J.B. Spins

Jazz, film, and improvised culture.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Kill ‘Em All: Playing Survivor in Bangkok

Hired killers are not inclined to make alliances.  Nonetheless, to survive the “Killing Chamber,” eight captured assassins will have to work together.  Needless to say, not all of them are going to make it in Raimund Huber’s Kill ’Em All (trailer here), which releases today on DVD and BluRay from Well Go USA, just in time for Christmas.

The premise is elegantly straight forward.  A shadowy criminal mastermind has abducted the top freelancers working in Bangkok, forcing them to face off in death matches, until there is only one.  Defiance of his instructions will lead to another dose of gas flooding the chamber.  On the other hand, each victor earns a trip to the weapons room.  Basically, it is a martial arts Survivor with décor left over from the Saw franchise.  Frankly, it is strange nobody made this film sooner, but here it is now.

Let us have no illusions.  This is an old school exploitation movie, through and through.  What it might lack in subtlety, it makes up for with in-your-face violence, choreographed with authority by fight director Tim Man.  Those nostalgic for Enter the Dragon rip-offs like Kill and Kill Again will get plenty of red meat here.  The dialogue can be rather clunky though, but that’s okay, the delivery often is as well.  Yet, despite ‘Em All’s profound B-movieness, the characters are better delineated than one might expect.

Gabriel is an explosives expert who wants everyone to join hands and work together to survive.  He is also suicidal, so this might be his lucky day, regardless.  Som is a Black Widow type assassin, who stuns opponents with her fearsome midriff of death.  She also seems to know more about their predicament than she lets on.  Carpenter is the crusty old Gary Buseyesque American expat of the hitman world, who hasn’t survived this long for no reason.  “The Kid” is the quiet, wiry type, but you do not want to face him in a death match.  Throw in a sadistic man child and a German anarchist and you have yourself a colorful crew.

No, this is not Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon‘Em All was obviously shot on a shoestring, but Huber still recruited a cast that will interest genre fans.  None other than Shaw Brothers veteran Gordon Liu appears as their evil tormentor, “Snakehead.”  Perhaps even more significant to martial arts connoisseurs will be the final film appearance of Joe Lewis, the international kickboxing champion and one time student of Bruce Lee, as Carpenter.  Ammara Siripong (co-star of the Thai martial arts film Chocolate) is also an impressive screen presence as Som.  Arguably, she has the best fight sequence, involving the lethal use of bricks (once again, ‘Em All is more about brute force than finesse).

You should know by now if Kill ‘Em All is your idea of a guilty pleasure.  For action fanatics, it has some cool moments, especially those featuring the undeniably attractive Siripong and the late great Lewis.  You could say it’s a bit grungy and unsophisticated, but Kill ‘Em All is still the perfect film to put on after a big family Christmas dinner.  Recommended accordingly, it is now available for home viewing from Well Go USA.

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