Friday, March 12, 2021

The Zhengs’ Insight

This is a Cain and Abel sibling story, told by a brother-and-sister filmmaking team. It also incorporates a whole lot of martial arts and some mild fantastical elements. Jian Huang is a highly skilled fighter who also has the gift of second sight. That certainly makes him sound formidable, but the same was true of his somewhat estranged brother, who just died under mysterious circumstances. Huang will uncover the bad guys behind his murder with the reluctant help of a LAPD detective in Ken & Livi Zheng’s Insight, which releases today on VOD.

Much to their bafflement. Detectives Abby Lerner and Carl Stevens have been pulled off a high-profile kidnapping case to greet Huang at the airport. Evidently, Huang has powerful friends in the Federal government, because of his work as a Jack Bauer-style counter-terrorism agent. His brother used to serve in the same agency, before he left for a job in Vortex, the tech company owned by the villainous Wallace Jackson. Initially, his brother’s death looked like suicide, but his visions clearly tell a different, homicidal story—one that deeply implicates Vortex.

Lerner was pretty put-out when she was ordered to escort Huang—and even more so when she finds herself bailing him out of jail. However, she soon gives credence to his suspicions. Of course, they are mostly on their own, but Huang is one hard cat to kill.

Okay, so
Insight is basically a B-movie, but it is a thoroughly entertaining one. It represents a big step up from their last martial arts narrative feature, Brush with Danger. Ken Zheng is clearly a seriously skilled martial artist. This time around, he has the benefit of the support from some always reliable and entertaining character actors, starting with the great Tony Todd, playing slightly against type as the uncorrupted Det. Stevens. Plus, Keith David and John Savage both add grizzled grit as Stevens and Lerner’s Captain Duke and Huang’s superior officer, respectively.

The odd couple chemistry between Zheng and Madeline Zima might not be anything to write home about, but they are serviceable together. More importantly, Zheng and the stunt performers show off some terrific chops in a number of impressively choreographed fight scenes. It all really looks pretty slick.

Frankly, Jackson is a so-so villain at best, but the old school action is very satisfying. Honestly, we could watch Todd and David reading the phone book, so having them on-board is icing on the cake. It is a grungy upstart movie, but we wouldn’t mind watching it again. Recommended for fans of throwback throwdowns,
Insight releases today (3/12) on VOD.