Tuesday, May 03, 2016

Die Fighting: Z Team Goes Hollywood

Z Team is China’s favorite Shaolin-trained French martial arts squad. There is only one reason for them to come to Hollywood: big screen fame. Unfortunately, a psychotic mastermind who fancies himself an independent filmmaker might just help them attain their goal the hard way in screenwriter-director-editor Fabien Garcia’s Die Fighting (trailer here), which is now available on DVD from MVD Visual.

Fabien Garcia is Fabien Garcia, highly skilled stuntman and aspiring action director. Laurent Buson is Laurent Buson, up-and-coming action star recognizable to fans for going toe-to-toe with Iko Uwais in Gareth Evans’ Merantau—or rather vice versa (he played the French guy). Didier Buson costars as his brother, Didier Buson, with Jess Allen rounding out the team as a similarly semi-fictionalized version of himself.

As the film opens, Z Team is scuffling despite some well received action shorts. Their chops are never in question, but their drive to succeed is flagging somewhat when a shadowy villain known only as “The Filmmaker” kidnaps Garcia’s girlfriend Meilu. If they want her safely returned they will have to perform the Filmmaker’s increasingly outrageous fight scenes for the benefit of his pre-placed surveillance cameras.

There is no denying all of the Z Team cats have mad skills. You could stack them up against Uwais and Yayan “Mad Dog” Ruhian with confidence. Their moves are incredibly cinematic (and at times acrobatic), but there is a hard edge to Garcia’s fight choreography. If you take the film solely as a martial arts showcase, it is quite impressive. Indeed, that is the best way to relate to the film, because the narrative is basically a variation on the themes of The Game, 13: Game of Death, and the pound-for-pound heavy weight champ, Big Match. However, Garcia tacks on a twist ending that is really sort of shocking, not because we haven’t seen it before, but because it is hard to imagine he would want to go there, especially given the way he deliberately conflates the real life Z Team members with their characters. C’est la vie.

So, as we were saying, how about that martial arts action? To their credit, they also recruit some worthy opponents, particularly Xin Sarith Wuku, who tears up the joint as Mr. Chan, an underground fight club manager. Recommended for fans thirsty for some slickly choreographed, down-and-dirty fight scenes, Die Fighting is now available on DVD at all online retailers.