Combat Mortal (2004)

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2004, Z Productions/Reel Asian Films/The Supreme Ultimate Fist

Director:
Dr. Zee Lo
Producer:
Dr. Zee Lo
Writer:
Dr. Zee Lo
Cinematography:
David Austin
Editing:
Kate Johnson

Cast:
Dr. Zee Lo (Billy Lee/Master Qi/Inspector Couseau)
Nikita Ager (Nicole King)
Joe Ho (Wu Feng)
John Milios (Zoh)
John Truong (Hwang)
Sid Campbell (Capt. O’Rourke)
Samuel Lima (Det. Lopez)
Steve Heinze (Capt. Goldman)
Karina Karrington (Kay King/Anna)
Bryan Handy (Troy)
Sky Nicholas (Jeannie)

Bruce Lee’s Grand-student, Dr. Zee Lo, creates perhaps the ultimate Americanized-Bruceploitation film in his directorial debut, in which he opens with “imitation is the highest form of flattery”.

Billy Lee is a martial artist who aspires to be an actor, but to make ends meet, uses his skills as a bounty hunter. When his latest assignment is to capture martial arts master Hwang, Lee tracks him down and after a fight, is able to get a name of his boss, Wu. Billy makes the arrest while attempting to go to auditions to live his real dream of being a martial arts film star. Nicole King is an international supermodel who only under the advice of older sister Kay, has done it all on her own with no outside interference. However, crime boss Wu Feng has threatened Nicole that if she does not work for him, she will face certain danger.

Kay, concerned about the situation, decides to hire someone low-key to serve as Nicole’s bodyguard. Enter Billy, who at first is reluctant to take the job, but ultimately accepts the offer. When Billy soon learns who has been threatening her, he learns that Wu Feng is the one who was raised practically as his brother when they were kids. Now, Billy, loyal to the job at hand, must do what it takes to protect Nicole, even if it means having to face his own “brother”.

When you see the words “imitation is the highest form of flattery” superimposed on the screen, one may think is this going to be a spoof. Instead, Dr. Zee Lo has basically made his own version of the popular cult subgenre that is “Bruceploitation”. Interesting enough, he took the character names from his film debut, The Deadly Cure, and once again made them hero and villain and yet added a dash of secrecy in the fact that these two were once blood brothers who have now become sworn enemies.

Lo lifts elements from films such as Fist of Fury and more notably Game of Death. The GOD reference involves our hero Billy aspiring to be an actor where in GOD, Bruce Lee’s Billy Lo is a martial arts film star who gets himself caught in a situation with a syndicate. Plus, in a scene being shot by a “Mr. Weintraub” (an obvious reference to Enter the Dragon producer Fred Weintraub), Billy and good friend Troy, played by Bryan Handy, are re-enacting the GOD nunchaku fight between Lee and Dan Inosanto. Billy even reads a line from Enter the Dragon in his office before receiving a call from his boss. Dr. Z also plays two supporting characters, Master Qi and a play on The Pink Panther’s bumbling Inspector Clouseau, here a filler character who works for villain Wu Feng.

Nikita Ager plays a strong woman in supermodel Nicole, who has done it all on her own, but only needs protection in order to prevent the worst. She only pulls the damsel in distress in the final act, because let’s face it, that’s what one would normally expect in this brand of film. Joe Ho doesn’t look intimidating as lead villain Wu Feng. His look and demeanor look more as if he should be playing a henchman or a right-hand man, but not so much a lead villain. John Truong and John Milios provide mainly action support and fit their roles of Hwang and Zoh, two martial arts professionals working for Wu Feng while Sid Campbell makes a cameo as Capt. O’Rourke in a filler scene where Billy helps him teach police cadets self-defense.

Dr. Z’s fight scenes allow him once again to emulate Bruce Lee, but this time, that is his intention to make his own version of emulating Bruce and does it to a tee. He does the movements, the screaming, and even does the backflip kick done in Enter the Dragon. However, once again, Lo feels it is necessary to use a constant use of double, triple, and even quadruple taking of action and while it may be a good idea to do it, there are certain scenes where it is completely unnecessary and even goes as far as using slow motion in very unnecessary moments of the film.

Combat Mortal is without a doubt Dr. Z’s answer to Bruceploitation and it is not completely bad, but the unnecessary slow motion and multiple shots in some of the action can be more seen as annoying. However, Dr. Z gets an A for effort for trying.

WFG RATING: C+

This film is available to buy on Reel Asian Films, Dr. Z’s film distribution company.

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