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November 27, 2012

Kill 'Em All

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Raimund Huber - 2012
Well Go USA Entertainment Region 1 DVD

Nothing says holiday entertainment quite like a movie where the characters pummel each other to death when guns and knives aren't available.

While the set-up, a bunch of hired assassins locked in a room are pitted against each other, is hardly original, it doesn't keep Kill 'Em All from being eminently watchable. Yeah, sure, there's not much of a plot here, strangers forced into duels that end in death for one, pawns for the entertainment of a mystery person or persons. I haven't had the opportunity to see Raimund Huber's previous film, Bangkok Adrenaline, although this film takes place in Bangkok and is fueled by adrenaline.

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But I'll also give you a two word reason why you might want to find time for this film: Gordon Liu. The icon of Hong Kong bad assery is now confined to a nursing home and in ill health. Frankly, it was heartbreaking to see a photo of Liu in a wheelchair. His role in Kill 'Em All is not that big, and I suspect his action scenes were designed to minimize physical exertion. Still, those last fifteen minutes or so of Gordon Liu in action is justification enough for any movie.

There's a sense of self-awareness when the unseen voice tells the surviving assassins that they've made it to "the next level", and one of the characters talks about feeling like he's performing in someone's video game. There's not much more deeper than that, and that's OK. Sometimes a film can be made and enjoyed for the surface visceral enjoyment.

Filmed in Bangkok, and primarily in English, and made for an international audience, the cast is primarily pan-Asian with a few western actors. The best known name here is Gordon Liu. The name that should be better known is Tim Man, a stunt performer who was responsible for the action choreography here, as well as showing off his own martial arts skills as The Kid. The eye candy as such is supplied by Thai actress Ammara Siripong, last seen in Chocolate as the mother to JeeJa. Johnny Messner appears as an opera loving hitman who sneers at anything related to ninjas, and otherwise might be a bit too sensitive for his own good.

Huber wastes little time getting started, introducing his eight assassins doing what they do best, followed by getting getting tricked into waking up in the killing chamber. Giving the film that video game vibe are scenes where scores of ninjas and "freaks" pour out of various stairways in pursuit of the renegade Siripong, Messner and Man. At one point, Siripong has to go one on one against a hulk of a man who seems entirely impervious to every kick and punch that Siripong can dole out. And sometimes it's just enough to watch an hour and a half of martial arts action where the (relatively) good guys win and the bad guys lose.

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Posted by Peter Nellhaus at November 27, 2012 08:52 AM