If there's one thing I admire it's when a low-budget genre film is done well enough to compete with the big money boys for my valuable attention. And even more so if this is pulled off by people who have never even written, directed, or starred in a feature film before.
That's why I was so impressed with the furious action thriller KAMIKAZE (2016, Indican Pictures), in which all three of these hats are worn by its director, star, and co-writer (with Catherine Maher), Marcus Shakesheff.
Up till now, Shakesheff's had only a few very minor acting credits but over 40 credits as a stunt man, a talent which proves an invaluable resource during this almost non-stop chopsocky fest.
The plot is simple--Evan Reed (Shakesheff) is a military-trained mercenary who, during a corporate espionage assignment, discovers some vital information so damning to certain members of the UK government that he can't just hand over to his employers.
Thus, seemingly every deadly merc hitman in the UK is suddenly after him and the hard drive in his possession, also kidnapping his pregnant wife Jess (Claire Carreno) in order to lure him into their clutches.
With this no-frills premise as a springboard, Shakesheff stages a succession of action sequences and bone-crushing hand-to-hand combat encounters that are populated by some of the best fellow stuntmen he can gather together, and the result is a movie that never slows down or loses its ability to impress.
Some of the fights feature aerial moves that would usually be done with wirework and are all the more stunning without it. Evan's solo siege against an office building where his wife's being held also involves some parkour, and a scene with him engaged in battle against multiple foes in and around a speeding car is endlessly inventive (although it goes on too long).
Best of all, Shakesheff puts Evan into some really impossible situations which he must fight his way out of in believable fashion, such as facing two highly-skilled opponents with his hands tied behind his back right after he's been shot and stabbed.
All of this is pretty consistently thrilling despite the movie obviously having been done on the cheap, and it's fun watching this budding filmmaker work so well within his limited budget.
Performances range from fair to good, and the fact that Shakesheff looks like a regular guy instead of a Jason Statham/Jean-Claude Van Damme type is actually kind of interesting. The script contains a nice amount of wry humor. The original score is well-done.
Technically, of course, not every aspect of KAMIKAZE is first-rate. The fight choreography itself is far superior to the photography and editing, which are adequate but could've been tighter. Still, first-timer Marcus Shakesheff has done an outstanding job putting an action movie of this caliber together, and I found it engaging from start to finish.
Buy it at Amazon.com
Runtime: 95 minutes
Format: 1:78 Flat (HD)
Sound: Dolby SR
Rating: Probable R for violence