|AKA : Rise And Fail|
|Year : 2012 Reviewer : Andrew Skeates|
|A few years back the San Francisco action collective known as The Stunt People proverbially kicked the martial arts movie in the face with their immense feature debut, ‘Contour’. They return, after various shorts, live shows and general kicking people in the face, with their sophomore feature ‘Death Grip’. While this new fight flick features various aspects that made ‘Contour’ so successful (comedy and kung fu), Eric Jacobus and his Stunt crew go in a slightly different direction for this outing and produce equally entertaining and full on fighting results.Jacobus stars (as well as writes, directs, action choreographs and if the bloopers are anything to go by, provides some of the sets) as Kenny, a one time loser recently made the guardian of his autistic brother Mark (Hoskins), who has been released from care. Letting Mark tag along on a last minute catering gig Kenny has got, providing food for a museum exhibition, Kenny and Mark soon find themselves in danger when an armed and masked gang storm the proceedings with the intention of stealing a priceless coin. The gang are from a mysterious cult and want the coin, which wields special powers, so their leader can use it in a ceremony in order to ascend the ranks of the cult. Trouble is, Mark, who through his special knack for remembering key codes, has the coin. It’s not long before they’ve snatched Mark and high tailed it with Kenny in tow. Luckily for Kenny and unfortunately for the bad guys, Kenny knows how to kick ass (most of the time!) and kick some ass he does.
The Stunt People are one of the most creative action, and comedy, teams out there today. Managing to find an almost perfect balance between laughs and thrills, ‘Death Grip’ may be a more serious film than ‘Contour’ but it is still as packed with chuckles, as it is with action. However, the comedy on show here is more subtle and inventive and never detracts from the serious aspects of the plot: kidnap, strange cult sacrificing people, full on violent action. Much of the comedy comes from the gentle relationship between Kenny and Mark as they begin to reconnect (attempting to play baseball and failing miserably) and Mark’s little quirks as he attempts to readjust to everyday life again (replacing the top quiche on a pile of quiches every time somebody takes the top one so the pile always looks perfect: a subtle, tiny moment but possibly the funniest in the entire film). Actually, the funniest moment has to be the scene involving the rather sensitive sensor on a broken toilet that befuddles our two leads and then plays a hilarious part in a fight scene when bad guy Johnny Yong Bosch turns up. Ok, that might not make much sense reading that (an electronic toilet both funny and instrumental in a fight scene!) but it all works perfectly and is just one of many scenes that makes ‘Death Grip’ so damn enjoyable.
But, this being The Stunt People what about the action? Well, and non-surprisingly, it’s brilliant. While not as thick on the ground as in ‘Contour’, the fight scenes are absolutely worth the wait. Crisp, full of creativity and in ‘Death Grip’s case, often bloody, The Stunt People continue to excel in fight choreography and creativity: from the aforementioned toilet fight scene, to a wicked knife fight scene (which shows you don’t need lots of ridiculous editing to convince a viewer something cool is actually happening!) to the one-on-one between Jacobus and Yong Bosch (we should have had more of this, please!) the fights are full on, toe-to-toe, fist-to-fist confrontations. Not to mention continuously inventive (Kevin’s trick of imagining what he thinks the fight will go like and then the actual, much more painful, reality unfolding) and fun to watch (the genius fight in the dark!).
Ok, I could wax lyrical about the film for a while longer as ‘Death Grip’ really is great stuff from a director and team who know how to put a fight film together. Needless to say, this is a great follow up to ‘Contour’ and another success for The Stunt People.
DEATH GRIP is a great example of what talented people can do with so very little. This is a kung-fu movie that mixes high velocity action scenes with imaginative sometimes funny character moments. This is a character driven story. It may not seem like much at first but give it about ten minutes. Things just get better and better. I think I discovered this movie on Twitch Film. There was a clip of two guys duking it out in high speed fashion. I was hooked. I couldn’t believe this was a low budget film. It certainly didn’t seem like it watching this fight unfold. These guys were fast and it really looked like they were hurting each other. I was getting worn out watching our hero go blow for blow with some guy with knives. That’s not a big deal I guess. I get winded just sitting down and turning on the television.
