizarion of any number of action movies in the last thirty years, and the household names the stars of those films bred. Such idolization comes natural for anyone who has grown up cultured by action films spanning multiple subgenres and markets be it Hollywood, Asia or other, giving way for the kind of fandom we exhibit in ourselves and, in kind, a set of well-rounded and relatable characters we get to meet in Can, Cha-Lee and Phong, along with that of actor/dancer Eugene “U-Gin” Boateng for a sprawling action comedy that makes plenty of use of some of Berlin’s locales and streets essential to writer Rafael Alberto Garciolo’s upbeat, labyrinthe story and screenplay.
Opening the floodgates is the voice of actor Laurent Daniels who we meet later on in the film as Kopp, a grisled, noble, stoic detective withered from two decades of hunting down ever-elusive crime boss, Gabriel, played by Henry Meyer; Kopp’s pursuit renewed procreeding his transfer to a new department, pairing up with new partner, Schulz (Gideon Burkhardt). At the crux of our tale is Gabriel’s safe, notoriously hidden somewhere in the city and found only through a series of four consecutive coordinates each locatable at Gabriel’s heavily guarded business fronts. The contents of the safe grants its owner the most influence and power in Berlin, and there is nothing that the city’s low-level thugs and gangsters won’t do in order to retrieve it, including kidnapping Gabriel’s wife, Victoria (Julia Dietze).
This brings us back to our four lifelong friends, optimistic in their struggle despite their recent fever pitch when U-Gin, the trios’ numerically-flawed manager, gets wind of a major audition taking place in the city. Arriving at their presumed location, an opportune chance at action movie stardom turns dangerously awry having stumbled into a kidnapping situation already in progress as they are rounded up by Victoria’s captor, Eddy (Florian Kleine), and his men. With Eddy eager to acquire the safe for his own ends, he entraps the ill-gotten auditionees by taking Phong hostage before sending the remaining three on a one-day whirlwind adventure to recover all four coordinates leading to the safe, for failure to do so, with or without the involvement of the police, means a bullet in Phong’s head, and possibly theirs. With enemies and twists at almost every turn, the stakes are more high on this than any audition they’ve faced and its up to our overnight heroes to apply their respective skillsets and do whatever they have to in order to reunite with Phong as if their lives depended on it.
Almost immediately of note is the film’s score courtesy of Popescu – a soundtrack comprised of energizing 80’s synthpop, dance funk and contemporary hip-hop to accompany the film’s hour and forty-three minute duration. Daniels brings the kind of gristled, aged gravitas akin to that of Germany’s answer to Liam Neeson in the role of Kopp, joined by the film’s more orthodox acting line-up with Burkhardt supporting, and Meyer mastering equally as the villain, in addition to Dietze who herself gets in a few minutes of action for the role of Victoria.
Not to be outdone is our starring roster led by Aydin, Yoon, Phong and Boateng who equip their on-screen bromance with the kind of colloquial, unabashed humor and blunt honesty you would expect, further underpinned by their own quirks and penchants. Most notable among these is Cha’s slightly more pragmatic nature, Phong’s attentiveness to his girlfriend, and U-Gin’s semi-lacking, albeit enduring managerial skills in addition to an impeccable knack for dance which the actor/dancer gets to flex in-full midway of the film. Can, who lives with his mother, is less obscure with his fandom, often frequenting his own reflection with a visible, shirtless, muscle-flexing fondness for Sylvester Stallone’s fabled action movie persona.
The comedy and hijinks don’t stop there as the numerous tributes and various running gags that continue throughout with notable bookmarks like identical mobile ringtones, being told to shut up, Can reciting his favorite line from Cobra, and Cha feigning broken German in front of the cops. Similar easter eggs and film homages recur throughout, particularly the film’s entitled segments putting their own spin on memorable movies, as well as the actors’ iconic jackets akin to that of film protagonists like McFly and Cobretti, late legends Bruce Lee and musical wonder Michael Jackson.
Simply put, the action is as proficient and top-notch as it gets with Reel Deal Action in charge. From the essential footchase to climatic fights, what we get is a supercharged tour de force, with a visionary touch that any film buff and genre fan can appreciate. The Hong Kong-tethered fight splendor that embodies the film’s very raison d’etre for fans ushers in some exciting front-row seat talent, namely K1 fighter Aristo Luis, Hollywood stuntwoman and debut actress Heidi Moneymaker, and fellow rising martial arts and film talent, YoungMasters’s own Lorenz Hideyoshi Ruwwe. Moeller himself makes an appearance past the halfway point for a blazing exhibition of fight furor opposite Yoon, in an exciting rematch since initially duking it out in Moeller’s own 2016 feature outing, One Million K(l)icks.
As for Ms. Moneymaker, her performance as the sexy, deadly club boss our hapless heroes Can and Cha face is a pure plus. Their fight is fast, pulsating and explosive, and if you so much as blink, you are bound to miss something wicked.
In further homage fashion, some stunt fight scene moments even play out with reminiscence to certain classic moments, something to which Aydin and Luis adhere to in their final fight scene with gusto. Plating the film’s story scope and bread-and-butter fight scenery by Reel Deal Action is Tomas Erhart’s adept cinematography – further amplified by Ulgen who also mapped some of film’s additional fight action and stuntwork, along with other ancillary shots; In place of substandard camerawork and editing, viewers are rewarded with sheer displays of concrete cinematic fight recital, and comprehensive lensing and editing that absorbs everything in sight. The methodology here is one that chooses simplicity over pedestrian practices, routinely focusing on wide-ranging shots and keeping the viewer stationery long enough to take in the full breadth of flying fists, feet and bodies in the film’s key action scenes.
As we speak, Plan B: Scheiss auf Plan A awaits further commercial screentime beyond its German territory. It’s bound to happen as we speak but as always with the business of all things in film, it’s going to take time and extinuating patience before then. The film attained some attention at home but the jury is still out on whether or not the martial arts genre can sustain given the nature of most action film productions abroad and the politics of filmmaking – politics to which the folks at Reel Deal Action are no strangers.
Similarly, the call has been much more vociferous and resonant overseae from martial arts fans who’ve all but bared witness to the film’s trailer and promotional campaign in addition to its appearance at film festivals. Without a shadow of a doubt, Genç and Popescu have shepherded something pretty special and purposeful: A self-aware comedy adventure that brims with vibrance, youthfulness, danger, suspense, intrigue, and raw, unmitigated martial arts talent and flair aplenty.
The film’s adroit treatment and polish aside, that a major company like Fox validated this small-scale, independently-made labor of action movie love is no small accomplishment. I roared in my seat at work when I started my screener and saw the Real Deal Action logo appear before the opening credits, reminding me of the last four years in which many of us spent only ever seeing the same logo on our computers and mobile phones. Needless to say, I couldn’t have been more pleased to see Reel Deal Action advance to the next phase of its existence in debut with an inaugural effort like Plan B: Scheiss Auf Plan A, essentially joining the pantheon of other feature titles of its kind. For this, I just hope this team’s prospects will only further embolden with more control, bigger budgets and greater influence. It feels and sounds better than having to acquiesce to the disproven norms of business-as-usual “art”.
Audiences around the world will be more than pleased when Plan B: Scheiss Auf Plan A hits Blu-Ray and multiplatform availability. I will say this though: As long and hard these people and those in their field fight to create kickass quality commercial content we enjoy, if you’re not buying at least ten copies of this film when it comes out in your area, plainly and simply, I don’t want to know you.
*Plan B: Scheiss Auf Plan A is currently available on DVD and streaming in select territories. I’m doing my best to find out more on its legit availability in the states.