On the Ropes (2018)

ontheropes

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Two brothers go to war with each other in this martial arts thriller from the director of Kill Order.

Jon and Lee have been raised by the Old Man, a mobster, since childhood. When the two would get into arguments, the Old Man would force the boys to settle their differences in the ring. Now grown up, Jon has become a more resourceful man who follows the rules while Lee has become a hot-tempered violent man. When Lee makes the mistake of killing a henchman of rival Bruno, the Old Man, who is slowly dying, decides to hand the leadership of the gang to Jon.

The decision to make Jon the new leader infuriates Lee to the point where he decides he will do what it takes to make sure he becomes the new leader. In the meantime, Jon is conflicted with the position he has been offered and it will interfere with his relationship with local dancer Chloe, who knows and disapproves of Jon’s life as a mobster. However, when Lee decides to broker a deal with Bruno, an act of betrayal and a shocking revelation will lead the brothers to settle the score once and for all where they have settled their disputes all along: the ring.

James Mark, the director of the Canadian martial arts sci-fi thriller Kill Order, has crafted a nice meshing of martial arts action with the gangster genre. Joining forces with German-based Reel Deal Action, the film is not just an action film, but an emotionally driven film about two brothers who become enemies in an all-out war for leadership of a local gang. The film does brings some pretty good twists in the plot, revealing some shocks at times and thus, making this an above-average action thriller.

One of the driving forces behind the film, aside from the screenplay by Mark and Matthew Nayman, are the performances by lead actors Can Aydin and Phong Giang. The duo, members of the Reel Deal Action team, are great as two brothers who go from loyal to enemies when Aydin’s conflicted Jon is chosen to be the successor of the gang much to the chagrin on the hot-tempered Lee. Aydin brings a performance that is quite good considering Jon’s conflict within himself as he finds himself between choosing the leadership and his relationship. Meanwhile, Giang’s Lee is violent and goes to great lengths to ensure he and not Jon will become leader, even when it means joining forces with rival gangster Bruno, played by Joseph Di Mambro.

The fight scenes, under the supervision of Aydin and Giang, are exciting to watch. They mostly consist of fast hand movements and some nice kicks mixed in. However, in perhaps homage to the John Wick series, Aydin has a few nice scenes where he meshes the gunplay with takedowns a la Wick, including a very riveting shot of Jon taking down a thug at a club by forcing him into a Hong Kong spin and shooting the thug while he is spinning in the air. Of course, with the title, it is clear where the climactic battle between Jon and Lee will take place and this of course, is a very nice choreographed fight between the two with doses of kickboxing and acrobatics mixed in and leads to a somewhat very satisfying conclusion.

On the Ropes is quite an indie action thriller meshing emotional drama with exhilarating martial arts action in both the hand-to-hand combat and John Wick-inspired action.

WFG RATING: B+

Screen Media Films presents an Iron Bay Pictures/Reel Deal Action production. Director: James Mark. Producers: Byron Kent Wong and Tony Del Rio. Writers: James Mark and Matthew Nayman. Cinematography: Justin Lovell. Editing: James Mark and Matthew Nayman.

Cast: Can Aydin, Phong Giang, Tina Pereira, Cha-Lee Yoon, Joseph Di Mambro, Peter Frangella, Matthew Sauvé, Sean Cookson, Stephanie McKenzie, Troy Feldman, Aristo Luis, Dan Haug, Marcus Di Palma, Riley Fung Ernst.

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