The story is about Kenny (Eric Jacobus) and his brother Mark (played by Zach Galifianakis. Nah, I’m just messin with ya. He is actually played by a very talented Nathan Hoskins.) who get mixed up with some cult who want a silver coin that was paid to Judas for the betrayal of Christ. Cults are always fun to punch in the face. Mark is autistic but he is a genius with combinations and unlocking locks. It is that gift that gets him and his brother Kenny involved with a museum heist. The bad guys end up capturing Mark and a museum worker named Rindy played by Rebecca Ahn. What kind of name is Rindy? Maybe IMDB messed up the name. Rindy? Now Kenny has to go save them and punch the bad guys in the face very very hard.
DEATH GRIP is similar in it’s story structure to more of a classic Hong Kong style martial arts film. There is a blend of bloody serious violence, strong character drama and light hearted comedy as well as some dark comedy. There is a mix of emotions throughout the film and that is DEATH GRIP’s biggest strength. It isn’t easy doing something like that. There is a balance that sometimes doesn’t work shaking up the tone of a film to unwatchable proportions. Eric Jacobus gets this. He isn’t making your typical martial arts film. The elements at play go hand in hand delivering a unique and wonderful movie watching experience. There is a lot to appreciate here. By the end of the film you have grown to love our two heroes and ultimately its not fast fists or high kicks that save the day. Its a brother’s love. I’m getting all teary eyed just writing that last sentence. Another unique thing about DEATH GRIP is how the director plays with audience expectations. Throughout the film we see Kenny kicking serious butt only to back track and show that the badassery that took place before our eyes was only happening in the character’s head. Now normally I would say not to do that but it is incorporated in such a clever way that you can help but laugh and have a good time when it happens. At times Kenny will get punched in the face or beaten to a pulp because he was caught at the moment day dreaming when he should have been “opening a can of whoop ass.” What is going on in the movie doesn’t stop just because our hero drifts off into his imagination.
The fights are phenomenal. Eric Jacobus not only stars but also directs DEATH GRIP. He and his Stunt People crew understand how to perfectly shoot and execute a fighting scene. These guys have it down to a science. There are no wires or fast edits mixed with excessive shaky cam. We see everything in sometimes long continuous takes. The fights are fast and they leave a lasting impact. You can tell what is happening. I wish I knew kung-fu. All I know when confronted with a fight is how to hide under some coats and hope that somehow everything will work itself out okay. One fight reminded me of the hallway fight in OLDBOY. Kenny is fighting a bunch of guys and the fight is a little sloppy like in real life and he is beating up these cult members and they are beating him up at the same time ending with them all jumping on top of him. If you don’t like anything about this film at least you can say that the fights are awesome. They are way better than the fights you would see in a Bourne film or any other big budgeted mainstream film.
Movies like DEATH GRIP need to be supported. The acting is solid with some nice performances from the villains as well as our heroes. I would like to see Eric Jacobus in more action films. He has a strong screen presence and he knows how to kick butt. I hope in the future he does more films but next time the truly badass moments do not take place in the character’s imagination. He could be the next Tony Jaa if he plays his cards right. Maybe we will see him next in THE EXPENDABLES 3. If you want to impress your friends when throwing down knowledge of great kung-fu flicks mention DEATH GRIP. You will be the coolest in your world of cinematic Nerdom. Watch it with the commentary on for some good insights and funny moments between stars Eric Jacobus and Rebecca Ahn.
Buy it here, folks.
At last year’s Comic Con, one of my favorite sessions was on martial arts films – plenty of Donny Yuen and Thai kickboxing films. So I made a point of attending it again this year. There was one Donny Yuen film, some awful stuff that ranged from fun to unwatchable, and a really impressive indie effort from The Stunt People that reminded me of the old Jackie Chan films, both in terms of action and physical humor. I liked the clips so much that I searched out their booth on the exhibit floor (turns out they were adjacent to Troma) to buy the DVD, which has a lot of interesting and inspiring special feature bits on the history of The Stunt People and the development of Death Grip (the star/writer spent six years on the script!)
by Kelly Miller
Eric Jacobus helped start the Stunt People back in 2001. Since then, they’ve worked on countless short films and projects. Their first feature film, Contour, debuted back in 2006, and featured solid action and intricate choreography, but was lacking in a deep story. This time, in the spirit of the Action Kickback, the team focused on a more story-driven film that still had solid fights. Would Death Grip be able to satisfy without sacrificing the action?
As expected, the story to Death Grip is the main motivation for all of the sequences that follow. It is simple enough to create a foundation, yet has enough going for it to keep people interested. The events don’t feel forced in, and all of the action flows nicely. I wish that more characters got the same attention to backstory that the main characters got, but it’s a tiny gripe in an otherwise strong story.
