Overall Grade: (C+)
This one gives you just enough action to account for the generic story-line and cardboard characters giving a collection of fun fight scenes.
A New York City detective (Lundgren) travels to Southeast Asia and forms an unlikely alliance with a Thai detective (Jaa) to hunt down the Serbian gangster (Perlman) who killed his family back stateside. The detective’s will follow clues leading them deep into the seedy world of human trafficking as they search for the ringleaders.
This was surely not an excellently crafted action film but for a B-movie it was relatively entertaining. The international feel of the film adds some allure that would have other wise been missing in a film that boasted some solid action, but also a recycled story-line and extremely thin characters. Dolph Lundgren and Tony Jaa did not really show the best of chemistry but then again the script give them little opportunity to do so.
With that said both their performances were enough to carry the film along as far as the action was concerned and that was clearly the focal point of the filmmakers. With Jaa, White, and Lundgren, the action was clearly martial-arts themed and regardless of the common path this story takes there were plenty of set-ups for the fight-sequences that make the most of a film that clearly took the ordinary approach in regards to the writing. The three leads are able to showcase their physical talents with Jaa leading the way pulling off his complete repertoire of stunning moves.
The fight-sequences were pretty good and didn’t feel over choreographed. There were some great setting to some of the fights with great use of lighting and shadows to give an added visual appeal to the action. The scenes deliver the clearly intentional feel of a showdown and manage to raise your tension as the characters face off with one another. While Jaa was able to carry this film along, and all his familiar skills are given to you, there was a clear lack of competency behind the camera at times.
It didn’t feel over edited or choppy but there were a couple of moments that it felt like the camera was having hard time keeping up with the speed of Jaa, thus seeming to miss some of the velocity people familiar with him could come to expect. There were also a couple instances during the action where it almost seemed like Jaa was slowing down to let the cameras capture it all. But regardless there was still enough fun hand-to-hand-to-foot action to keep fans of the genre entertained for a little under 90-minutes.
Ron Perlman did seem wasted. He was fun in the scenes he had and early on he built the makings of an enjoyable villain for the film but with little screen time his lore and ferociousness were never elevated enough to make his a strong antagonist in the story-line, and thus made the film lack any form of a real bad guy. Like many of the characters his felt recycled, a tinge cliche, and built no real interest or connection between he and the main leads, resulting in no real surprise to the end result.
It was still a solid B-movie and the cast was fun given what they had to work with. With some better writing, and a more detailed approach to creating this story-line that had a truly intense theme, this would could have been a lot better. But as it stands Jaa was fun to watch and Lundgren, despite his short-comings can still lumber around the screen as the lead and carry a decent B-action film.