Sunday, November 30, 2008

The Three Faces of Eve

The Last Eve
Directed by Young Man Kang
Vanguard Cinema

What do you get if you combine Caine from Kung Fu with the Biblical brothers Cain and Abel? Something like The Last Eve (now available on DVD, trailer here), Young Man Kang’s bizarre triptych of Kung Fu Biblical allegories, which mixes and matches elements of the Adam & Eve and Cain & Abel stories, often to head-scratching effect.

Kang seems to be building a reputation as a low-budget auteur, evidently holding the Guinness World Record for the least expensive feature film ever produced and released: the $980 Cupid’s Mistake. Based on Eve, he seems to be more in the tradition of the strange but highly stylized low-budget fare of Edgar G. Ulmer, rather than the grade-z schlock of Ed Wood.

The product of three different shoots, with three different crews, Eve is uneven in the extreme. Bruce Khan provides the only continuity, reprising the role of Adam, the martial arts warrior, in the tripped-out opening “Eve’s Secret” and the middle story, “Cain and Abel,” which is by far the best of the film.

Filmed in Korea, “Cain & Abel” also has the superior cinematography, visual composition, and fight choreography. Khan’s Adam is now a retired cage fighter who wants to marry Eve, here the sister of the slimy Cain. Haunted by the death of his last opponent, Adam refuses Cain’s offer to fight again. Instead, Cain tempts Adam’s brother Abel into the ring, with disastrous consequences. Abel killed by the hulking Muay Thai Fighter and Eve’s freedom is wagered away to the local criminal overlord by her hopelessly corrupt brother. That of course sets up some old school steel-cage kung fu retribution. Khan is a commanding action presence as Adam, particularly in the second story-line, and Seung Min King is by far the most compelling Eve in the film.

Khan also has some decent fight sequences in the opening “Eve’s Secret,” a segment with no spoken dialogue aside from some introductory narration. One of three survivor’s of the apocalypse, Adam is charged with protecting Eve from seven demons bent on killing her to prevent the rebirth of humanity. Unfortunately, the segment is undermined by the frequently garish looking special effects and a dubious punch-line of an ending.

The final story arc, “Snake’s Temptation,” is the weakest of the three. Forsaking martial arts for drama, it chronicles the disintegration of the chaste young Adam and Eve’s engagement, while a comet bears down on Earth, signaling the end of the world, and giving the film a circular narrative structure. Unfortunately, the performances here are significantly weaker than “Cain & Abel,” with the supposedly demonic Snake character coming across as a metrosexual street punk. However, it does feature Tim Colceri (who might be recognizable to some from guest appearances on shows like Babylon 5) as Father Julius, a Catholic Priest who has adopted the trappings of a Buddhist.

Eve is an odd but commendably ambitious film. Despite it biblical inspiration, it does not seem overtly evangelical. Yet, when it works, it is quite entertaining, which would be about one and a half times out of three. Obviously nothing will stop YMK from making more films, since he can amazingly bring them in for less than four figures, but Eve shows a lot of promise, so hey, more power to him.