3.5 out of 10
Release Date: 18th May 2009 (DVD Premiere)
Director: Chee Keong Cheung (Bodyguard- A New Beginning)
Cast: Mark Strange, Fidel Nanton, Leonard Fenton, Nathan Lewis, Joey Ansah, Zara Phythian, Dave Wong, Sophie Linfield, Leon Sua, Liang Yang, Glenn Salvage, Beau Fowler, Shane Steyn, William Mickleburgh, Scott Houston, Chris Smith with Gordon Alexander, Gary Webster and Danny John-Jules
Writer: Chee Keong Cheung
Underground gets one thing right, excellent fight choreography. And that’s exactly why this film exists, it’s a fight film. Fans of mixed martial arts will have the fights on rewind and the talking on fast forward. This is your standard Bloodsport retread, twelve cardboard cutouts battle for a cash prize whilst a cartel adjudicate and raise the stakes for some very rich business men who are watching remotely. Obviously, only one of the 12 will be going home with the money – several of which are professional fighters but some are there because they are desperate for the money to get them out of deep hole (zzzz what were you saying? There’s a plot?).
A film of two halves, all the heavy stunt work is done downstairs on the shop floor and all the acting is done upstairs in the office. Neither world troubles the other one until nearer the end. So whilst the 12 stuntmen- cum part time actors duke it out for first place, the real actors bitch and posture trying to out deal each other by pitting their best fighter against another rich opponent’s fighter. It’s a loaded dice as each rich guy is given two fighters at the beginning, so if they have a weak guy that’s set in stone – ill thought out rules. But hey, not my money. Amongst the business men are TV stalwarts Gary Webster (MINDER), Danny John-Jules (RED DWARF) and for all those wondering where Dr. Legg was all those weeks between his appearances in Eastenders, Leonard Fenton (THE ZOMBIE DIARIES) and they do the only lifting required in the acting department (stunt work equivalent for the lunks downstairs). Downstairs the only two with real acting credentials are the wooden Zara Phythian (HE WHO DARES) and the slightly more talented Joey Ansah (GREEN STREET 3) but neither of them get to be the hero (SPOILER!). No the hero is stuntman Mark Strange who plays The Homeless. I almost forgot, to make the cardboard characters extra stiff, none of them have names: instead we get The Model, The Teacher, The Priest, The Foreigner etc. Very boring. Not much seems to be at stake for any of them apart from getting their asses beat, most of the characters get to go home with a ‘blankety blank cheque book and pen’ too. The reason for a movie like this is that usually the tournament that is centre to the tale is usually a stand out bout in which characters buck the trend or wreck proceedings for future years, but in Underground it seems like they picked a ‘filler’ year. There’s one winner and eleven losers – wow! It just seems to be business as usual. There might be a sequel but the stakes are too low for this to engage to invest in any of the fighters. The closest thing we get to a protagonist is Leonard Fenton and later Mark Strange (who also produces – surprise surprise!) once the field thins out – maybe it’s being experimental. A flick with no characters. The whole film has a remarkably stripped down feel, it wishes it was sleek but that will come with larger budgets.
The filmmakers certainly know how to shoot a fight and cast talented fighters. To say it’s for people with low attention spans is an insult to the work that’s gone into framing these wonderful fight scenes, so fans of fighting could do a lot worse than tune in. But like I said, fast forward the slim traces of story line just like you would if you were watching a porno – in fact Underground is the absolute polar opposite of an art house movie. Red Dwarf fans get in line for a good Danny John Jules role too. He has much fun as the closest this film has to an antagonist. It’s weird how this is the only film I’ve ever rated him in!
3.5 out of 10 – Action fans only. This is a pure action film almost to the point of pushing the need for individual characters out of the film completely. Stunning fight work save this bargain basement tribute to Bloodsport or Kick Boxer from being a total loss but it’s not for everybody! But then nor is Best Exotic Marigold Hotel.
Second review below by Matt CRUSHER Usher
WHAT HAVE I SEEN THAT MEATHEAD IN BEFORE?
- Mark Strange: Bodyguard – A New Beginning
- Fidel Nanton: The Silencer
- Leonard Fenton: The Zombie Diaries, Eastenders (TV), Shine On Harvey Moon (TV), Morons From Outer Space, Give My Regards To Broad Street
- Nathan Lewis: Bodyguard – A New Beginning
- Joey Ansah: The Numbers Station, Green Street 3, I Anna, UFO (2013), The Bourne Ultimatum
- Zara Phythian: Transit 17, Warrioress, He Who Dares, The Hike
- Glenn Salvage: The Dead – Africa, Ten Dead Men, The Silencer
- Gary Webster: The Bill (TV), Family Affairs (TV), Minder (TV)
- Sophie Linfield: Don’t Let Me In, Bodyguard – A New Beginning
- Leon Sua: Bodyguard – A New Beginning
- Gordon Alexander: The Anomaly, Don’t Let Me In, The Grind, Sucker Punch (2008), Baseline, The Purifiers
- Danny John-Jules: Red Dwarf (TV), The Grind, Arthur Christmas (voice), MI High (TV), Sucker Punch (2008), Blade II, Lock Stock & Two Smoking Barrels, London Kills Me, Labyrinth (voice)