The box says FIST 2 FIST 2: WEAPON OF CHOICE, but it should just be WEAPON OF CHOICE. The distributor retitled it for some reason, but in FIST 2 FIST, writer/director/star Jino Kang played Ken, a former criminal turned martial arts instructor. In WEAPON OF CHOICE he plays Jack Lee, a former criminal who wears martial arts clothing but is not specified to be an instructor. Different guy, in my opinion.
The title refers to his method of showing up at a place – say a private club or warehouse – unarmed, fighting with his hands and feet and the guns and knives and what not he takes away from his opponents. This way he’s not leaving any evidence behind but still manages to get in a big sword duel.
Jack is introduced using this technique to massacre a room full of people at a gangster’s birthday dinner, leaving only one terrified witness to give his boss the message that “my part of the deal is done.” Then we find him six years later living as an ordinary dude with an unnamed regular job, living with his teenage niece Jaime (Kelly Lou Dennis) who he’s raised as his daughter since the death of her real father. But one day the boss finds out this was a scam – ol’ brother-in-law faked his death to escape a debt. So masked men burst in and try to kill Jack and they kidnap Jaime and just for good measure they intend to traffic her. So… they’re bad guys.
While Jack is in police custody they’re all attacked by gunmen, and lone cop survivor Detective Ash Jordan (Katherine Celio) decides to uncuff him and quit the force to get him sewn up and help him save his niece and also they have sex at one point. Then there’s a bunch of fighting.
This is Kang’s third film as director (this time with FIST 2 FIST editor Tony Urgo credited as co-writer and co-director), and in many ways his most professional. He has slick helicopter or drone footage of the city to add scope, cool computer animated flying weapon opening credits with good music by somebody named Dmitry Greenberg (not on IMDb), and nicer looking sets and locations than in FIST 2 FIST. Early on he has a few cool POV shots that suggest the visual inventiveness of his debut BLADE WARRIOR, though unfortunately that doesn’t keep up. Most importantly he’s grown more comfortable in his role as the no-nonsense killer with the Takeshi Kitano-esque deadpan, and he’s further developed his style of screen fighting. I love that he’s wearing these nice suits and dress shoes but is willing to flip upside down and head-scissor a guy and roll around on a cement floor trying to get a submission hold. You can tell it’s awkward to do with the jacket on, but he’s not about to take it off unless it gets real serious.
One of my favorite scenes is when he enters the warehouse. There’s a guard sitting there looking at his phone, but he calmly puts it away when he sees Jack. After the long, grueling fight, Jack’s suit is dirty and he’s out of breath and he takes a few moments to recover. Then he moves on to the next wave of guards.
It’s pretty slick but definitely has some low budget touches. The two female leads are likable, but each has a scene where they have to yell angrily and don’t sound very convincing. There’s an occasional I’m-not-sure-about-that line like “Man, his ass is so tight only Peruvian frogs could hear him fart.” Or maybe I just don’t get that one. By the way you’ll have to be okay with some low budget digital bullet wounds to get through this. I am.
There’s some personality to it. I like asshole villain Michael Banducci (Douglas Olsson)’s low key annoyance with his well-meaning but not quick-witted enough for him henchman. And the scene where that henchman gets in an unrelated-to-the-main-plot street fight with his brother and ends up getting stabbed and then has to go explain it to his boss. Ash’s brother Oliver (Evan Kaminsky, RAISED BY DRAG QUEENS) is a pretty funny character. It’s a cliche to have a veterinarian removing bullets from people (and the movie acts like you don’t know that and are gonna be surprised that he’s not a regular doctor), but this type of lovable rural stoner dude is pretty unusual. And when the house gets attacked he kills a guy with a hammer while wearing red one piece pajamas and bunny slippers and he screams like a maniac and then breaks down and cries about it.
Also it’s a good bit when the kidnappers try to make Jaime remove her dress for their VIP client, and she beats them up and ends up with a sword in hand. The client isn’t mad, he’s impressed, and you wonder if this incident was an accident or if they specifically wanted her because they knew she’d fight back and that this guy had a fetish for it.
I like how when it’s all over (SPOILER) the surviving mobsters scurry Jack out of there with plans of blowing up all the evidence. Sometimes these things can be solved peacefully, but with grenades.
The Jino Kang action hero persona is solid, the skills and choreography are good. In future movies I’d like to see him make the story a little more personal and quirky, a little more his own. Since this one, Kang has co-directed and choreographed a 14-minute short called KID FURY where it sounds like he’s the villain, so he does seem to be mixing things up.
It looks like BLADE WARRIOR is hard to come by now, but I hope some of you can find a way to watch that and FIST 2 FIST and this, and see what you think of this guy.
VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.