A 'mocumentary' on the rise and fall of Chip and Dales dancer turned martial arts action star, Francis Allen Sledgewick, AKA Frank Sledge. When fame and fortune caused Frank to lose his sense of what's truely important, he realised he's going to have to get in touch with his roots if there's ever going to be a comeback. Written by
I don't normally go for martial arts comedies, and usually the words "action mockumentary" fill me with dread, but I nevertheless took a chance with this one and was pleasantly surprised. CONFESSIONS OF AN ACTION STAR appears to be a passion project for stunt expert David Leitch that presents a humorous take on action filmmaking and the celebrity action hero. It's not nearly perfect, falling on its creative butt more than once, but it's still much better than it has any right to be.
The story: Frank Sledge - a Chippendale's dancer who became a Hollywood action star - attempts to recreate himself after hitting rock bottom, in faux documentary form.
The Frank Sledge character is largely a caricature of Jean-Claude Van Damme, Steven Seagal, and - to a lesser extent - Sylvester Stallone. The experienced action film-goer can entertain himself by simply matching the quirks and features of the character to the aforementioned figures: he creates a stage name because his real one is too long, beats up stuntmen during fight scenes, has a ponytail, does drugs and abuses steroids, eats a lot, etc. Scenes and posters of fictional movies blatantly spoof existing titles such as ABOVE THE LAW and RAMBO. While I get a kick out of how thoroughly these gags are carried, they present two potential audience detractions to viewers not naturally inclined to like the movie: fans who idolize Van Damme and/or Seagal may not find the spoofs humorous, and viewers who watch the movie to see some solid potshots may be disappointed that it's not nearly as mean as it could be.
Not all of the humor is successful, even for me. The first half of the film is definitely funnier than the second, and a handful of individual jokes - including one about Angelina Jolie's children - fall flat. Speaking of Jolie, the list of celebrity cameo appearances is sort of astounding: Carrie-Ann Moss, Ernie Hudson, Eric Roberts, Sean Young, Hugo Weaving, and Ben Stiller are on the incomplete list. Names better known to martial arts devotees include Kelly Hu, Daniel Bernhardt, Matt McColm, Gerald Okamura, Philip Tan, Al Leong... Cameos on their own aren't funny, of course, but about half of the time they're played to decent effect, like Moss' comments on being a serious actress. Steven Roy plays Brett Radner in some scenes revealing that Frank Sledge was originally supposed to star in RUSH HOUR.
Despite technically qualifying as an action-comedy, none of the action is what you would call satisfying, though the MATRIX-inspired dance scene is cooler than you might expect. The "documentary" effect is pretty heavy-handed and not played even slightly believably, but in the end this doesn't hurt the movie. Were some of the humor played just a bit more subtle, and had the movie more clearly played either a spoof or an original story, this one's rating would have another star attached to it. Nevertheless, these are a pretty enthusiastic three stars, meaning that the film is definitely worth checking out on television or picking up for $3 from a bargain bin.
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