Like the story, the main 2 characters are the most interesting while the supporting cast has a little less to go off of. That being said, the relationship between Kenny and Mark feels very natural. You can sense the history between these two people, and it’s what make you root for them. They are people with real pasts and tragic histories that shaped who they are they are now. Johnny Yong Bosch plays a strong villain who’s not inherently bad, while Alvin Hsing masterfully plays a truly twisted character.
This is where the Stunt people truly shine. The fights are fast and intense. I absolutely loved some of the longer takes and little stunts that were sprinkled in. What make the fights truly shine, though, are the situations that are created. Each fight has its own personality and feel, and it’s apparent that a lot of thought went into these. One of my favorite fights is one that takes the term “toilet humor” to a whole new level. If you like fights, you won’t be disappointed.
I should point out that there are certain segments that play out more like a “what if” scenario. There are some moments when it is difficult to determine what is truly happening and what is simply imagined. Even though this can be a small hiccup, it actually gives the Stunt People the opportunity to film the same fights twice, and I’m not complaining about the quality of them. Oh, and those that are slightly squeamish might be uncomfortable for some sequences, but they are done very well.
Own it, Watch it, or Skip it?
Death Grip is a film that took a lot of risks and showed the team’s growth. It has a deeper story and more interesting fights. The team’s humor has also grown, with excellent timing and delivery. It’s safe to say that Death Grip succeeded on everything that it set out to do, and made a lot of people sit up and take notice as well. Death Grip is easily worth a watch, but warrants a buy for anyone who appreciates martial arts films. You can tell it was made by people who love their craft, and it’s one that will compliment anyone’s DVD library.
Death Grip is an indie martial arts movie by writer/director/star Eric Jacobus. It centers on a sought-after coin, a satanic cult that steals it, and a man who must save his autistic brother. It’s a nice set-up for some no-frills ass kickery, like the above knife fight. The camera isn’t too shaky, the movement of the actors isn’t obscured, and the choreography looks pretty stellar.
I’m interesting in seeing the whole thing if the action in this fight and the trailer is indicative of the rest of the movie. Death Grip makes its premiere at the Bal Theater in San Leandro on June 30th. If it was showing a month later, I would definitely be there, possibly picking knife fights.
After the cut is the trailer for Death Grip. Be sure to check out the official Death Grip website for more info.
by Matthew Kelly
One of the great things about writing for websites is the occasional perk of getting to go to conventions for free (or at the very least for the cost of a plane ticket and hotel room). The last two years I’ve attended San Diego Comic Con with the wonderful Geekscape.net (they’re the best news site on the web, follow them on Twitter). Both years we were located next to Stunt People the team behind Death Grip.
As the name implies Stunt People is a group of stuntmen and women who have branched out to make movies of their own. They have been working on Death Grip for a few years and I’m excited that the film will finally be coming out just in time for Comic Con this year. In order to promote their June 30th premiere the team has released a new fight sequence clip to get you pumped up!
In Death Grip a lowly caterer Kenny tries to straighten up his life after gaining custody of his autistic brother Mark. While on a catering gig in the local museum Mark unwittingly entangles them in a dangerous heist involving the museums mysterious centerpiece and murderous satanic cult.
The film is premiering at the Historic Bal Theatre in San Leandro, CA on June 30th. Tickets are $10 and doors are at 6:30PM if you live in California you don’t want to miss this premiere so buy your tickets now
Death Grip is written, directed and starring Eric Jacobus and features Nathan Hoskins, Johnny Yong Bosch, Rebecca Ahn and Chelsea Steffensen
by Danny (Templegod) Shamon
Above Pic: Poster for Death Grip (Joe Golling poster credit)
Action is Eric’s middle name! Get ready for Death Grip, a full on action film with real fighting no wimps allowed! These guys know how to film, edit, and shoot a fight scene and I am ready for the action feature film style!
A special screening of Eric Jacobus’ Death Grip. The Premiere is on Saturday June 30th 2012 @ 7pm, at the Bal Theatre in San Leandro, CA.
Like them on Facebook @ https://www.facebook.com/DeathGripMovie
Check out the trailer @ http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vtl704xNVwM
http://www.facebook.com/events/283120995105774/ Facebook Event
The tickets are on sale at http://tinyurl.com/DeathGripMoviePremiere
More info, review, and interviews will follow shortly on Dan’s Movie Report keep reading or get your A// kicked!