From the team who brought you the indie Wu Xia films comes this homage to John Wick and The Raid among other martial arts action films.
The Shadows are one of the best assassin groups who work for their boss, Vargas. They have all done their jobs very well. However, things have become complicated and Vargas has ordered the Shadows’ handler, Watcher, to deal with the matters. One of the assassins, Max, begins to have doubts about living the life of an assassin. When Watcher calls in the group, they are taken to an abandoned warehouse and that’s when the real problem begins.
Watcher informs the group that they will have to fight in a test of survival. The first round includes the team taking on a band of assassins. The second round pits the group against each other. Along the way, dark truths are revealed, and Vargas seizes the opportunity to find a way to eliminate the entire assassin group as a backup plan. Will the Shadows be able to overcome their differences, or will they fall prey to their own misgivings and eliminate each other?
Keith Collins II, the fight choreographer of the short film Wu Xia: A Martial Arts Tango and its feature length sequel Wu Xia 2: The Code, makes his feature film directorial debut here and with the success of films like John Wick and The Raid, Collins pays homage to those films. While the acting from some of the actors is what you would expect from an indie film of this caliber, from a monotonic performance to a bit over the top, it doesn’t take away that the action is pretty good and overall, there are a few pretty good performances from some of the cast.
John Dannug makes the most of his role as the titular Maximillian. While he looks quite average when compared to both his co-stars and the likes of action heroes like Jason Statham and Keanu Reeves, the everyman look really suits him well as he plays a top ranking assassin who is quite handy when it comes to close quarter combat. He even has a finishing move in a heart punch, a very powerful punch to the heart that causes it to stop beating. As the film revolves around him and his fellow assassins, it’s pretty clear from the title who is set to survive the ordeal, but it’s the events and aftermath that work well.
There is some hilarious comic relief from the character of Sage, played by Hakeem Sharif. As Max’s brother, he knows of his brother’s profession and constantly runs his mouth at the craziest of times. The beats work well as he is seen as pretty neurotic and paranoid. Why he even joins his brother in the survival test mode when he is not even an assassin is beyond crazy. Jerry Sur, who also served as a producer on the film, makes the most of his role as fellow Shadows member Gin while Kimberly Root’s X and Dan Loesch’s Y seem to perform on different modes of performances with Root being more determined and Y showing why he doesn’t talk much when performing jobs. Ember Burns’ Bunny is pretty insane looking with her skull like mask and is always ready for a fight.
Director Collins heads up the fight team for the film, showcasing a style similar to John Wick, The Raid, and other exciting films featuring close quarter combat. The assassins taking on mercenaries in the first round of the “test” is a fun delight to watch as we see The Shadows go up against many various actors who also appeared in the Wu Xia films. However, a major highlight sequence involves Dannug taking on three masters, all skilled in a different style. Stephen Haas plays a sword master, who uses some sort of lightsaber-hybrid weapon while George Comer plays a gun master who has shooters attached to his hands (a nice inventive weapon most likely anime-influenced) and Matt Kane as the unarmed superkicking master who is one to look out for. Get Kane a lead role in a film down the road.
Maximillian may have the acting level of what’s expected in an indie film, but the action is fun to watch as it pays homage to recent action classics and even a dash of Japanese anime.
WFG RATING: B
A 3 Digital Rock Studios production in association with Media Design Imaging. Director: Keith Collins II. Producers: Keith Collins II and Jerry Sur. Writers: Keith Collins II and Porche Bennett. Cinematography: Jason Wang. Editing: Keith Collins II.
Cast: John Dannug, Hakeem Sharif, Jerry Sur, Kimberly Root, Dan Loesch, Ember Burns, Ernest Jam, Demond Ballou, Eileen Lorene, Matt Kane, Stephen Haas, George Comer.