Along with all the absurd Sharknado movies, I’m not really keen on a lot of mashups unless one garners my attention. Zombie Ninjas vs. Black Ops just so happens to be one of those, if not for a mere appeal to the martial arts genre by way of said ninjas, and offers another noticeable effort in combining thrilling action and suspenseful horror, even in the company of its fair share of silly moments.
Aussie film duo, writer Kylie Claude and directo Rody Claude present the story of Dillon, played by Adam T. Perkins. Burned out by war and the lack of a decent paycheck for his family, he still looks to protect and serve with less risk through Saisei Security, a private security and arms company. Little does he know of what really goes on past the lush walls and big bi-weekly payday until he and others find themselves amidst a swarm of reanimated and seemingly invincible black-clad killers, and his former black-ops colleagues on the scene and under orders less noble than desire. With time running out, the death toll increasing and danger lurking in every corner, it’s up to Dillon to protect a young scientist and the secrets she carries, or the next moment will be their last.
From top to bottom, Zombie Ninjas VS. Black Ops is an all-out gonzo bit of fanfare for the B-movie crowd, rich with all the necessary tropes of a horror movie, including the occasional silliness and obviousness of its death scenes. The action makes it slightly more fun to enjoy with key performances by Perkins and actors Korum Ellis and Jason Britz, actor and stuntman Kenny Low and UFC heavyweight familiar, actor Soa “The Hulk” Palelei to name a few.
Collectively though, I will say that the action overall makes the film half-and-half; Perhaps the biggest moment representive of the title comes from Ellis‘s own sequences in which he shines best at the start of the third act, thus doing his own supporting role much justice. However, by the start of the final action piece, we get shortchanged with a sequence meant largely to be suggestive through the music score as a tool for dramatic intensity. No foley effects, no gun shots or other fight sounds, nothing, which really feels like a huge letdown, and mainly because at the end of the day, what you want to do most with a small scale indie action film is make the most of it. Instead, what we get for but a few minutes of the final act is a wasted opportunity, and gladly this isn’t to say that the film is not without its other merits.
Perkins bodes nicely in the role of Dillon with Britza playing a menacing A.K., a black-ops squad leader who ends up at odds with our hero over their unresolved past. The rest of the acting from our cast left just a tad more to be desired to say the least apart from Kira Lee Caine whose own character is limited to nothing more than a damsel in distress with exception to a just few sturdy moments throughout.
The film makes great use of its sets to avoid feeling and looking claustrophobic, and the overall pacing of the story tends to lag a few times here and there. Thankfully though, we’re not too inebriated by the film’s intentionally slower moments before the action picks up. Our titular zombie ninjas are lighting-fast – perhaps something that didn’t need a whole lot of frenetic camrera work in a few key sequences – and add to the fervor that comes with cheering on our living protaginists no matter how evil a few of them are.
Zombie Ninjas VS. Black Ops was a film I wanted to love, as I genuinely wish to with most independent action movies. It’s an outright silly film with some forgiveable flaws, but suffers the misfortune of stumbling hard on its final fight scene and ultimately throwing off the tone of the action. The remainder of the film, however, is full of spectacle and gore, and fun to enjoy and relax the brain to, and in that regard, if you’re into independent action and horror with a dose of martial arts and a bit of the ridiculous, Zombie Ninjas VS. Black Ops is definitely your speed.
The film is now available on VoD in the U.S. and Canada wherever movies are sold. Head over to the official website for more info.
The martial arts genre can be a thrilling one when it comes to movies. However, spectacle aside, every now and then it helps to get grounded a little more in what the overall practice of it really means, and we’ve seen that narrative several times in the past through different tones. This time, we get martial arts stars Don “The Dragon” Wilson and Cynthia Rothrock as they spearhead this newest effort in director Michael Baumgarten’s new movie, The Martial Arts Kid.
