Genre : Action
Country : USA
Director: James Mark
When David, a troubled high school student who appears to suffer from mental illness, finds himself in a situation where he is about to be taken captive for reasons unknown, a dark power takes over his body opening the doors to a world of superhuman abilities and a past kept secret.
Something that always piques my interest when it comes to a movie is when a stuntman steps behind the camera. While writers or producers eventually sitting in the director’s chair has always been the natural progression, more recently stuntmen and stunt coordinators have been behind some of the biggest movies in action cinema. Dating back to the 70’s the legendary Hal Needham has been behind Southern fried cult classics The Cannonball Run and Smokey and The Bandit. More recently stuntmen Chad Stahelski and David Leitch worked together to create the runaway hit John Wick with Leitch going on to work on Deadpool 2 and Atomic Blonde. No doubt seeing these past successes stuntman and fight choreographer James Mark (Pacific Rim, Jumper) joins the fray writing and directing his own take on the superhero genre, Kill Order. It’s his first feature film and you can tell.
From the beginning he falls into a lot of the problems common in low budget cinema. For example, there is a an over reliance on slow motion effects. It looks good but after awhile it feels like padding the runtime more than anything else. There is also quite a bit of questionable CGI. Smaller effects like glowing eyes are look fine but blood splatter and explosions can’t help but look pretty bad. While not necessarily James Mark’s fault it adds up after awhile. Creatively speaking, Kill Order‘s plot is pretty rudimentary. A basic superhero origin story it hits all the familiar beats including a hero with a mysterious past, his love interest and an evil, secret organization. There is the occasional unsuspected beat (a certain death midway through the movie comes to mind) but for the most part it feels like your average CW comic book show. A lot of this is can be attributed to the film’s run time. Running only 77 minutes nothing really has time to sink in nor do we have a chance to learn about our characters.
Not that the short run time is a complete negative. Despite it’s length Kill Order never feels rushed. The familiarity of the story works well with only 77 minutes, never getting too complicated or becoming hard to follow. And while the story may feel overly familiar as a director James Mark is good on a technical level. More importantly he is able to film an action scene properly. Like most stuntmen-turned-directors he is able to film action perfectly showcasing every hard hitting punch. At no point does the camera have too much shaky cam or stay too sedentary. Collaborating with his brother Chris Mark (Suicide Squad, Scott Pilgrim vs. The World) the two craft action scenes better than some of their direct-to-video contemporaries.
Working together they are able to create some spectacular action scenes.Clearly experienced in the field they blend martial arts, weapons and gun play into some creative and memorable scenes. Even more impressive is how long the scenes run. Typically lasting several minutes not only do they run longer than the typical action scene they are just as impressive as their big screen counterparts. It certainly has some early contenders for best fight choreography of the year.
Kill Order is a James Mark’s first film and it shows. A fairly typical direct-to-video action movie it’s wooden acting, overuse of slow motion and the cliché plot show how new director James Mark is behind the camera. Despite these flaws I can’t help but recommend it. What it lacks in polish or originality it makes up for with some good fight choreography, real knack for filming them and a good sense of pacing. Add the movie’s slim runtime and you have a fun, quick look at a director finding his voice. Kill Order is an assignment worth taking, just make sure you have some friends and a couple of drinks.