EXCLUSIVE: Independent filmmaker James Lee is well on the way with the new martial arts redemtpion thriller, Kill-Fist. Hailing a reunion for the director and his lead actor, Singaporean action favorite, recurring Code Of Law star Sunny Pang, the film further etches a mutual creative partnership for the two who’ve known each other for more than a decade in cinema.
“It was fun and great to work with him again after The Collector and Call If You Need Me.” says Lee who cites that as both were different films that served the purpose Kill-Fist aims to do once more in challenging Pang as an actor. “Indeed he had to do some preparations for the character tragic Zhang. Kill-Fist is kind of a refresher for both of us, we hope we can move to bigger projects after this.”
Pang, who serves up more brutal screentime in Gavin Lim’s own upcoming film, Diamond Dogs, is one of the two principal leads for Kill-Fist next to actor Alan Yun, both central to the story in the respectful roles of Zhang, an impecunious sales rep struggling with impending divorce amid fighting for custody of his daughter, and John, a pastor facing down his own financial woes as his wife lays ill from cancer. Their circumstances soon take hold as they’re lured into a deadly underground fight circuit where the victor wins a cash prize based on rank.
Alan Yun in “Kill-Fist”
Lee divulged some details to Film Combat Syndicate about conceiving Kill-Fist – a film thematically centered on family and vengeance about his inspiration toward the project. I first caught up with Lee when I discovered a shortfiln project in 2014 called Second Life with burgeoning local TV star Michael Chan, and it was then that Lee showcased an understanding of shooting and directing action which immediately drew my own interest in learning more about his endeavors through his film banner, Doghouse 73 Pictures, through which Lee continues his agenda in autonomously producing and financing his new homage to a celebrated bygone era of action cinema.
“It was simply an idea to just make an no-nonsense martial arts action movie, like those in the 80s with titles like ‘Kill And Kill Again’.” says Lee. “With focus on the families of the characters, I was inspired to write and design a story that will legitimize the action look instead of bringing action just for the sake of action. The two mutually co-exist and so the story will still play an inherent, important part in the film.”
Filming wrapped over the weekend following a brisk photography period. It was actually pretty surprising which makes me a lot more curious about some of Lee’s work which I haven’t gotten around to catching, but it’s also usually the case for an independent project such as Kill-Fist, with things like budget constraints and cutting certain creative corners to make things work. There were definitely some hurdles in the mix for fight scene prep as well, which led to some of the fight sequencing being designed on the spot.
Koe Yeet in “Kill-Fist”
“The biggest hurdles were the fight and action scenes totaling about ten scenes, with Sunny himself in eight of them,” says Lee. “It was really a demanding shoot for all of us, and so we didn’t have ample pre-production time to complete the choreography, so five of the scenes were choreographed and improvised on set.”
The film also signaled another collaborative reunion with Malaysian local, actor, stuntman and fight choreographer Lau Chee Hong who worked on a number of Lee’s projects through his own brand at Low Angle Productions. A few peculiar promo stills began releasing online for the film which echo and otherwise confirm Lee’s own expressed interest in introducing stylish Kung Fu fighting techniques for each character, with Pang’s role taking on that of centuries-old Praying Mantis.
“I envisioned a modern day kung-fu fight thriller pitting traditional styles against each other.” says Lee, who added that closer attention was needee for the more BJJ-oriented Marcio Sebsam, best known for his towering villainous role in Asun Mawardi’s 2011 thriller, Mortal Enemies (a.k.a. Pirate Brothers) and is set to star in female-led thriller, Duality. “We did not use many grappling or ground work as they’re actually harder to design compared to stand up striking techniques. So Chee Hong had to choreograph five of the major fights in a period of over a month. We trained and met up every Saturday to do the choreography with his team when available. It was truly an indie effort.”.
Sunny Pang and Marcio Sebsam in “Kill-Fist”
The search for a distributor comes next on the agenda prior to film festival notoriety for Kill-Fist, which ought to make for good movement for Pang after making waves in 2016 in Toronto and Texas for Iko Uwais thriller, Headshot. Award-winning director of photography Tan Teck Zee lensed Kill-Fist which also stars actresses Koe Yeet and Pearlly Chua, and is produced by Kenny Gan (KL24: Zombies).
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