Actor Jansen Panetierre stars in the title role of Robbie, a new face in a small Florida town where he goes to live with his Uncle Glen and Aunt Cindy, played respectively by Wilson and Rothrock. Robbie’s prior stints with the law have forced his grandmother’s hand, leaving his fate in the hands of his extended family while he struggles to balance teenage life and his own inner turmmoil. He meets Rina (Kathryn Newtown) however, and that effort soon turns on its head when he incidentally crosses paths with her muscle-bound boyfriend, Bo (Matthew Ziff).
Robbie takes it one day at a time while Bo sets the standard from time to time with the usual semantics. Beyond that, things eventually start to get a little easier for him when he acquaints himself with Glen’s martial arts school, all while getting a new job, a bike and the sustenance of Rina’s friendship. Unfortunately, when things start to bloom between the two, all hell breaks loose in an instant as Bo’s actions soon trigger Robbie to let loose on his crowd, ultimately catching the attention of his siblings, as well as Bo’s own school led by Kane (T.J. Storm), and ensuing an all-or-nothing confrontation.
Getting things started a bit in the first act, the story moves a little too fast but still lends ample time and depth through dialogue to help introduce our characters. We eventually meet Robbie’s cousin, Katie (Kayley Stallings) who contributes plenty to the film’s charm and chuckles upon their unceremonial reunion at the top of the film and in scenes thereafter. The film wastes little time before we meet Rothrock and Wilson and it’s from there that several key moments between Wilson and Panetierre further set the tone for Robbie’s own growth. Panetierre plays the part staunchly well in the title role of this films through his training, his relationships with the sibs, and the film’s central subplot focusing on his blooming friendship and romance with Rina.
Ziff doesn’t get a lot of screentime while he tends to appear in the background in the second act, but he plays the Bo character right to a T in the scenes that matter the most. This, coupled with our entry into Storm’s role as Kane where we learn plenty about his motivations as Bo’s antagonistic martial arts teacher and Glen’s polar opposite, makes for a great formula in establishing the dichotomy that sits on both sides of the ideological martial arts coin.
Make no mistake about the action here either as the film leaves plenty of room for the genre to shine for fans. Between the fights and the training, these scenes are peppered with delightful moments of watching Wilson and Rothrock at work, especially Rothrock as she effortlessly split-streches her leg up a pole with nothing short of ease.
The martial arts underdog genre is a great way to present a number of teachable moments and lessons for a family forum. Such is The Martial Arts Kid, a film foundated on its primary anti-bullying message and it’s the kind of tool that makes this particular subgenre timeless and ageless, and with special regard to the final fight between Wilson and Storm, and the overall subtext behind the film’s title.
From a technical aspect, the only things that really stands out are plot holes that occur in just a few parts of the film. Other than that, the film was fun, funny, poignant and very enjoyable with a lot of heart and resolve, with exception to the cliffhanger ending, and that’s all I’ll leave there in that respect.
The Martial Arts Kid is a truly fitting family drama as much as it is a love letter to the martial arts genre, and even martial arts as a whole. Wilson and Rothrock, who come from an era of 80’s and 90’s action films that remain popular among the niche, don’t miss a beat in this one alongside a great cast and a lead actor who could very well be an action star in the making if he so chooses, and at the center of it all, a message that benefits anyone and everyone and never gets old.
Be sure to stay tuned to the official Facebook fanpage with links to the official website for The Martial Arts Kid, and keep your eyes open for more information in lieu of its forthcoming wide release.
There are a lot of action films that simply entertain from start to finish with a mere modicum of value founded on the distraction of spectacle. As such, apart from these, very few movies within the genre stand out, and it takes an immense degree of creative independence aside from the usual hard work and willingness to accomplish doing so without said “distractions”. Really, this is all a moviegoer can ask for on top of great acting and action, and for this, we have to thank writer and director R.L. Scott in lieu of his latest crime drama, Call Me King.
