Judge David Johnson's gotta catch 'em all!
I'm going to hell when I die.
Well, look at this. A provocative title. A disc cover depicting a fearsome woman putting a choke hold on a WWE cast-off. A group of ninjas attacking in the background. A plot about a bunch of fighters competing in a death match to the delight of Gordon Liu. Those are the ingredients to a delightful concoction of cinematic martial artistry, right? Could Kill 'Em All be another surprise action gem?
No. What, at first glance, appeared to have boatloads of potential, is nothing more than a paint-by-numbers action movie, featuring nothing of consequence. It's a recycled mishmash of familiar narrative clichés—a bunch of brutes from different backgrounds with different baggage are tossed into an underground warehouse and forced to fight to the death for the pleasure of an unseen madman.
This place has got a name: The Killing Chamber! Not too shabby. If I were going to run an underground pit-fight for my pleasure, I'd call it "The Killing Chamber"…or maybe the "Crucible of Throttling." But I digress.
What ensues is a mélange of dreary bouts, playing out like a standard-issue 2D fighting game from the SNES era. There are three central protagonists: a lithe female assassin, a vicious Asian pugilist, and a meathead. We follow each as they climb the ladder, punching, kicking, and head-butting their way to the top, while trying to figure out the truth behind their capture.
For something as narratively shallow as Kill 'Em All, everything rides on the quality of the action, and it's very reminiscent of Bangkok Knockout, one of my favorite little beat 'em ups in recent years. BKO also featured a group of fighters trapped in a venue, forced to fight for their lives. Flimsy plotting there too, but what BKO lacked in coherent storytelling, it more than made up for in ridiculous displays of martial artistry and stunt work. Kill 'Em All falls woefully short in spectacle.
Yes, there is a lot of fighting, and thankfully it's not hyper-edited. The camera simply pulls back and soaks in the action. The participants don't seem to sport half bad skills, but the choreography and fight set-ups are massively generic. No creativity, nothing we haven't seen before, and all set in the same nondescript concrete-gray locations.
Eventually we do find out the point of all of this tomfoolery, but who cares? By the time the final battle with an antiquated Gordon Liu takes place, the sweet embrace of unconsciousness had already embraced me with gossamer arms.
Not much of a DVD from Well Go USA either: standard def 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen, Dolby 5.1 Surround, no subtitles, and no extras.
Guilty. Jail 'Em All.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Well Go USA
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