International sales outfit WTFilms have made available several photos and initial market artwork for Escalation, the new action crime thriller reuniting director James Mark with actors George Tchortov and Chris Mark. The film, which screened for buyers in Berlin in the past week, is produced by Bruno Marino (Enhanced), and also reteams the helmer a fourth time with writer Matthew Nayman, who co-wrote with Brett Caron.
Stunt multi-hyphenate and film director James Mark (Kill Order, On The Ropes) just wrapped action thriller, Escalation during the week, as announced by Kemodo Entertainment on Thursday evening. The company shared multiple behind-the-scenes photos of the film which reunites Chris Mark (Kill Order) and George Tchortov (Designated Survivor) following their appearence in Mark’s Kill Order sequel, Enhanced.
ENHANCED Review: James Mark’s Work-In-Progress Sci-Fi Sequel Thrills With Mystery And Tailor-Made Martial Arts Action
Patrick Sabongui (l) and Alanna Bale (r) in “Enhanced” (2021) (Courtesy of Vertical Entertainment)
The next Toronto After Dark Film Festival rounded out its line-up last week with Enhanced among the numerous more titles included. Stunt professional and filmmaker James Mark follows up his previous sci-fi feats with a cast, among which actor and stunt performer Chris Mark follows-up his freshman lead in last year’s Kill Order.
On The Ropes stars Can Aydin, Phong Giang and Yoon Cha-Lee and is now available on DVD and VOD from Screen Media.
Accordingly, was in 2013 that I first learned of Team 2X with respect to my own coverage. A look on their fanpage almost immediately revealed a crowdfunding campaign for an independent feature film stylized as a genuine sci-fi axtioner tweaked to echo the glory of films like The Raid and its sequel. Ambitious indeed, but provenly difficult as I learned in parallel with my own work in how to cover these kinds of projects and the tediousness and care it takes to do so.
One thing I can certainly add, or at least reverb here, is that a film like Kill Order certainly warrants the attention it calls for given the extraordinary talents exhibited here. An amalgam of some of Canada’s striking stunt and filmmaking talents, the Mark Bros are just a tip of the iceberg signaling the amount of talent gleaning in the past decade to date with stunt performers growing keener eyes and appeal toward storytelling and perpetual growth in feature narrative film for wider markets. Kill Order is a further example of this effort now pushing forward with an exclusive trailer reveal via Collider which you can view below courtesy of RLJE Films.
It’s been about five years since I began following up on an original sci-fi action project from stuntman and coordinator James Mark. Together with Team 2X and Iron Bay Pictures and following an extensive period of production, Mark’s debut feature, Kill Order, is finally on the way and while arguably a tough road to completion, manages to wade through the tedious some and present a noteworthy feature for its target audience.
Stuntman and martial artist, actor Chris Mark debuts as David Lee, a private school student haunted by spells of mania, mysterious flashbacks and a demonic affliction that torments him on a regular basis while in his uncle’s care. It wakes up in timely fashion when a fully-armed tactical unit raids his psychology class room, ensuing a treacherous and rollicking fight to protect himself and girlfriend, May, from the small army of killers now hot on their tale. Triggered with unexplained supernatural abilities and with nowhere to run or hide, Lee’s life is one rife with questions and dangers he’ll soon have no choice but to confront with equally deadly resolve to abtain the answers he seeks.
The film undertook several changes and omissions from its early concept. It serves the film well in keeping things as kinetic as possible, notably cutting through some potentially unnecessary filler usually akin to YA sci-fi. More could have been done here, however, as it also underscores a visible lack of character development in areas where characters and relationships that needed flourishing don’t fully get to.
The narrative itself speaks greatly to its director’s intended vision enough to attribute some glossy, polished and world-building appeal as well with actor Denis Akiyama as one of the principal villains, as well as co-star Daniel Park in the pivotal role of Andre, David’s surrogate uncle. The acting is adequate from our cast in whole, and primarily from Chris who is often relegated to a limited spectrum in the drama; He does makes it work for the time alotted, nonetheless, in addition to providing stimulating fight scenery that proves exciting, brutal, and in some cases, tastefully gory; the first action scene is a worthy sample of what’s to come, which also speaks to the second fight scene between Chris and Film Combat Syndicate favorite, actor and stuntman Jonny Caines in one of the most impressive and high-octane swordfights you’ll see on film.
Kill Order offers plenty in a line-up of villains, mainly whose few principals don’t contend with our protagonist by the end, and one hopes this signals an open door for a sequel. Regardless, the third act serves the rest of the film well without falling too short of expectations to be a lost cause; Not kidding ourselves here – the crowdfunder did fall short and indeed, the film does get stifled at times and it probably could have avoided this if the means were there.
The movie itself is an ambitious and fair enough template for our director, definitely asserting itself as the Jason Bourne/The Raid blend that James intended it to be. Chris presents a well done lead performance that exhibits a strong and growing screen presence to accomodate his qualitative performance and acumen for film fighting and arrangement, and hopefully future projects, given the opportunity, will not only further help build on these, but improve and invoke much of what can be relatively accomplished in independent cinema with the right backing.
All in all, if you’re an empassioned follower of martial arts cinema and willing to give a curve or two to something roughly-edged, albeit original and peppered with slick, stylish and rewarding action, Kill Order will do you justice. It’s not a perfect film, but with today’s crop of stunt professionals like Chris and James consistently upping their game on opposite ends of the lens compared to more seasoned counterparts putting quality in the back seat, you could do a lot worse.
When David, a troubled high school student who appears to suffer from mental illness, finds himself in a situation where he is about to be taken captive for reasons unknown, a dark power takes over his body opening the doors to a world of superhuman abilities and a past kept secret.
I was always fascinated by their quality of work in terms of action and storytelling, and I was certainly happy to see the likes of French actor and martial artist Alexandre Bailly among them. His participation in the 2007/2008 shortfilm, Brothers Forever, helped continue to signal a calling for the mainstream to pay attention and watch, much like other teams at the time – something that inspired me to start a freehostia.com account to get my own news site going and help discuss martial arts and action movies on a larger scale.
James Mark is a Ontario-based, aspiring independent martial arts action filmmaker with his own action company called Team 2x. For the past eleven years, he has also been a martial arts stunt performer for stage, film and TV, learning everything he now knows from veteran Jackie Chan stunt team member and industry action director, Bradley James Allan. James, whose current list of credits include everything from stunt performer and fight choreographer, to writer, producer, actor and director, has already begun embarking on a mission with his team to make their dreams come true, with the launch of a brand new Indiegogo campaign to help fund a unique martial arts drama titled Genetix, a production to be made in the same vein of Japanese Anime, starring his brother, Chris Mark, in the lead role.