With all of the big movie names coming out this year, it’s fun to visit the lesser-known films and actors to see what they can bring to the table.
When I got my hands on Fist2Fist I had absolutely no idea what to expect but I did know that it was one of the few, smaller productions with some really well trained martial artists working in front of the camera.
So I was very curious!
To give you an idea, the movie follows the main character Ken, played by Jino Kang. Ken is an honorable and morally driven guy who starts out helping a friend of his save his brother from the influence of a criminal organisation that deals in stolen cars.
Naturally a fight breaks out! Just what we like to see 😉
We quickly find out that Ken is the top dog when it comes to hand to hand combat and takes apart his opponents with his superior martial arts skills.
We’re then introduced to his Hapkido school, where he trains teenagers and kids the martial art of Hapkido. He takes in a teenage kid off the street who attempted to mug him, and helps him to turn his life around. But as it turns out, Ken is having financial problems and the school looks like it may have to close.
On the other side a mob boss named Tokyo Joe (Bill Duff) is getting out of prison, after being put there by Ken’s testimony 15 years earlier. In true bad guy fashion he wants revenge and is released from prison on parole. So things get heated and we find Tokyo Joe showing up at Ken’s school, telling him that he and his students must fight in an underground tournament if they want to settle the score, and things continue to escalate from there.
There’s bad blood!
So one thing I thought this film did a decent job of was the unfolding of events and history. It plays out pretty naturally as we are introduced to each character before discovering this deep history, which slowly unfolds further throughout the film. We learn of Ken’s wife and the connection with Tokyo Joe and even a nice little surprise as the kid who tries to mug Ken earlier in the film, is also connected to their history.
But what made me also appreciate the struggle of Kang’s character Ken is the situation he is in – his wife wants him to run, he wants to stay and help the kids, and all the while the situation intensifies and his choice slowly becomes more clear.
The way things flow and unfold made this movie interesting to watch and shows strength in the writing and brings a good pace to this film as things don’t get too stale.
The quality of the film?
The story of the film is better than I expected from a small production, but unfortunately it’s not without it’s weakenesses. The film has a bit of a cheaper feel to it as there are a few actors in this film who are just a bit artificial and stiff in their performance.
Some odd pauses in the editing and flat line delivery make some scenes a little awkward while other aspects of the film, such as one villain jumping around fighting and screaming like Bruce Lee, can take it to down right silly when we’re otherwise met with a really serious tone.
Overall though, I think the film suffers more from some slightly off-timed edits and sound mixing, which rob some of the film of it’s potential atmosphere, but it’s still a quality movie.
There’s the high points of the film – Bill Duff’s acting and delivery of his characters lines are very natural and bring back a bit of that quality, while Jino Kang’s performance also elevates the acting as his performance seems to fit his character very well.
It’s a mixed bag of quality when it comes to actors but our two main guys, Duff and Kang, uplift the overall quality with their acting abilities and onscreen presence.
So this is the important part to readers of my website – was the action any good?
You’ve probably seen Bill Duff in the Human Weapon documentaries before, he has some credentials in the field of martial arts but the guy who really brings it all to the table is Jino Kang. Kang holds a 7th degree blackbelt in Hapkido, a black belt in Kyokushin-Kai Karate, Taekwondo and Gracie Jiu Jitsu. You’ll find an excellent mix of his skill spread throughout his fight scenes.
The very first thing I noticed watching this film, during the initial fight scene in the opening, was the variety of excellent techniques, mixed in an expert manner that truly showcases that he is a guy who knows his stuff – down to the body manipulations and controls that seem to be strongly influenced by his Hapkido background.
He brings an energy to his fights which also shows why he’s the lead. He’s fast, athletic and mixes that with some excellent moves which would be on parr with any martial arts movie stars out there.
The overall feel is more realism than fancy flips but that fun energy is maintained and we get a sense of what real martial arts looks like on film.
The rest of the fighters also performed pretty well and this movie shows off a level of physical performance that is very impressive. But it unfortunately doesn’t always get translated too well…
Whilst you can see the performers are fantastic, the editing and more noticeably the sound effects/mixing diminishes some of the impact. Very stock standard noises just don’t sell the strikes and the editing seems a little elongated making small parts of each fight just a little longer and slows down the high intensity I feel the actors and stunt men brought to their fights.
Overall, if you can accept the “stock standard” sounds early in the film, you’ll get a lot of entertainment out of the action, as the martial artists themselves perform excellently.
Another cool thing I appreciated was a few nice cameos when Ken takes his students to learn from some of the worlds best, such as Charles Gracie, Eddie Bravo and Gene Lebell. Very cool to see!
This film is decent, but had a lot more potential. While it has it’s weaknesses in the editing and in some of the acting, I feel the editing and sound mixing is what slowed this one down.
But the performances in the fights are solid and I am very excited to see where Jino Kang heads next, as he has the ability to really go far. While this film itself isn’t fantastic, I’d recommend checking out Kang’s fight scenes as this guy has got the goods!
I can’t wait to see Fist2Fist 2!