KILL ORDER Review: Turn On, Tune In, Dropkick Out
There is a place in this world for movies that demand virtually no amount of intellectual investment. As the old drug-fueled adage goes, “Turn on, tune in, drop out.” This works particularly well with martial arts films, as the primary reason to watch one isn’t necessarily to be wrapped up in a riveting plot or to follow the journey of unique or captivating characters, but instead to see some kick ass fight choreography. Kill Order, for all its pretense, is exactly one of these films, suitable only for zoning out while some talented stunt people beat each other up.
Our story, for what it’s worth, is about David (Chris Mark), a high school student who has nightmares about escaping from an experimental lab while being egged on by a fiery demonic presence. Now, because this is a movie, these obviously aren’t just dreams, and the film wastes no time in introducing a heavily armed SWAT team to abduct David from class. This triggers something in David, causing his eyes to glow with blue energy as his ability to defend himself with martial arts and endure punishment grow exponentially.
There’s a lot of franchising set-up going on in the background, alluding to a shadowy organization trying to tap into a spirit world for energy to power a team of mindless, obedient assassins, but it never feels anything but superfluous in what is a very basic story of fighting to survive. However, even on that front David is about as much of a cipher as a protagonist can be, given so little by way of established personality or even introductory dialogue that we have very little reason to care about who David is or where his mystical fighting abilities are coming from.
But at the end of the day, the success of a film like Kill Order is less incumbent on plot development or character dynamics than fight choreography and stunt work, and on that end the film is a serviceably entertaining experience. Writer-director James Mark knows how to shoot a fight scene, taking advantage of lithe and powerful bodies to work with minimalistic sets and highly destructible props on a shoestring budget. Chris Mark is a talented fighter and the encounters he survives against a worthy cast of equally talented stunt men and women are serviceably entertaining so long as one isn’t hoping for the second coming of Jackie Chan or Bruce Lee.
Were Kill Order not trying to pretend at being this epic first installment to a sprawling mythology, the film might have invested its limited resources into developing David and his equally lifeless supporting cast so as to provide a context just as engaging as the fights. However, as is, what we have here is a serviceable bit of mindless entertainment, functioning as little more than an excuse to string a series of cool fights together. But hey, maybe turning off one’s brain once in a while isn’t a such a bad thing.