Lee Choe, a top-notch assassin, works for the mob. When the mob turns on him and kills his girlfriend, Lee seeks his revenge on the man who ordered the hit, John Lowe. Lowe turns to shady cop Craig Barnes, forcing him to hunt down the assassin. Written by
An effective blend of martial arts, drama and crime film
This film was originally to be released in 2005 as Lesser of Three Evils. I first heard of it in 2005 and wanted to see it because of the plot and the cast that seemed interesting. It seems that the film encountered distribution problems that delayed its release. After getting a new editor, a new distributor and a new title - Fist of the Warrior (personally, I think the original title worked better) - it was finally released on February 2009. So, after waiting for 4 years, I finally got to see this film and I wasn't disappointed.
Set in downtown Los Angeles, the film revolves around three characters: a professional hit man, a corrupt cop and a mobster. Lee Choe (Ho-Sung Pak) is an expert hit-man who decides to retire to live a normal life with girlfriend Sarah (Robin Paul). After refusing an order from ambitious mobster John Lowe (Peter Greene) to get rid of crime boss Miles (Ed Marinaro), Lowe has Sarah killed, in an attempt to bully Lee. In order to seek vengeance, Lee goes on a mission to kill Lowe and his men. Lowe turns to corrupt detective Craig Barnes (Roger Guenveur Smith), forcing him to hunt down the assassin. At the same time, Barnes, whose achievements are being investigated by internal affairs, has to deal with his unhappy, alcoholic wife Katie (Sherilyn Fenn). With events coming to a head for Lee, Barnes and Lowe, the stage is set for a three-way showdown.
Fist of the Warrior was made by Wayne Kennedy, martial artist Ho-Sung Pak and Matthew Chausse, who created together the film company GenOne. The film is an interesting mix of martial arts, drama and crime film, with a dark and tense atmosphere. Writer-director Wayne Kennedy blended genres in his directorial debut, which is a refreshing break from usual action films. There are several fight scenes, but although the film is promoted as a martial arts film, their number might be a bit less than hardcore martial arts films feature.
Some of the story lines are no new (assassin redeemed by love, mobster trying to double-cross his boss) but the fight scenes – well choreographed by Pak and Kennedy – are solid and the direction is good. As usual Ho-Sung Pak proves to be a skilled martial artist. But while he fits seamlessly into the fight scenes, his acting could use a bit of work.
Nevertheless, the film features some strong performances, especially by Roger Guenveur Smith and Sherilyn Fenn. Smith was excellent as a shady detective under pressure, with all events in his life reaching a critical stage. And Fenn, who constantly widens her range of role, was perfect as his depressed wife, though her role was a bit too small.
The DVD audio commentary was very interesting and enlightening on the difficulties of making indie films and on the importance of editing. Karl Hirsch did a great job on the editing.
Fist of the Warrior would probably have been better with a higher budget, but in the end, the film is effective, especially considering the budgetary constraints of independent film-making.
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