Thursday, 23 July 2009

Order of One


Directed by: Kevin Woodhouse
Starring: Jason Cavalier, Melantha Blackthorne & Kevin Woodhouse

Stuntman/actor Jason Cavalier and scream queen Melantha Blackthorne re-team for another bout of extreme action in the independent kick-fest, Order of One. These two actors/directors/writers/editors previously paired up for the sick flick, action kick that was Saints and Sinners. That film combined just about everything under the sun, from full on gross-out gore to nifty martial arts to smatterings of nudity to mind bending imagery and enough blacker than black comedy that even that bumbling Kazakhstan reporter, Borat,would be offended (and that’s saying something). This time the pair, along with director Kevin Woodhouse, have created a more clear-cut action film with a distinctive grind-house feel, that is no less (if not more) entertaining than Saints and Sinners.

Straightforward story: There is the sword of destiny. Local crime boss, Mr Park (Grand Master Hyung Chul Kim) wants it. A luckless reporter (Kevin Woodhouse) has it. He reluctantly teams up with escaped convict, Sonny (Cavalier) to keep it out of Park’s hands. Park then sends just about every hood, assassin and mercenary, including deadly trio, The Sirens (Blackthorne, Isabelle Stephen and Danielle Dubois) after them. What follows is a cavalcade of carnage as gunfights, fisticuffs, wisecracks and the odd bit of gore flow freely through the gloriously exploitation-packed ninety minutes. While not always coherent and lagging a bit around the mid section, Order of One is a fine bit of micro-budget filmmaking that manages to squeeze out every penny of its limited funds and create an impressive array of action sequences

Cavalier is a professional stunt man and has racked up an impressive resume including War of the Worlds, Screamers, Scanners 1 and 2 and 300. An accomplished martial artist he brings his skills to the action coordination department on Order of One. Cavalier and stunt coordinator, Jan Pivon, orchestrate some knuckle-busting fight scenes and chase sequences, the best of which feature the two male principals being dragged behind a moving car and an extended, wall-smashing fight in a gas station. The fights have a bare bones feel with lots of tough hand-to-hand combat. There are also plenty of gunfights, swords fights and car chases to keep the action moving. In fact, the action is very well handled and creative for such a low budget film. Plus, come the last twenty-five minutes, it hardly lets up. Cavalier makes a fine leading man and is offered solid support from Blackthorne and Woodhouse. Performing double duties as director and actor, Woodhouse keeps everything together (just) with his straight man character and serviceable directional duties. Blackthorne provides ample eye candy, stunt person duties and some nifty camera shots as she is also billed as the director of photography.

On the downside, Blackthorne is not featured nearly enough, having more of a supporting part here and the film is dogged by some standard low budget traits. There is a surfeit of dodgy supporting acting (that Irish cop character!), limited locations, a plot that almost collapses under an overabundance of characters, a needless male nude prison shower flashback (!) and a few effects that don’t convince. But having said all this, Order Of One is fuelled by enough creativity to save it from any of its shortcomings. Split screens, freeze frames (very cool), grainy flashbacks and the aforementioned impressive photography elevate it from the standard no budget dreck. Woodhouse throws in any technique he can think of to give the film a comic book feel even using a cool video game style sequence to spice up the action. As Cavalier walks down a corridor dispatching goons, computer game style graphics appear tallying up the body count and displaying how much energy our hero has left as he is pummelled by the bad guys. Great stuff, albeit a little too brief. However, the best is the 60s Batman TV series type pop-ups that appear during fight scenes. Featuring such inventive titles as Eyeball Exit Punch, Heart Extraction Fist and Drunken Pool Cue Swipe (my favourite!), they are a hoot and provide a lot of the film’s fun and gore.

Order of One is a successful amalgamation of action and exploitation that should ensure fight and grind-house film fans will have a damn good time. Don’t expect the polish of a big budget action film, but do expect a ton of talent, fun and kung fu.

No comments: