Fast-paced, adrenaline-fuelled 24 minutes of awesome martial art filmmaking !
As I'm writing this review of the latest and greatest, from the best of the best on the current international martial arts action scene, Jean-Paul Ly, there's two parts of me: One, the objective critic, spoiled by many years of consuming martial arts films like oxygen that have made me harsher on films in this genre, and Two, the biased fanboy of Mr. Ly, that instantly became one after a chance encounter with the guy, but also a deep love for his style of choreography and choreography. So imagine my happiness and excitement to say that The Division - PoC, satisfied both parts of my consciousness and delivered an incredibly entertaining piece of martial arts action filmmaking.
Having been made on a startlingly low, but immensely impressive as a result budget of 9k, the short delivers, a tense, high-stakes game of cat and mouse with a terrorist organisation at the center, plotting to blow the hell out of London, and an elite team of special ops operative duos known as "The Division" out to bring them down. Sound like awesome 80s schlock yet ? good, cause the short embraces that with all seriousness and manages to create quite a compelling and intriguing world of espionage, double-crossings and high-impact on-screen carnage of bullets, fists, kicks and spins that leave just enough room to get to know the character, relate to them and understand the villains' motivations. Assisting in this effort is the great chemistry between the two leads in Jean-Paul Ly and his long-standing partner and best friend(both on-screen and off) Laurent Plancel. Their character have just enough depth and complexity to make them interesting and worth rooting for, and their complicated senses of morality provides some nice bits of tension between the two and opens up opportunities for further exploration in the future. The best part of The Division from a narrative perspective is its pacing, it's fast and never boring, the action isn't the only thing keeping things rolling at a steady pace, and the fact that indie filmmakers managed to do this in a 24-minute format is quite impressive, some major credit to Jean-Paul Ly, who on top of(here we go !) choreographing, action directing, performing action and acting in the film, also wrote and directed it, with a lot of confidence and assured direction that you don't even see from major blockbusters these days.
The main draw of this short is obviously the action though and on that end, it delivers AND THEN SOME. The opening warehouse set-piece demonstrates some of the most elegant, intricate and brilliant gun-fu choreography I've seen since John Wick, as well as combining said gun-fu choreography with classic martial arts tricking, kicking and punching, creating a wholesome, exciting and compelling package that is sure to please fans of the genre and for people like me that think they've seen all this genre has to offer, something truly new and uniquely entertaining. What I mean by that is that Jean-Paul Ly unlike a lot of other martial artists out there, isn't afraid to experiment, explore and constantly update his style of choreography to encompass new and impressive techniques that put a smile on your face the instant you see them. There are some breathtaking tricking and kicking moves here that made me go "wow, didn't know that was possible" and goes a long way in making a martial artist's style have its own unique voice and signature, and in this day and age where Tony Jaas and Scott Adkinses of the world(love them to death before you think I'm trashing them) repeat their famous Guyver kicks or Muay Thai elbows barrages to an amount where it quickly becomes stale and boring, JP takes a step back and considers what has been done before, both throughout his filmography and of others, making careful adjustments and innovations afterwards. Highlights of the short include the aforementioned warehouse fight, with some stellar double-team whooping of many terrorist butts, with some creative and astonishing uses of hammers and wrenches(think Oldboy on crack) capping off with an amazing save of a friend in need. The dock/harbor fight towards the end of the short is a great way to end the film, with some amazing gun-fu action showcased once again before the finale one on one fights that seal the deal on JP being a versatile choreographer capable of doing everything from group fights, to one on one fights that are enthralling to behold. JP vs Hung Dante Dong(another spectacular martial artist) and Law Plancel vs Pheobe Robinson Galvin(superb female talent), both differ in fighting styles and are great examples of modern day tricking and kicking techniques contrasted with some crushing grappling and MMA style choreography.
The Division is one of the best action shorts I've seen in my life, a perfect package with just enough action and plot to provide an engaging, entertaining and awe-inspiring entertainment from start to finish, proving once again that Jean-Paul Ly is a rising talent to watch out for, and if 24 minutes of this for 9k is what he can offer in such a short time, in a country where action film is as popular as American beer, says a lot and excites even more for what's to come from his future endeavours. Definitely check this short out and keep an eye on JLP productions !
P.S. still not biased....................... still.
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