If you are looking for a mindless actioner to waste an evening with, Kill 'Em All may just be what you are looking for. This is a no-nonsense brawler that plays out like a video game. It is a martial arts movie that has very little need for story. As it stands, there is very little exposition and what story there is is pretty much saved for the final act as it barrels towards its conclusion. It is not a bad movie, per se, but it is one that requires a certain mindset to enjoy.
I must have had the right mindset when I watched. I rather enjoyed the ridiculous exercise. It does not offer anything new to the genre and the fights are not particularly special. What it does offer is virtually non stop action. Who doesn't enjoy some non stop fisticuffs? It is an easy thing to enjoy. Director Raimund Huber (Bangkok Adrenaline) and first time feature writer Ken Miller know what they are making here, it is not high art, just an entertaining B movie.
The set up is simple. A group of assassins from around the world are kidnapped, this comes right after an opening montage showing some of them plying their trade to demonstrate a variety of methods (hand to hand, guns, explosives, etc.). The killers are drugged and when they awaken they are in a sealed room. The room is called the Killing Chamber, for pretty obvious reasons. A voice speaks to them over a loudspeaker, telling us who each of the players are and forcing them to fight each other to the death.
After a few quick kills the remaining few decide to work together to escape. Of course, the voice does not wish to let them go easily and the remaining killers must face waves of anonymous bad guys if they hope to escape.
Seriously, there is nothing to the story. As the end approaches we get some flashback stuff as they try to cram in a reason for us to care, but it is too little too late. This is not a movie about caring for the characters, this is about watching people fight.
I guess you could say this is the movie people who like bad movies. The acting is bad, dialogue laughable, the fights simplistic, and it looks cheap; however, the editing is pretty good, it could not have been easy cutting this together. There is also something to be said about the energy, it is pretty high and just a little not infectious. It is the energy that helped carry me and keep me involved
Among the performances, there are a couple that I liked. The lead is Som, played by Ammara Siripong (Chocolate), it is clear that she knows more than she is letting on and she is quite enjoyable to watch fight her way through the movie. I also thought that Tim Man as The Kid was pretty good as a stoic martial arts badass, I would like to see what he could do in a quality martial arts fight. The male lead is Gabriel, played by Johnny Messner (Anacondas: The Hunt for the Blood Orchid), is downright terrible with awful dialogue delivery and zero charisma.
While the cast is comprised pretty much of unknowns, there are a couple of names that should catch the eye of old school Martial arts fans as well as B-action fans. The first is the late Joe Lewis, playing aging killer Carpenter. Lewis is known to exploitation fans as Jaguar from the 1979 film Jaguar Lives!, not to mention also being in 1981's Force: Five (just look up those trailers). The other plays Snakehead, the man behind the voice directing our assassins, that man is Gordon Liu, star of films such as The 36th Chamber Shaolin and Heroes of the East. The man is a legend and he is clearly having some fun here, just listen to his voice work, it also helps that he has the best fight seen of the movie.
Audio/Video. The movie is presented in a ratio of 1.78:1 and appears to have been shot digitally. It is not a very pretty film. Early scenes of Bangkok look pretty good with bright colors ad nice detail, but once the movie gets going inside the Killing Chamber it changes its tune. Gone are the bright colors and solid detail, in it's place we get a lot of greys and browns and detail that gets lost on the shadows or just smooth and textureless. The movie just looks flat.
The audio is a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track. There are times when it packs a punch, during the gunfights, and when the rock score kicks in for the hand to and fights, for example. Still, it is not a great track. I found much of he dialogue to have a rather hollow quality to it, like they used available location audio and did not do anything to clean it up. It sounds weird to me. It is always clear, just a little weird.
Extras. The lone bonus bit is a trailer for the movie.
Bottomline. This is an undeniably silly movie. It moves with a sense of urgency knowing that if you are given a moments rest to think about it, the ridiculous exercise will reveal itself. It plays out very much like a video game with characters moving through levels until they reach the boss, even the announcements throughout sound like a game. Anyway, I think you know who you are if you think you'll like this movie. I enjoyed it, but it is by no means a good movie.
Article first published as Blu-ray Review: Kill 'Em All on Blogcritics.