1998, Rising Sun Productions
James Bennett (Jimmy Bennett)
Nicole O’Sullivan (Nicola)
Mike Graham (Mike)
Johnny Murray (Celtic Monk)
Michael Regan (Mike’s Boss)
Colin Hamilton (Seagul)
Mattie Finnigan (Head Tournament Monk)
Paudie Greene (Barbie)
Conor O’Shea (Young Jimmy)
Ireland’s first martial arts film is truly a shot-on-video homage to the classic tournament martial arts films and notably the premier works of one Jean-Claude Van Damme.
After a decade of time at a reform school, Jimmy Bennett has returned home to learn that his father, who was also his instructor in Kenpo Karate, has died. While Jimmy attempts to solve the mystery revolving around his father’s death, he finds himself rescuing a young woman named Nicola from the hands of two goons who work for local drug dealer Mike. Jimmy also runs into a mysterious Celtic monk who has ties to Jimmy’s family.
As Jimmy learns of an upcoming martial arts tournament that could have the possibility of finding the answers he needs, Mike has dispatched more men to kidnap Nicola in an effort to prevent Jimmy from entering the tournament. Despite his best efforts, Nicola is kidnapped but Jimmy is still determined to enter the tournament and win. Eventually, all of the answers he is looking for will soon be revealed, but will it be too late for his new lady love?
With the rising success of the martial arts film genre in the 1990’s, Irish filmmakers Shay Casserley and Simon Linscheid decided to make the country’s first feature-length martial arts film. They found their local star in Kenpo Karate expert James Bennett, who for a film debut of this quality, isn’t too bad. Bennett, who looks like when it comes to fight scenes, did his homework on learning camera angles, editing, and choreography, pays homage notably to Jean-Claude Van Damme in his role of young Jimmy Bennett.
The plot of the film is your run-of-the-mill fighter must avenge father’s death and enters tournament gig. Add to the plot a kidnapped girl and a drug ring, led by former boybander Mikey Graham who looks more like he could act like a total cronie rather than a pivotal character. Nicole O’Sullivan is not too bad as the love interest Nicola, who in a way finds herself torn between a little loyalty towards Mike and her growing love for our hero Jimmy. Johnny Murray brings a bit of mystery to the film as the Celtic monk who becomes Jimmy’s mentor.
As mentioned, James Bennett also serves as the film’s action director and truly brings a Van Damme style to the film. The training scenes, juxtaposing with his burgeoning relationship with Nicola, are reminiscent of Van Damme’s 1989 film Kickboxer while the tournament scenes themselves showcase Bennett pulling off moves that will bring the original Bloodsport to mind. Bennett really did his homework with some of the tournament scenes yet at times with some of the other fight scenes, they could have been slightly better angles but give Bennett credit. For a first timer, there have been far worse than this.
Fatal Deviation, Ireland’s first martial arts film, is a nicely made homage to the early films of Van Damme and has a decent debut performance from James Bennett. Look out for the Irish karateka in two upcoming films, Kill Em All and Kickboxer: Retaliation. However, to see what Bennett is capable of, check out this film.
WFG RATING: C+