Review: Indie Martial Arts Crime Thriller BOUND BY DEBT Pays Its Dues

Cha Ki Do founder and filmmaker, actor and martial artist Paul Mormando steps into the criminal underworld for wife and film partner Anna Mormando’s debut at the helm, Bound By Debt. Hailing from Put Up Entertainment, Mormando makes his way to the indie fray with a feasible low budget, binding tale of crime, family upheaval and redemption for its appeal to martial arts fans as a fight flick fans will hopefully enjoy.

Mormando tackles the role of Dylan James, a down-and-out former fighter for the mob fully aware of his physical well-being and the consequences of getting in the ring one more time. At the top of the film from credits onward, we meet Bobby Ciasulli who plays Robbie, a struggling father of two with a marriage hampered by a gambling addiction that ultimately lands him in trouble with only one day to make good on his debt to relentless crimeboss, Russo, played by Samuel DiFiore.

Much of the acting is stilted, albeit made forgiveable through several strong supporting performances; Joe Polimeni recurs as Jon, one of Russo’s cohorts and old friend to Dylan. Ciasulli and actress Michele Frantzeskos make the discernible case as the embattled couple with Lyco co-star, actress Nikki Silva as eldest daughter Alexis who is often caught in the middle for want of the truth pertaining to the history with her long lost uncle.

Actor Gerard Adimando offers up a distinguished appearance in a rare father/son moment opposite Mormando as ailing father, Nick, while Charles LaPlaca offers a discerible and intriguing appearance to the narrative in the third act as Senior crime boss, Mr Gallo. Playing Detective O, actor Anthony Vaccarello joins in as a cop whose past dates as far back as Dylan’s with a history he often needs as a warning to Alexis’s boyfriend, his independent-minded son, Lonny, portrayed by Joseph Baquet.

The story and script immerse you in an albeit small world where everyone knows someone in some capacity; Danger is imminent between scenes which drives the film’s kinetic pacing, and with the role of Alexis helping steer the film’s progression and eventful segueing into action and fight scenery from coordinators Chris Bello and Brian Wecker.

The film doesn’t nail everything it wants to in some of its mechanics, but plays it safe in certain areas that keep the film sustainable from start to finish. Marc Fratto follows up on his lensing credentials with tangible work that graced the film its necessary polished finish. The action offers close-ups next to certain wider shots that work, a hit-or-miss substitute for several shots where some hits don’t connect or deliver the desired effect. Save for the key one-on-one fight scenes, the bulk of the fights are quick yet ample enough to favor the film’s tone and progress with Mormando demonstrating a few impressive moments of speed despite his abridged, sturdy build.

The push for a film like Bound By Debt comes years following Mormando’s debut appearance in the 1991 film, American Shaolin. Recent years have shown him strive substantially toward his interest in film and most recently with independent project, Double Fist several years ago. Going into 2018, Bound By Debt is definitely either a hit-or-miss depending one’s tastes, although it still presents a much more unified effort that does what it can with a great story that ends on a rather charming note.