Following a breakthrough career in the 1990’s as the first African-American member of the Hong Kong Stuntman Association, actor and fight coordinator Robert Samuels has since gone onto work on various other projects to date, including Kaloni Davis’s 2013 sophmore indie effort, Last Days The Saga: Torrent. For this, we now turn to Samuel’s most recent turn at the helm with a project currently enduring following crowdfunding efforts earlier this year, and brings nothing short of an albeit doable concept that enfuses action, hip-hop, martial arts, fantasy and espionage in some pretty appealing ways.
Enter the world of Beast: The Chronicles Of Parker, the launchpad of Samuels and writer/producer Robert Jefferson under their R4 Films LLC. banner. Multi-acclaimed Action Martial Arts Hall of Fame inductee, actor Marco Johnson takes the lead for a story that goes underground as our hero, Robert Parker, an agent assisting a woman named “Osiris” – played by Kimberly Bowden – working recon nearby, is in hot pursuit of a mysterious figure allegedly carrying a lethal toxin. Hot on their tail, the mission goes south as Parker soon finds himself cornered by a group of expert killers led by a one “Mr. David”, who enacts a sick and twisted game of survival that will unveil much more duplicity and scheming than our hero realizes.
Straightforward and from beat to beat, Samuels takes you on a seventeen-minute journey of action, headlining terrific showcase of Johnson’s caliber as a screenfighter. Drama is not something hugely banked on here while person-to-person dialogue is minimal, though you can certainly hand it to actor David Luptak in the role of “Mr. David” who lays out a little more narrative as our protagonist goes to work against each of his henchmen, one at a time. The bulk of the fight action occurs in the second half of the shortfilm and it delivers plentifully on fight choreographer Manny Ayala’s behalf, with Johnson front and center, and as notable as any performer with the kind of potential he bears. The stylish action hybridizes between styles with techniques ranging from kickboxing, kung fu to knives with a mild splash of tricking in one segment to pepper things up a bit.
The soundtrack is completely hip-hop enfused which suits the tone perfectly for an edgy action sci-fi thriller with an African-American lead. Few technical aspects often lie in certain minor portions of editing, though it’s not a complete interference as much as Beast: The Chronicles Of Parker is meant as a show of proof of concept, and from that stand point, it’s a concept that works, and would accomodate even the most jaded martial arts and action film critic if it were granted some more producer muscle to help bolster quality.
Key here, in the course of things, is the action, and as a lo-fi small scale short duration endeavor, what we’re offered is a vision of action that resoundingly pays off with a talented actor, and a fight team that, for the most part, knows how to sell action. Beast: The Chronicles Of Parker is an exemplary work that glorifies the genuine touch of independent film and the strive to achieve greatness in a market that has become overshadowed by an industry too busy banking on comic book movies to redefine the current status quo. And at the helm, a director who has cut his teeth for a market that has no less helped shape the state of today’s action genre community in more than twenty years across the world, now with New York City as his battleground where the talent, as much as anywhere else around the world, continues to reign today.
Might I add, in conclusion, that when I use the word “talent”, I don’t apply it loosely. Having followed independent online action and the stunt community for twelve years as a fan of martial arts movies, it’s as clear now as it will be upon the premiere of this shortfilm at the Urban Action Showcase and Expo in November that Samuels and the company he keeps at R4 Films LLC are worth every bit of weight they invest in their craft, and the audience they aim to appeal to; Talents like Johnson, and action actors like Kage Yami, David Lavallee Jr. and Matt Healey among those who performed on this project are all representative of why the martial arts genre is not only still alive, but ever growing and changing for the better. And if Beast: The Chronicles Of Parker dares to further set the evolving standard of action, then let’s not hinder the process. By all means, (puns aside) let THIS ‘Beast’ sink its teeth in!
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