I was thrilled to see this little flick has finally got released on DVD because I've been waiting ages. It originally came out in 2008 as Broken Path and played a few festivals in the US before disappearing without a trace. Thankfully some clever marketing guy has brought it to widespread attention by giving it the more marketable name of Broken Fist and releasing it in the UK.
Here's a bit of background about why I was so interested in it. Firstly, it's directed by Koichi Sakamoto. You might not recognise the name but he was the primary fight choreographer behind Drive (Mark Dacascos one, not Ryan Gosling) – one of the best DTV martial arts flicks ever – as well as Guyver: Dark Hero. Secondly, the premise is insane. A lot of films claim to be wall-to-wall fighting but this one actually delivers on that promise. It does not stop.
Sakamoto also did a lot of the stunt work on the TV series Power Rangers, which you may sniff at but so did Isaac Florentine (Undisputed II & III, Ninja, US SEALS II, The Shepherd) so it's clearly a very good breeding ground for quality action directors. I guess it's here that he met the leading actor of the film, Johnny Yong Bosch (who played the Black Ranger for several seasons as well as the the two movies).
Bosch plays Jack Ellis, an young guy who has recently moved into a small farmhouse in the middle of nowhere with his wife, Lisa (Pamela Walworth), and daughter. After having a small housewarming and packing the kid off to summer camp he and Lisa set about renovating the house, however the only thing that's going to get renovated this weekend is Jack's face as a group of masked attackers descend on the house intent on killing him and Lisa. Who are they? What do they want? And where did Jack suddenly gain these awesome fighting abilities?
To say any more of the plot would ruin it (mainly because there's not much more to it). The set up is all done by the 15 minute mark and after that everything takes place in real time as Jack tries to escape with his wife and fight off his attackers. Yes, it is literally 75 minutes of non-stop fighting. Okay, maybe there's 5 minutes of dialogue interspersed in there but that's it. One review I read described it in a perfect way – it's like watching a mix of an action movie and an experimental art film!
Considering the length of the fights, the choreography never gets dull. Sakamoto really knows how to inject fights with fun and creativity. There's a lot of jumping and flipping but nothing looks like it used wires and each punch and kick looks brutal. And there's some crazily gory death scenes too. At times it almost feels like your watching a horror movie. I thought it was quite clever to have the bad guys where masks as I guess it made them easy to double but from what I could tell Bosch did most of his own fight scenes. Hats off to the guy, he was incredible in this.
I can't understand why he hasn't gotten more work (I know he does a lot of anime voice over work) because he was on fire in this. Not only was he great at fighting he also had some good charisma that reminded me a little of Mark Dacascos back in the day. Some producer needs to use him in some quality DTV action movies now! And while you're at it, sign up Sakamoto to direct them. There are so many terrible, lazy, boring DTV action films out there, these guys could blow the competition out of the water.
One negative thing that a lot of people have brought up about the film is the indestructibility of all the characters. There's only ever 5 attackers and Jack in the whole (maybe they should have used more). Everyone gets hit, stabbed, cut, kicked, thrown down stairs multiple times. Sure, it's highly unrealistic but I think after about the first ten minutes you just accept that the makers aren't trying at realism, they are aiming purely for enjoyability. And for me they succeeded. So if you can get over this small point I think you'll love the movie, it gets my highest approval!