We open with a dynamic and emotionally broken scene of a young boy in a bleak and empty room, boards over the one window, bare walls and floor, and not a single piece of furniture. He’s having terrifying visions of some sort of monster, of death and blood, and everything else that could ruin anyone’s morning. The boy, David, is in a violent state of manic fear and mental torture, and there’s no way out. It’s an intense opening that immediately puts you into the psychological mindfuck that David is experiencing. Beautiful and horrible, the scene grabs you at that very first moment.
And sadly, that’s where Kill Order‘s dramatic depth of character and style ends.
A sci-fi martial arts story, writer/director James Mark‘s Kill Order follows the desperate moments in a young man’s life, who realizes there’s more to his story than he thought. David is different from other boys, somehow possessing the skills and fighting prowess of a deadly combat expert, and the supernatural ability to harness power from “The Spirit World.” Of course, there is intrigue and suspense, as well. Tactical teams armed to the teeth, and super smooth boss bad guys, all hunt for our protagonist, trying to take him out, or take him under their control. He’s clearly a highly sought-after commodity, and it could mean his freedom, or possibly his very life, is at risk. Cue the exciting title page music.
Initially, when I saw the trailer for this film, I had high hopes for a fantastic ride. But the film itself left much to be desired. When I see an action movie, I expect grand, extreme shots and lots of fantastical effects and battles. I want depth and dynamics, and I got none of that from Kill Order. James Mark, a known and experienced stuntman and fight coordinator, shows us some good “stunts and fights”, and little else, unfortunately. While many of the fight scenes were delightfully choreographed, overall, I felt like I was watching a “fan-made” youtube movie with a decent budget, not a film mean for national theatrical release. The script lacked character and much of the dialogue was vague and uninspiring. The plot had the potential for a great story, but the movie itself did nothing for the concept. And worse yet, it cast Denis Akiyama, a fan-favorite film, and voice-over actor, in a supporting role as one of the villains, and gave him absolutely nothing to work within the part. Maybe he owed someone a favor?
The one good thing that Kill Order gives us is the star of the film, and younger brother of the creator, Chris Mark. He’s been in a number of blockbuster films as a stunt performer, but as David, Chris makes his debut as a lead actor, and I’m not complaining. He shows strong promise and depth in his emotional portrayal of the distraught and almost broken David, and his fight scenes were phenomenal. They remind me of the eternally renowned martial arts boy genius, Ernie Reyes, Jr, of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles fame, as well as many other projects. Chris gives us a boyish innocence in one moment, and then a fierce and frightening intensity in the other. I see the potential for Chris Mark to go far in the action film industry, and I hope that directors and casting agents take the chance and scoop this guy up immediately.
But past that, Kill Order needs a dose of its own titled medicine. The cinematography was weak, giving the feeling of a tv series pilot instead of a movie. Yes, the fight scenes were very fun, but considering it was written and directed by a professional fight coordinator, I can’t give it much credit just for that. The script was clearly not written by someone with much experience. The story is interesting, but the movie gives it no substance, and it if was a pilot for a tv show, then I probably wouldn’t make it to episode 2. Kill Order is trying to be some sort of supernatural Kill Bill, but in the end, it barely even registers as a B-version of Heroes: The Next Kung-Fu Generation.
My advice? Wait for this one to make it to Netflix. It probably won’t take long.