The film centers on Rhyis (Amin Joseph) and Khalil (Maurice Whitfield), two sons of an ousted dictatorship in Haiti who have risen in America’s criminal ranks since childhood. Joined by Grimm (Sean Riggs) and Zoh (Jonathan “Lil J” McDaniel), they run The Strap Set – a quartet of gun runners and enforcers who operate the behest of the leader of the Italian crime syndicate, Angelo (Chris Mulkey). Through his long-term devotion to Angelo, Rhyis has grown ever closer to his goals returning to his native Haiti and reclaiming his birth rite, although little does he know that there are other moving pieces in play between two families threatened by internal longstanding grudges.
Tensions further build with the re-emergence of his infamous and estranged father, Knight (Shaun Mixon) and his cold and calculated partner, Simone (Monyque Thompson Scott), while Leena (Gabrielle Dennis) a naïve young woman begins her training as an assassin under Simone’s watch. With Angelo’s cocaine-addicted son, Nick (T.J. Hoban), eager to be number one, The Strap Set soon finds itself marked for death, setting the stage for an epic showdown between two modern day royals vying for the proverbial throne, and in the end, only one will be crowned King.
For all the faults it could have fallen into, the script, in part with its symbolic adherance to individual philosophy and the contemplative tone of a mindful chess player, pays close attention to many of the motivations behind each character, as many as there are, and without disengaging the audience by way of any unnecessary ornamentations. Quality performances are key in this regard and Joseph accomplishes much of this in a role that lies among several at the very forefront of the film’s multi-branched narrative. He and Mixon share quite a few of the film’s more electrifying and dramatic moments on set, almost perfectly setting the tone for Whitfield’s performance as the younger and slightly more impulsive Khalil.
Actress Bai Ling also does wonders for the film as Li, an arms dealer who shares a deep acquaintance with Grimm by way of her sister, Soo (Akari Kalai). Dennis‘s performance as Leena does not leave much of an impression, but it does serve its purpose in developing another of the film’s underlying subplots with actor Lester Speight in the role of Vincent, Simone’s assisstant. This, in conjunction with Thompson‘s pivotal and stellar performance lends a major plus to the film’s thematic delivery on transcendence and self-worth.
Further credit goes to the supporting roles of actors Alimi Ballard who plays Dwight, Bill Cobbs who plays Malachi and Del Zamora in the role of Feris in adding further layers to the film’s characteristic and overall depth. The film does dabble a little more into its sprawling universe of shady characters and none of it really feels like excess, though I can only imagine what more could have been done to include them further in the story. Nonetheless, the film is plenty fullfilling in its delivery as an epic crime drama peppered with great moments of action and brutality to boot, and characters you will both hate to love and vice versa.
Scott‘s fight choreography here is actually a first outing for me aside from having seen his previous mini webseries works, Touye Pwen (Kill Point) and Fixer, though he himself has directed action before, having earned cult acclaim on films like Champion Road and Champion Road: Arena. At any rate though, the fight coordination and execution here are great gems to observe as the most outstanding of the traits shared by each fighting character, particularly with actor Kevin Lukata in the role of Luc, Knight’s personal bodyguard. Moreover, while the design here does dabble a little bit in kicking, Scott‘s choreography stays true to itself with a highly grounded amidst the flurry of bullets, fists, blades and other blunt objects between the characters in conjunction with the film’s modest violence and gore a la practical and CGI blood effects.
The most exciting fight scene is obviously right where it is needed, which is in the third act, and I emphasize this largely because of many of the films I have seen which lose steam right in the middle of the film when it comes to action sequences. Essentially, Scott plays his cards perfectly here and it tops the film with just the dramatic finishing touch it needed.
At its core, the best thing Call Me King offers to viewers is a film that is honest with its audience. Scott‘s vision is executed here in such a way that despite whatever few miniscule flaws there may be or anything one may deem as subjective, the film makes damn sure it delivers a solid piece of cinema worth every minute of your time. The script, the overall chemistry between certain characters, and the action sequences give notice to fans of the genre in lieu the forthcoming another awesome action thriller to add to one’s own collection.
Call Me King opens in limited theaters on September 4. Check your local listings and visit CallMeKingMovie.com for more information.