Jazz, film, and improvised culture.
Brush with Danger: Art and Action in Seattle
undocumented siblings do the sort of jobs native-born Americans just won’t do,
like forging a Van Gogh and boxing in unregulated after hours bouts. To be
fair, she is highly conflicted about the former, whereas he faces plenty of
home grown talent in the latter. Their legal status is precarious, but their
spirit is indomitable in Livi Zheng’s Brush
with Danger (trailer
opens this Friday in New York.
and Ken Qiang were two of the lucky ones, who survived their cargo container
transit to America. They came in search of a better life, but they also had to
get out of Dodge fast. They have practically nothing to their names, except for
some of her paintings that they will try to sell on the streets. They also have
skills, which is part of the reason why they had to leave in a hurry. Yet,
despite Alice’s reluctance, the Qiangs discover they can quickly fill a hat
with their street displays of martial arts and acrobatics. Gallerist Justus
Sullivan also notices them doing their act, but it is Alice’s work that really catches
the role of patron, Sullivan moves the Qiangs into his McMansion, so Alice can
finally live up to her potential. To keep Ken busy, Sullivan introduces the
impetuous kid to his associate running Seattle’s underground fight circuit.
Soon Ken is earning his own illegal spending money, fair and square. However,
just when Sullivan asks if maybe Alice wouldn’t mind doing an extremely high
quality reproduction—for a terminally ill friend, mind you—Det. Nick Thompson
starts snooping around.
Brush is the directorial
debut Livi Zheng, an Indonesian-born former stuntwoman and NCAA Karate
competitor. It does indeed have some of the roughness you might associate with
first features, but she and her real life kick-boxer brother Ken are totally
convincing in the action scenes. In spite of some narrative slack, Zheng keeps
it well paced and Norman Newkirk adds some memorable villainous charm as
the problem is it is all too nice. The Zhengs are hugely likeably rooting
interests and former cop-turned-wrestler Nikita Breznikov is rather likable as Det.
Thompson, in a doofus kind of way. Even Sullivan is kind of nice (although some
of his angry associates are definitely not). Still, if you had to choose a
movie bad guy to have lunch with, he should be at the top of the list.
So if everyone is nice, does that mean the movie
is nice too? Unfortunately, that probably constitutes a fallacy of composition.
Regardless, it is impossible to root against the Qiangs and the Zhengs, who are
already at work on their next action picture. If they maintain their
earnestness and add some narrative edge, they could really get somewhere. For
now, Brush with Danger opens this Friday
(9/19) in New York at the Cinema Village.
Labels: Ken Zheng, Livi Zheng