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Monday, June 7, 2010


There's a certain pleasure in running across one of those no-budget, shot-on-video flicks that are fun to watch simply because the filmmakers have the desire to make something good and the talent to pull it off.  With his DUBBED AND DANGEROUS TRILOGY: THE ULTIMATE COLLECTION, a trio of short action-packed spy comedies (which, combined, add up to a decent feature length), martial arts whiz and do-it-yourself film auteur Ara Paiaya comes through with flying colors (and feet).

DUBBED AND DANGEROUS (2001) begins with a subway bombing by the mysterious Ms. Boom, and Agent Ara is assigned to take down the international terrorist organization that she works for.  Their leader is a smooth Asian baddie named Shek (Waikee Shek) who comes to appreciate Agent Ara's fighting skills and sees their various encounters as an ongoing challenge.  A briefcase figures into things somewhere, but like the rest of the story it isn't really important.

Two things make this short well worth watching: the comedy and the action.  Paiaya is skilled at both, effortlessly mixing the two as his deadpan character bumbles in and out of dangerous situations filled with bits of business that are both funny and at times dazzling.  Each martial arts battle zings with flashy-cool moves that the lanky, loose-limbed Paiaya pulls off with enough style to keep things interesting from start to finish, while the humorous touches make it all the more entertaining.

Paiaya, who was born in Iran but raised in Scotland, performs all of his own stunts, several of which are quite impressive, and executes a variety of inventive fight moves (with no wirework whatsoever) including a flying triple-kick that takes down three opponents at a time.  He also has an amazing knack for flipping things into the air with his foot and kicking them at peoples' heads.  Like a low-budget Jackie Chan, Paiaya makes whatever's within reach--car doors, luggage racks, gym equipment, etc.--a part of the action.  An early fight between Ara and a bad guy named "Vin Petrol" takes place in an auto shop, and ends with Vin knocking himself out by breaking a board over his own head to prove how tough he is.

DUBBED AND DANGEROUS 2 (2003) introduces a new super-villain, Big Al (Alex Clark), and his extremely hostile henchman Mr. Goodbye (Graham McConnell), who kidnap Ara's partner Agent Raquel (real-life wife Raquel Paiaya).  The film opens with a fight in a parking garage, with Agent Ara amazing his opponent by accidentally pulling off some Matrix-style moves.  This time he gets a little help from some cute female operatives known as the Angels, who get in a few good kicks of their own.  The story isn't always coherent and the editing tends to be somewhat confusing at times, but the next frenetic action scene is never far away.

Sight gags abound as he destroys the classic airplane kit his boss is meticulously assembling in his office and later makes a shambles of trying to shadow Mr. Goodbye without being seen.  At one point we get a peek at the burly assassin's "10 Things To Do Before I Die" list, which includes: "1) Meet my parents; 2) Get layed; 3) Kill Ara; and 4) Take over the world."

I liked Ara's wacky encounters with the Mexican Ninja (Keith Milne), who proves an elusive nemesis after their initial THE NAKED GUN-inspired meeting.  The comedy highlight for me, however, is watching Agent Ara battle with a newspaper that he's found on a park bench.  There's something almost Keatonesque in seeing him trying to read this ever-expanding newspaper that finally engulfs him and sends him flying backwards over the bench.

DUBBED AND DANGEROUS III (2004) brings an increase in budget, running time (52 minutes), and production values, along with a couple of big-name cameos.  Robert "Freddy Krueger" Englund makes a brief appearance (fittingly enough, in a dream sequence), and Hong Kong cinema expert Bey Logan takes on our hero in an exciting hallway fight scene. 

This time Ara's briefing in the boss' office is complicated by a menacing potted plant that won't let him alone.  Shek's back, giving a motley group of henchmen a pep talk in the park: "Okay now, listen up.  Everything's been organized for the escape of Big Al from the maximum security prison tomorrow.  You've got some chill-time from being evil, so let's play some football."  Somehow an unsuspecting Agent Ara gets involved in their game and it turns deadly, with amusing results.

This relatively elaborate wrap-up to the trilogy has everything the first two had only more so.  The action scenes are bigger, including some thrilling scenes in an automobile graveyard in which Agent Ara actually has wrecked cars launched at him by a guy in a forklift.  Along with the usual gang of baddies and femme fatales, we meet a sinister new villain in Shek's diminutive protege, Mini-Shek.  As always, there's a stunt-packed fight every few minutes and the jokes come fast and furious, most of them scoring at least a chuckle while some are laugh-out-loud funny.

The DVD from Cult Classics is widescreen with Dolby 2.0 sound.  A trailer for the trilogy is included.  Each film contains a superb musical score by Euan A. Baird.

DUBBED AND DANGEROUS TRILOGY: THE ULTIMATE COLLECTION should please low-budget indie film fans who'll enjoy loads of martial arts mayhem spiced with humor that's like a slapdash mix of Inspector Clouseau, silent film comedy, WHO'S HARRY CRUMB?, and anything else that happened to get thrown in at the time.  There's a homespun quality to all of this high-spirited fun that's sort of endearing, with producer-director-writer-star Ara Paiaya coming off as one of the most likable shlub-heroes you'll ever see.  And, of course, the dubbing, rightfully so, is atrocious.

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