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- Published on Amazon.com
When the two opposite ends of the DTV action filmmaking spectrum get together to direct a movie, you better believe that I'm on board to watch the results. On one hand, we've got Albert Pyun, who was fine back in the day of his theatrical releases but has since directed enough trash to bury Hawaii in (see Ticker, Urban Menace); and then there's Isaac Florentine, who's become top dog in the low-budget martial arts realm with releases like Undisputed III: Redemption. Would their collaboration yield favorable results or crash and burn as their standards clashed?... Alright, it's nothing quite as dramatic as that: Florentine had yet to achieve his own high standard at the time of filming and only directed a couple of scenes here, while Pyun was actually on relatively good behavior for this era. The end product is a watchable but ultimately flawed little adventure filmed in the tropics that isn't good or bad enough to stimulate the interest worthy of the hype I assigned it a second ago.
The story: on assignment at a Guam vacation resort, kickboxer-turned-photographer Max Havoc (Mickey Hardt) finds himself caught up in the troubles of a beautiful museum curator (Joanna Krupa, Ripple Effect) who's unwittingly come into possession of a Yakuza heirloom - something the gangsters will go to any length to retrieve.
Martial artist Mickey Hardt is a choice pick for me: born in Switzerland, he had achieved a degree of international fame prior to this film by co-starring in Vampire Effect, and I wasn't (entirely) disappointed to see what he brings to a starring vehicle. The rest of the cast disappointed me, in one way or another: I wasn't surprised that Joanna Krupa can't act worth beans, but it's the presence of performers with a greater degree of recognition - David Carradine (Kill Bill), Richard Roundtree (Shaft trilogy), Johnny Nguyen (The Protector), and Asian enforcer extraordinaire Arnold Chon - who dragged down the film for me, mostly by how little they're given to do here. David Carradine in particular only has about three scenes throughout the film, even though his face and name are prominent on the DVD cover. Then again, it makes sense for the fact that half of the time, the movie doesn't even seem aware that it's supposed to be an action flick: way too much time is given over to expounding the relationship between the Hardt and Krupa characters.
When we finally do get some action scenes, however, it's generally good stuff. Like I said, Mickey Hardt didn't disappoint me, to the point that I hope he gets out of the German TV phase he's currently in and makes some more martial arts flicks. He doesn't hop around a lot like the current breed of martial arts stars but has some very nice grounded kicks, plus immaculate speed. His flashback kickboxing match in particular stands out, and is probably the height of choreography + presentation in the film. The rest of the encounters are kind of hit & miss: seven brawls of varying lengths feature the aforementioned Johnny Nguyen and Arnold Chon, plus wushu stuntwoman Li Jong and a bunch of Yakuza guys. The Nguyen and Jong matches with Hardt are respectively too short and too mucked about with slow motion and crazy camerawork. The Hardt/Chon showdown (this is the one Florentine directed) is good overall but the dark lighting hurts the presentation. Inconsistency is the major drawback here, and I hope the sequel fixes this.
Production-wise, the film is strong, but can't avoid the Pyun-ism of repeatedly replaying a flashback scene - we GET it, Albert! Nevertheless, the setting always make the movie bright and fun to look at, so it's not a chore to watch. It's not a particular joy, either, so it's stuck with merely an average rating. Check out Hardt's Hong Kong movie for an all-around better introduction to him, and Florentine fans can definitely do better. Devotees of Albert Pyun, however, should feel free to treat themselves to a contemporary picture of his that isn't a total disaster.