Director: Bruce Fontaine
Producer: Bruce Fontaine, Theo Kim
Cast: Brian Ho, Don Lew, Paul Wu, Paul Wu, Anthony Towe, Nickolas Baric, Eddy Ko Hung, Raymond Chan, Peter Chao, Osric Chau, Josette Jorge, Valerie Tian
Running Time: 89 min.
By Kyle Warner
Even as a kid, when I watched Jackie Chan movies I was always well aware that, as awesome as Jackie was, the performers he shared his fight scenes with had to be on a high level, too. Jackie might’ve gotten the larger share of the hero moves, near-death escapes, and giant stunt pieces, but it was his opponents that added that dramatic tension to the fights. I’ll never learn the names of half these guys and gals who helped make these movies what they are. But one name I did pick up on was Bruce Fontaine, perhaps best known as one of the bad guys in Operation Condor. The fight on the moving platforms in Operation Condor as Jackie fights off multiple villains (including Fontaine) is one of the best sequences in the entire Jackie Chan filmography, and part of that credit belongs to the stuntmen who helped make it happen.
Though Fontaine remains an active stunt coordinator and performer today, he has not been featured in on-screen roles as much lately. Fontaine’s last acting credit for a Hong Kong film was Benny Chan’s 1996 action movie Big Bullet. Now Fontaine is onto a new stage in his film career: director.
Beyond Redemption is a Canada based action movie about a cop undercover in an Asian gang. Fontaine fills his cast with stunt performers, most of whom have only acted sparingly in speaking roles. The film’s writer’s room also shows little experience. This is about as indie, do-it-yourself as filmmaking can get. And, just so we’re clear, I applaud such an effort. I really do. For while I don’t think Beyond Redemption is a great movie, that can-do spirit is always evident.
The plot is somehow overly simple and also confusing at the same time. Billy (Brian Ho) is an undercover cop, but this is only confirmed to us about 1/3 into the picture. Billy’s posing as a new member of a gang led by Yuan (Don Lew). And though it seems that Billy’s seen enough violence and drugs to easily get the gang convicted, he wants to hold off until a mysterious home invasion plot unfurls.
Elsewhere in the story, Xi Long (Anthony Towe), a tech businessman with links to the Triads, is involved with selling a new program to an interested Middle Eastern buyer. Before the end of the film, these two parallel stories will collide. However, until that time, it’s a little unclear just why Xi Long and his business partners are important to the film.
It’s a poor screenplay. The story is rife with concepts we’ve seen done better in other, similar undercover crime pics. The way the plot unfolds is a little confusing, as it keeps some things secret or vague for too long. And the dialogue is all testosterone and profanity.
The actors aren’t bad. It’s clear that they’re rather inexperienced but I thought they were a likable bunch. Brian Ho (Outcast) could use more work in dramatic line readings, but he’s convincing and cool in the action scenes. Don Lew (Star Trek Beyond) is solid as the bad guy, Yuan. I particularly liked Paul Wu (The Package) as Bosco, the lead henchman, who’s a big, intimidating figure. Hong Kong legend Eddy Ko (Duel to the Death) has a cameo appearance as an ally of Xi Long, and it was cool to see him again even if his role is minor. Popular internet personalities Paul Chao, The Chengman, and Leenda Dong also have supporting roles in the film.
Director Bruce Fontaine appears to be a big fan of the late Tony Scott, here adopting the visual style found in many of Scott’s later films. He gives the film a blurry, drunk-at-a-concert vibe, and I actually think it’s pretty cool. He even borrows the use of exaggerated, stylized subtitles that were seen in Scott’s Man on Fire. (A further note on the subtitles in Beyond Redemption: though the film is mostly in English, there is some subtitled Chinese dialogue. And considering there’s so little of it, one would’ve hoped it’d be better proofread so as to be rid of typos.) In the action scenes, Fontaine films things well, and we get to see the film’s stars show off their stuff. But one wishes his editing was tighter, so as to keep the movie flowing better.
In this reviewer’s opinion, Beyond Redemption isn’t a very good film. As a low-budget action movie, the film’s plot and characters are not interesting enough to rise above certain amateurish aspects of the production. Still, it’s not all bad, and one can see potential here for both director Fontaine and his cast.
I hope to see actors Brian Ho, Don Lew, and Paul Wu, go onto bigger and better things, and I’ll explain why: there are not nearly enough roles for Asian men and women in North America’s film productions. Unless we’re talking about familiar action stars like Jackie, Jet, and Donnie, most Asian actors are relegated to background roles in Hollywood. Debates continue about why, why, WHY are there not more Asian men and women in a film like 2017’s Ghost in the Shell. And—though I do not defend that film’s reasoning and I think Max Landis is a punk—I will say that our film industry has not done enough to foster Asian acting talent at home. Hollywood prefers instead to import an international actor once their star has grown bright enough. And if such a star doesn’t exist, then things like Ghost in the Shell starring Scarlett Johansson happen. There need to be more films like Beyond Redemption, movies where actors like Brian Ho can grow, refine their craft, and hopefully gain some new fans. This film was not all that it could’ve been but I appreciate the effort to showcase Asian talent in a North American film and hope to see more (hopefully superior) films like it in the future.
Kyle Warner’s Rating: 4.5/10