Judge David Johnson has blood all over his money, thanks to some really nasty paper cuts.
A new martial arts superstar is born. (If you say so.)
I want to believe.
I really do. I love those surprise actioners that fly swiftly under the radar and punch me in the mouth with their nastiness. And I especially enjoy discovering that little-known actor who brings some pop and skill to the beat 'em up world. The marketers of Blood Money talk big, but do they truly believe they've found the next Tony Jaa?
Their offering is Zheng Liu, a former Shaolin monk, who replaced whatever it is Shaolin monks do (I'm not going to betray my international cultural ignorance and assume they all battle Shao Khan for the fate of Earthrealm) with a shot at action filmmaking superstardom. Blood Money is his debut and, after reading his glowing bio on the back-of-the-disc synopsis, I strapped in for what I hoped would be the Next Big Thing in Martial Arts Cinema.
The result is mixed.
Zheng certainly has the moves and the physical presence to make an impact. He's delivering his pain without a stunt double or CGI (though there is a smidgen of wirework that creeps in from time to time) and his martial artistry translates well on screen. The choreography isn't as acrobatic as the stuff you'd find in Ong Bak, or as brutally insane as The Raid: Redemption, but it's decent and with some more creative minds drawing up the fight scenes, Zheng could certainly take off.
The big problem here is that the movie gets in the way. Blood Money is a pain in the butt to sit through, feeling bloated even though it runs 108 minutes. What's worse, it's not nearly engaging enough to compensate for the lengthy periods of kung fu inactivity. The plot involves Zheng as a Shaolin warrior whose family gets wiped out by gangsters and so he turns to a life of crime and punching. A drug deal goes south and his former employer—the Triads—teams up with the Columbians to hunt him down, thinking he's to blame.
Simple enough to hold together a string of bad-ass fights, right? Nah. The plot grows unwieldy for some reason, with long stretches of exposition separating the bouts of chin music we've paid good money to see. When Zheng is unleashed, the resulting poundings aren't bad, but not all that memorable either, and certainly not slick enough to compensate for the lethargy of the film as a whole.
On the other hand, he does break a steel bar over his head.
The DVD: standard def 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen, Dolby 5.1 Surround, no extras.
This new guy has some skills, but they're wasted. Maybe his follow-up effort
will have more juice. Guilty.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: XLrator Media
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