Studio: Raven Banner
Director: James Mark
Writer: James Mark
Producer: Byron Kent Wong
Stars: Chris Mark, Daniel Park, Denis Akiyama, Melee Hutton, Jessica Clement, Jason Gosbee, Reuben Langdon
Uncanny abilities awaken within a haunted high school student targeted for assassination by a mysterious organization.
I’m not sure if the filmmakers want all of the following info to become common knowledge. However, context is important for calibrating expectations before going into their movie.
“Kill Order” is essentially a passion project from brothers James and Chris Mark. Seeking to trade his extensive stunt performance experience for a turn in the director’s chair, James made a crowdfunding appeal in 2013. Called “Genetix” at the time, the project had its star set in James’ brother Chris, whose martial arts enthusiasm and abilities are rivaled only by his older sibling’s. Sadly, “Genetix” garnered less than 10% of its goal, necessitating a return to the drawing board for retooling.
The project reemerged in 2015 with the title “Meza.” 2016 saw the finished film shopped around at AFM and, under its new name “Kill Order,” the movie had its public premiere at 2017’s Blood in the Snow film festival.
Perhaps by virtue of struggling to come to fruition at all, “Kill Order” turns out to be a high energy, stunt filled, nearly nonstop action film filled almost entirely with fights and very little filler. But the important thing to accept is that we’re dealing with a homegrown effort afforded only a fraction of the resources of something such as “The Raid.” So even though acting is iffy and the inessential plot is holier than Pope John Paul, if we take unreasonable expectations out of the equation to evaluate the movie on its own low-budget terms, “Kill Order” becomes a surprisingly solid, no frills fight flick.
David Lee seems like a stereotypically moody teenager, but his troubled past hides a haunted history involving a shadowy group’s secret experiment to create super-powered assassins. When assorted soldiers and swordsmen burst into David’s high school to bring him back into their fold, his amnesia steps aside to unleash otherworldly physical abilities, and a battle over David’s identity begins.
If you need much more story than that, you’d better be able to replace vagueness with your own imaginative ideas. “Kill Order” creates the kind of cryptically conceived setup where dialogue involves a mystery man behind a limousine’s tinted window telling a man in black to “stick to the plan” while the MIB asks, “what about the organization?” Why would “Kill Order” flesh its fiction further than this when its greater goals lie in kicking, punching, and throwing people through walls? Hopefully that’s where your interests lie too.
While many men and women go through said walls, rappel off bridges, and break plenty of additional scenery to boot, there aren’t any setpieces so memorable that jaws hit the floor. More balletic than brutal, the live-action anime feel spars against a low-budget look whose CGI additions show their economy often. And again, even though the stuntmen and stuntwomen are exceptionally athletic and suitably skilled at their stagecraft, viewers do have to get past the fact that these average-appearance actors don’t have that movie-star sheen you’ll see on stuntpeople in “Fast and the Furious” for instance.
“Kill Order” may double as a demo reel to show off what this cast and crew could be capable of given greater opportunities, yet their movie still packs in plenty of kick-and-punch eye candy entertainment. Despite its filmed martial arts exhibition feel, “Kill Order’s” creators clearly know how to frame shots, edit for energy, and maintain momentum through singular fight scenes. That alone is more than can be said for many big studio epics with cameras so tight and cuts so quick, no one can clearly see what is going on.
“Kill Order” has so little to it that to tell the truth, I let my screening notes sit over an extended holiday break and have been fighting to recall basic details while writing the above only a few days later. But the film also has a great deal of independent filmmaking spirit and engaging visual violence to satisfy forgiving fans of quality martial arts action.
I can’t stress enough how your anticipation meter requires a precise setting. You also don’t want to challenge the script with logic questions like, why is the hitman pursuing David with a silenced pistol such a lousy assassin that he shoots six bystanders barely in the way or, how come no one thought to post guards at David’s apartment when wondering where he went? Simply settle in for a fast 77 minutes, six of which are end credits, and appreciate the ambition as well as the energy.
Review Score: 60