“Up, Up, Down, Down, Left, Right, Left, Right, B, A, Start.”
Evil mastermind Snakehead (Liu) kidnaps eight of the world’s top assassins, and transports them to a bunker in his Bangkok lair, where he makes them fight each other to the death, laughing maniaally all the while. Why? Because he’s an evil mastermind, that’s why: it’s what they do for amusement, rather than watch reality shows or potter around in the garden. After the numbers have been whittled down, Som (Siripoing, who played the mother in Chocolate) blocks the gas system used by Snakehead to enforce discipline, and leads an escape from the killing chamber. However, Snakehead had a lot more minions who need to be defeated before she and Gabriel (Messner) finally get to the boss level.
If that plot summary is terser than usual, that’s because there is much less plot than usual, in what is not much more than a thin, if occasionally clever, contrived excuse to slap together a series of fight scenes. As such, logic doesn’t enter in to it much. For example, is there some kind of employment scheme to which evil overlords can subscribe, which provides faceless henchmen willing to go to their deaths in droves? And if so, why not just get them to fight each other for your entertainment? The motive which spurs Snakehead to spend considerable time, effort and money on his scheme – not, it eventually is revealed, for the first time – is completely opaque, and few of the assassins come over any better, with little time or effort put into their characterization. Case in point: Gabriel tries to commit suicide just before his kidnapping, but it comes out of nowhere so has absolutely no emotional impact.
No, this is all about the martial arts, and in this aspect, the film does deliver – albeit more in quantity than quality, without the level of invention seen in, say, The Raid: Redemption. The different styles on view from the participants do give a decent degree of variety, and The Kid (Man, who also did the fight choereography) showcases some impressive moves. There’s certainly no shortage of action, to the extent that this feels more like a video-game with occasional cut scenes to move the plot forward, than an action film with set-pieces of martial arts. However, while tasty enough during consumption, it still ends up being entirely unfilling, and is like a Chinese meal which leaves you hungry, 15 minutes after eating it.
Dir: Raimund Huber
Star: Ammara Siripong, Johnny Messner, Gordon Liu, Tim Man