Reviewed by

Christopher Armstead

I have a Netflix account, just to let you know that companies donít give me these movies as I pay for them just you cats do. Now they are coming around to offering to slide me promo copies but Iím turning them down because I canít be brought. Rented for a few days perhaps, but not bought. Anyways, Netflix has this Instant Viewing thing which I think is just awesome, and as of today itís unlimited so you can watch as many movies you want online. Now Iím not one to watch movies on my computer, but it just so happens that my TV is connected to my HTPC which streams the films directly to my tube, all in glorious 5.1 where applicable. How great is my life? The Lord may have shorted me on looks, brains and metabolism, but I know to hook stuff up. The selection for Instant Viewing ainít so hot, but itís getting better which is how I tracked down this here movie ĎDark Assassiní. A low budget Kung Fu action flick, and itís available to watch INSTANTLY. Count me in for some of that.

After four years upstate Derek Wu (Producer, Director, Writer and Star Jason Yee) is being released back into the world. His number one, Ray (Thomas Braxton Jr.) picks him up and Derek sets about the task of getting his life back together. Not knowing how to do much in life except kick ass, Ray gets Derek ready for a one of those underground Bloodsport street fights, which seem likes a serious parole violation to me, but in the middle of the fight Derek realizes he just doesnít have it in anymore and decides to do something a little more on the up and up. Unfortunately thereís not a hell of a lot out there for an ex-con, so Derek settles down into his career on the professional dishwasher circuit.

The underbelly of crime still beats strong in this city and there is a mysterious sword carrying badass out there killing the associates of a chief crime boss known as Buddha and the general thought is that Derek is behind the killings for revenge. At least the unreasonably hostile Detective Harris (Doug Mardsen) thinks so, and not to mention

Buddha himself. Buddha dispatches the best of his gang of heavies to track down Derek and terminate his life while Detective Harris continues to hound the poor ex-con into confessing to a crime he didnít commit, we think. Derek also has rekindled a love with his old girlfriend Gina (Yuisa Perez) who he was desperately trying to avoid, ashamed of the life he lead before he went into the clink. Derekís night dreams are also a bit of an issue, as a character we think he may have killed appears as a ghost (Tony Todd) to spout cryptic nonsense his way and totally wreck his beauty rest. As you might imagine, through many trials, tribulations and the kicking of many asses along the way, Derek and this near invincible killer will cross paths. What will it take for Derek to finally be released from the demons that dog him on every step he takes?

There are numerous problems with ĎDark Assassiní with some of the issues easily attributable to the meager budget that the filmmakers were working with, but some I think could have easily been avoided. On the plus side of things Jason Yee certainly has the keen sensibilities of a filmmaker as the first ten minutes of this movie has a nice gritty urban feel to it, set along to a nice soundtrack, which I might add was stellar throughout the film. At first Yeeís use of the boxes within the frame was nice, but he definitely overused the effect as the film wore on. Also the man can certainly fight, is very fit and even choreographs a decent fight scene on the cheap, which is probably one of the most difficult things for any filmmaker, who hasnít fallen of the Shaw Brother tree, to pull off.

The story itself wasnít so bad but there were some things within the story that were kind of dumb. For instance, a hardened criminal such as Derek should know better than to stand over a dead cop, holding a smoking gun, despite the fact he didnít shoot the cop, while waiting for what seemed to be an eternity for a bunch of other cops to show up on the scene so he can be wrongly accused of the murder. I understand it had to happen, but there might have been a different way. Though I love to see Tony Todd in any movie, him being a ghost changing a light bulb and speaking in riddles went a little over my head I must admit.

The biggest problem with the movie is the acting. Jason Yee might be able to jump into sky while twirling a long metal pole and take the knee caps of whole room full of bad guys, but he brings almost no spark or excitement to his character of Derek since he has almost zero range as an actor. Worst still was the cat playing Buddha as the main bad guy did nothing to inspire me with gangland fear. Perhaps he should have had Tony Todd be THAT guy instead, now that wouldíve rocked. I know its low budget, but maybe we could have sprung a few extra bucks for Tiny Lister or some other reasonably seasoned African American actor. Clifton Powell comes to mind, and I know Mr. Powell can be had on the cheap. Thomas Braxton Jr. who played the good friend Ray showed some promise, plus I guess heís a fighter too and possibly could have a bigger role, but for the most part itís the acting that keeps this movie just below the Mendoza line.

The fight scenes were good though, and I doubt Jason Yee had much of a choice but to cast himself as the star of his film because what he can do physically, not a lot of cats can pull off. Yee certainly seems to have some potential as a film director and certainly has a career as movie ass kicker, but he may want to splurge on a few acting classes before his next major role, and with that, my manís future should be pretty bright.

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