A couple of days ago I saw this movie ‘Demon Hunters’ made a few years back written by some cat named Mitch Gould. Normally as average movie watchers we don’t pay too much attention to the scripting in a low budget demon hunting movie, but this particular movie was really dialog heavy and what was even stranger about this movie, one that had way more talk centering around the theories behind demon hunting than actually observing demon hunting, is that this dialog heavy approach actually worked for this movie. Since I saw that five year old movie just the other day, imagine my surprise when this movie ‘Hellbinders’, which was made like yesterday, slid across my desk. Again, this movie was written by Mr. Gould and directed by Gould and a couple of other dudes and what we have on our hands here is a movie directed by stunt professionals, written by a stunt professional and starring stunt professionals. So if nothing else we will assume that the stunt work should be pretty tight.
Similar to ‘Demon Hunters’, ‘Hellbinders’ is a fairly dialog heavy film, though the narrative in this movie is a little more convoluted. The basis of this story centers around the age old tale of the battle between hell and earth as we observe the character of Cain (Esteban Cueto) in a battle to the death with the Demon Infested entity known as Legion (Derek Mears), with this battle taking place in the middle of the desert some 800 years ago. If we are to read this correctly, I do believe this is the one and only Cain who is cursed to walk the earth for eternity as penance for his previous crime against humanity. Cain manages to subdue Legion, thereby releasing his souls and since there’s nothing but deserted sand around, there is no where for these souls to go but into oblivion. Or so he thought.
Fast forward to the present day where we meet Max the Mercenary (Ray Park). Max has gotten this sweet paying gig to eliminate some evil cult on the other side of town, a cult he will gain entry to by delivering to them this book they’ve been desperately
waiting for. Max’s hot religiously enhanced assistant Carmen (Ingrid Sonray) has a bad feeling about this gig, but the pay is too good to let it slide. Max probably should’ve listened to Carmen because the gig goes all straight to hell, so to speak, with Max’s colleagues finding themselves possessed by Demons. But how did Max avoid demon possession? How indeed.
The third member of our team is depressed ninja Ryu (Johnny Yong Bosch) who is in town to eliminate a few people, folks who just happen to be demon possessed as well. Eventually the Mercenary, the Ninja and the ancient Biblical Figure will unite as a team under the direction of a mystical Buddhist Priest (Gerald Okamura) because something wicked is going down. Head demon Samael (Richard Cetrone) is in the City of Angels and has a plan to release the demons of hell and overrun our planet, and thanks to that book that Max has unwittingly delivered to him, he has all that he needs to pull off this nefarious plan… unless the Hellbinders… I guess that’s what we’re going to call these cats… can send these demons back from whence they came.
‘Hellbinders’ is a mix of low budget pyrotechnic special effects, high caliber high flying action sequences, combined with a few confusing storyline elements, and when you add all this up it equated out for a very ambitious and ultimately entertaining little film. For disclosures sake, recognize off the bat that I’m always on the side of the little man trying to do the damn thing, so this movie would have to be almost completely incompetent for me to crap on it, and with the exception of a few rough spots here and there ‘Hellbinders’ is a very solid piece of entertainment. Our three leads, Park, Bosch and Cueto all handled themselves very well in the film with I’m guessing one of the benefits of using stunt professionals in lead roles would mean that you don’t have to sub in stuntmen for these guys which really helps further the whole believability factor of the exercise. As far as the acting of the leads goes Park and Bosch have been acting for years so they are nearly as good as actors as they are athletes, less so Cueto but guess what… I’m not going to be the one to tell him this. Ray Park is an interesting actor / stunt pro and while I’m not saying that the guy should be next Tom Cruise or Will Smith or whatever but he brings way more to the table with his charm and ability to at least be the current Jean Claude or Steven Seagal. Way more than necessary. I also enjoyed the comic book flow of the movie, the construction of our three heroes who are almost anti-heroes in a way and the special effects, while admittedly cheesy, worked well for this particular movie.
Some of the story elements seem a little too complex and too confusing for the type of movie that this was, at least for my small mind, and because of the plethora of dialog and some interesting editing choices the pace of the film felt erratic. Also considering that the fighting and action sequences were the best part of the movie, I’m thinking that maybe the movie could’ve used a few more of them. Less watching guys eat pancakes, more ass kicking. Just a personal opinion.
All in all ‘Hellbinders’ was an entertaining movie that
delivered largely on what I’m guessing these filmmakers
were going for, that being a stylized action fantasy
with a little substance to support the action. I just
wouldn’t have minded seeing it balanced out with touch
less substance and a dash more action.