Michael Jai White unleashes against his past in this action thriller from the director of Misfire.
Bryant Powell is a former DEA agent who has run from his past and now lives in Nogales, Mexico under the pseudonym Bo Davis. Every morning, he trains in martial arts and works as a surveyor. One morning, he notices a young man, Oscar, watching him while training. He decides to take the kid under his wing and teach him his fighting style. When Oscar reunites with his brother Hector, released from prison as a capo for a local gang, Oscar impresses Hector with his fighting style when he wins 10,000 pesos against the toughest guy in town.
However, a video of the fight has surfaced. Former cop turned crime lord Sonny Kilbane is in prison and learns of the video. Recognizing the fighting style, Kilbane knows that Bryant is responsible. When Bryant learns the past has caught up with him, he finds himself protecting Oscar and Hector along with Marisol, a gym owner’s daughter who takes a liking to Oscar. When Oscar and Marisol are kidnapped by another protégé of Bryant’s now working for Kilbane, Bryant and Hector must unite to take down Kilbane and his hired guns once and for all.
When it comes to indie action cinema, R. Ellis Frazier is a filmmaker who has had his share of hits and misses. As of late, he’s proven himself to work well and showcase the talents of able-bodied fighters in films, like Gary Daniels in Rumble and Louis Mandylor in Legacy. While the latter returns for this film, it’s more of a straight acting role as the film clearly showcases Michael Jai White as a ex-cop forced to face his past again due to accidental circumstances.
White is great in the lead role of Bryant, who implores a fighting style that looks to be a combination of his trademark Kyokushin-kai Karate and the Keysi Fighting Method style used by Christian Bale in the Dark Knight trilogy. He takes in a young protégé, Oscar, played by Luca Oriel, who actually has a few fight scenes in the film and actually holds his own. He keeps his training up and we could have another action talent in the future. It is when their paths collide that chaos is destined to ensue as we see White doing what he does best, with a bit of comic relief mixed in. For instance, when he confronts a thug by pouring gasoline on him, the thug sets himself on fire and White has to explain it to those he protects.
Tom Berenger is excellent as the villainous Kilbane, who does all of the masterminding while in prison with Mandylor as his lawyer. We get to see regular Frazier collaborator Roberto Sanchez as a set of twins who are hired to find Bryant. Look out for a cameo from 90’s martial arts legend Art Camacho (who also serves as the stunt coordinator) as a thug for Don Valdez, one of Kilbane’s cohorts.
The fight scenes, under Michel Quach and his team, are quite good with White showcasing his skills. In one amazing move, he takes on a group of machete wielding thugs and he takes down the first with a slam face first into the ground. Similar to Iko Uwais’ face first slam on a goon in The Raid, only White does it while standing still which is bound to give a “holy cow” reaction. Oriel even gets into a brief fistacuff with former Power Ranger and Scorpion King Michael Copon. However, it is all about White, who shines and even reveals his backstory in a scene involving his real-life wife Gillian as his girlfriend.
As Good as Dead is a pretty good film meshing firepower, martial arts action, and some comic relief all in the part of one Michael Jai White. Kudos must go to Luca Oriel, who could have a potential future in the genre if he keeps up his training. The fighting style is quite unique in some ways, but is quite good for this film. Definitely worth checking out.
WFG RATING: B+
Samuel Goldwyn Films and Creative Capital Management present an Odyssey Motion Pictures production in association with Badhouse Studios Mexico and Jaigantic Films. Director: R. Ellis Frazier. Producers: Justin Nesbitt, Marc Clebanoff, Michael Jai White, and Geoffrey Ross. Writer: Michael Jai White. Cinematography: Jorge Roman. Editing: Stephen Murray.
Cast: Michael Jai White, Tom Berenger, Louis Mandylor, Luca Oriel, Guillermo Ivan, Michael Copon, Gabriela Quezada, Roberto Sanchez, Mario Zaragoza, Gillian White, Art Camacho.