Tuesday, November 22, 2016
As some of you out there might be aware, the website for whom I was doing my Angry Nerd Movie Reviews is no longer active. I had a really fun time doing them, and I am going to use this forum as a means to continue doing so. You don't have to agree with my reviews, but feel free to comment on them and share your thoughts. I know this isn't something we usually do on the podcast, but like I said, I really enjoy doing them so that's what I'm going to do.
For my first review, I am going to be covering the film Eyes of the Roshi, directed by Jon Mark Nail and written by Joseph Baum, Dan Cava, Mari Mann and Jon Mark Nail. I'm sure it's a title with which you are unfamiliar because it's a film that hasn't seen a wide release. The film stars Grandmaster Adam Nguyen as the titular Roshi, a man who found dead a woman with whom he was very familiar when he was young. At the same time, he stumbles upon her killer, covered in blood and wielding a knife. the killer proceeds to chase Roshi towards their village but is rescued by some of the other men who live there. They apprehend the killer, a man named Ho and in their rage, they exact vigilante justice upon him by shooting him in the face.
Fast forward many years and we see a scarred, deformed Ho entering a very nasty-looking prison that one imagines must house only the most hardened of hard criminals. As one character remarks later "Most guys don't last fifteen minutes in there!". Ho approaches a cell and we get our first look at Carey, ably portrayed by Ethan Marten. After an initial refusal, Ho strikes a deal with Carey and uses his now-vast influence to have him released and sent out into the world, to seek vengeance on Ho's behalf against Roshi.
Now there are a lot of tropes in this film that get turned on their head; Roshi ends up confronting a stereotypical redneck jerk who was hassling a couple of local gentlemen, and after easily defeating him, his friends come running over to help him. In most cases, the group of friends would attach Roshi, but instead, they take him to get his broken arm taken care of at a hospital. The older gentlemen offer Roshi a job, and he accepts.
Of course, we are introduced to other characters throughout the film that simultaneously conform to and defy the traditional tropes of action movies. There's Amanda Dunn's Blanche who shows up at her ex-boyfriend's house (driven on a motorcycle by her latest romantic interest). She eventually tells Eric (played by Michael Carey) that she thought she was pregnant, but was unsure if it was his. You expect them to end up together in a feel-good moment, especially after Eric assaults Blanche's most recent beau in a bar for the way he talked about her and treated her. Blanche realizes that she still has a hold on him and that coming back to him was a bad idea, and she tells him that she is leaving again. Eric loses his temper and begins hitting her (a timely save by Roshi keeps her from further harm). This is not usually what happens in these situations with these types of characters; I was actually expecting Eric to aid Roshi in the final confrontation.
Another great performance is that of Jonathan Marten as Marty and his interplay with Eric Roberts' Booker. They work extremely well with each other and their dialogue is excellent both between the two of them and between the each of them with Carey. Roberts brings his usual charm and casual arrogance to the character of Booker, giving some great comedic lines as well, including my favorite regarding the strip club where Booker and Marty were having a meeting with Eric, who ends up betraying Roshi's location to the two of them, which they then relay to Carey in order to allow him to fulfill his contract.
There are some great things about this film; the fight scenes, the dialogue and the interplay of the character on screen. In my opinion, the very best part of this film is the performance of Ethan Marten as Carey the Hitman. The first comparison I made in my mind was to Javier Bardem as Anton Chigurh in No Country for Old Men. He was phenomenal. Grandmaster Nguyen was also excellent, not just as Roshi, but also his contributions behind the scenes, such as composing music, most notably Roshi's Theme.
I give this film a B, because of all the things I enjoyed about this film. There were a couple of things I didn't like all that much, but they were minor. One thing I did not like (but some folks might enjoy) was the open ending regarding the main villain (I won't spoil who it was, but it's another trope that gets turned on its head). You never find out what happened to him. I personally want to know, but other folks might like to use their imagination.
So if you get the chance to see Eyes of the Roshi, do it! This is a fun, well-paced film that is thoroughly enjoyable on so many levels, and the acting skill of Ethan Marten is easily the highlight of this film.
That's my first review on this blog, I'll touch on it again in episode 22 of the podcast just to let some folks know what's going on with this film and to help bring more awareness to it.