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Thursday, June 10, 2010

MAXIMUM IMPACT -- DVD review by porfle

For those of us who like to watch enterprising indie filmmakers try to spin straw into gold, here's a mini-budget action flick with a lot of bang for the buck.  Producer-writer-director-star Ara Paiaya's Bond-inspired spy thriller MAXIMUM IMPACT (2008) isn't going to give Eon Productions any sleepless nights, but it should prove an interesting diversion for fans of chop-socky secret agent exploits.

This time Paiaya plays Department of Justice troubleshooter Agent X, whose mission is to rescue kidnapped crytologist Katie Tang (Paiaya's real-life wife, Raquel) before evil mastermind Pirani (Adam Davidson) can force her to decipher military security codes that he can sell to the highest bidder.  Matters are complicated when Agent X discovers that someone within his own organization is in cahoots with Pirani.  Several action setpieces ensue as Agent X struggles to protect Ms. Tang while murderous thugs keep popping up everywhere. 

After laughing my way through the DUBBED AND DANGEROUS trilogy, I kept expecting Paiaya's character to go into comedy bits.  When I finally got used to the fact that this is a serious film, Agent X turned out to be an okay action hero--not all that convincing as a suave super-agent but more than capable when the bullets and karate chops are flying.  He can deliver a snappy line on occasion, as when Pirani's main hitman (Vinnie Wilson) tells him, "We can do this the easy way or the hard way...either way, you're coming with me" and Agent X responds, "Hard way suits me just fine."

Paiaya the filmmaker benefits from access to helicopters, weapons, great locations in the UK, France, and Canada, and some really beautiful cars, but his biggest resource in this department is his own martial arts skill which allows him to come up with all sorts of clever bits of business when going into battle with the bad guys. He knows how to put together an exciting action sequence such as the explosive helicopter scene that comes early in the story, which, for a film of this scale, is quite impressive.

A parking garage encounter with a gang of toughs intent on stealing his briefcase is imaginatively choreographed, while his one-on-one clash with the hitman on a bluff overlooking a Scottish castle is memorable.  We even get the old "clinging onto the roof of a speeding car" trick.  The fact that Paiaya does all of his own stunts, some of which are pretty spectacular, adds to their effectiveness.

As in the DUBBED AND DANGEROUS trilogy, there's a scene in an automobile graveyard which involves wrecked cars being lobbed at our hero and a forklift that comes close to turning him into the meat in a twisted-steel sandwich.  After a rather listless casino scene that tries to recapture some of the mood of CASINO ROYALE, Agent X and Pirani face off for a hard-hitting and bloody showdown that pays off pretty well.  Finally, another scene from the Bond film is reprised just before the fadeout, this time with better results.

(One element of the Bond films that you won't find here is the superspy romancing a bevy of gorgeous babes.  I guess when your wife is right there in the movie with you, you have to watch your step!)

Visually, the film is superior to the D & D shorts but still suffers from some confusing editing at times.  Paiaya shoots a ton of setups which gives him a lot to work with in putting together the action scenes while often making the slower passages too busy.  I also found the overuse of Shaky-Cam extremely distracting, as the camera seems to be constantly wobbling from side to side for no apparent reason. 

One definite benefit to the film is its bombastic musical score by Dynamedion and Chris Worth Productions, while another is its capable supporting cast.  Adam Davidson in particular is an effective low-key bad guy, letting his presence carry the role of the dapper but coldblooded Scottish gang boss without a lot of broad gestures.  Vinnie Wilson, Raquel Paiaya, and Chris Robb also give good performances.

The DVD from Hollywood Action is in 2.35:1 widescreen with Dolby 2.0 sound.  The film's trailer is included. 

A lot of people are turned off by movies that are below a certain budget level, and in many cases for good reason.  With MAXIMUM IMPACT, though, you see a filmmaker who is clearly striving to transcend his limited resources by sheer talent and enthusiasm, and that's what makes a film like this fun to watch.  That is, as long as you keep your expectations limited as well.

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