Chris Knipp Writing: Movies, Politics, Art

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PostPosted: Wed Jan 04, 2023 9:12 am 
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A whole lotta action - and not much else

Jon Foo – martial arts star of Tekken, Bangkok Revenge and the "Rush Hour" TV series – is back in The Last Resort, an unsubtle but balls-out intense new action movie from Well Go USA and Saban Films.

The Last Resort (aka Ultima Ratio) is written and directed by Jean-Marc Minéo (Bangkok Revenge) and also stars Clayton Norcross (Air Force One is Down), Alex Santi (Shock Wave 2), Julaluck Ismalone (Bangkok Revenge) and Angelina Ismalone.

Foo is MIchael Reed, a former special forces soldier lying around watching old cartoons on a big screen until he becomes a one-man-army when his wife and daughter are taken hostage during a bank robbery. As he wipes out a gang of mercenary robbers, the lives of millions may be in danger when they steal a canister containing lethal toxin from the bank vault. The Last Resort is an action thriller that unreels on the upper floors of a tall building in the center of a busy metropolis where a mysterious bad white man heads the invasion of a large black-garbed gang of apparently Arab mercenaries with a double aim, never fully defined: to do something with the poison gas canister and to use their hostages to persuade the police to get a friend of the bad guy immediately released from prison.

There's not much explanation as to where this transpires or just what all this is about, but the cast and crew are mostly Thai and the non-stop action evidently takes place in Bangkok. Besides Michael Reed (Jon Foo) and his evil adversary Cooper (68-year-old TV actor Clayton Norcross) there are Cooper's crew of "Arab" henchmen he politely refers to as "monkeys"; a set of SWAT team fighters who shouldn't have been called in because it leads to more mayhem; and city police forces whose lieutenant has to deal diplomatically with the colonel in charge of the SWAT team. Michael Reed acts primarily on his own; but the lieutenant adopts him as in inside ally for the police and familiarly addresses him as "soldier." Cooper shoots people left and right, just to show how tough he is; Reed has no evident compunctions about killing himself: this is urban warfare of the most brutal, antisocial sort.

When (twice) Reed gets involved in hand-to-hand combat, first with a "mercenary leader" (Alex Santi) then later with Cooper, he takes a hell of a beating. But these are arias of kung fu action. Without the ritual drawn-out fight and some blood-letting it wouldn't be interesting, I guess. Reed's wife Anna (Julaluck Ismalone), who becomes resigned to her marriage to Reed (she had just delivered divorce papers to him) after being saved by him from the bank hostage horror, is accompanied by their feisty daughter (and somewhat stiff) Kim (newcomer Angelina Ismalone), who warns the bad guys in both Chinese and English that her dad is a "bad man" who will fix them good.

The kid is right. The hand-to-hand fights are the most memorable, but all the fighting is simple and authentic and that's the beauty of the fighting: it feels real, free of wires, special effects, or CGI. None of the absurd fanciful and wholly unreal kung fu stuff you get in the Daniels' current overrated, overblown, hypertrophied actioner, Everything Everywhere All at Once.

This is a follow-up for Mineo and the principals to the 2011 action film Bangkok Revenge, in which Jean Marc Mineo also directed John Foo in a bang-up kung fu picture. In that one, brutal gangsters had killed Foo's parents when he was ten years old. In this one, he has memories of the Syria conflict in which Cooper left him for dead, when he wasn't. Cooper is a total villain here. This movie is for the action, not the character development. But since Bangkok Revenge was billed as the best thing since Ong Bak:Thai Warrior, I'm guessing it had more and better hand-to-handJ action than this one. The direction and editing this time are workmanlike. The writing is pretty rudimentary. This is revealed in the simple villainy of Cooper and the uncertainty of his motivations.

Jon’s father is of Chinese Singaporean descent. His mother, whose surname is Griffin, has Irish, and possibly English, ancestry. His sister, Mia, is also an actress. He is handsome, ripped, and fast on his feet and has a flavorful London accent.

The Last Resort (Ultima Ratio original title, 107 mins., opens in select theaters Jan. 6, 2023 and on dem0.and Jan. 10.

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