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Kill And Kill Again
(1981)

Director: Ivan Hall
Cast:
James Ryan, Anneline Kriel, Michael Mayer


With several hundred reviews currently on this web site, I think it's safe to say that I am quite an experienced critic, especially when you add the more than 2400 user comments I have written at the Internet Movie Database for movies I have watched on my free time. Over the many years I have spent writing all of those reviews, I feel pretty confident that I have certainly learned a number of things about various kinds of movies. I've learned that black and white should not be a deterrent when considering a movie. Also, I've learned that art dramas can be just as rewarding as movies where knives are repeatedly stabbed into people. The most important lesson I've learned is that not all Canadian movies suck... though the majority do, in large part because most of these failures are not real movies. But even with all my years of watching and reviewing movies, there are a few film-related questions that would make me pause and think long and hard before answering. One of those questions is: What makes a movie fail instead of succeed? To me, there is no easy answer to that question. With every unsuccessful movie, there are different factors that explain its unique failure. There are some movies that fail because of a lack of enough funds in its budget, which can bring pitfalls ranging from bad special effects to inadequate set dressing. Then there are movies that may have had adequate budgets, but were helmed by people with not enough experience, leading to a botched presentation despite the resources that were available. Then there are movies that may have had enough money and a talented crew, but were beat down by a schedule that didn't give them enough time to properly set up various things that were filmed.

As you can see from what I just wrote, there are many things that can be seen in a movie failure, leading to thousands and thousands of unique cinematic disaster possibilities. It's impossible to boil down what makes a movie fail into just a few words or even a few sentences. To me, what is much easier is to get into what makes a movie succeed. Of course, there are numerous reasons contributing to successful movies, but it is much easier to pin it down when you are dealing with a specific genre. Specifically, a sub genre in a genre. The action genre, for instance, contains many sub genres, ranging from westerns to war movies. I would like to talk about one other action sub genre, and what often makes the successful examples of this sub genre work. The action sub genre that I am talking about is the martial arts genre. I've seen more than my share of martial arts movies, and that has given me a good idea of what makes a successful martial arts movie. One of the key factors of a good martial arts movie is an appealing hero (or heroes.) Is the hero likable? Can the actor playing the protagonist perform better than Lorenzo Lamas? For that matter, a martial arts movie needs a good antagonist as well. Is he hateful enough? Can the actor playing the antagonist perform better than Lorenzo Lamas? Those are all important factors, but the biggest key to making a martial arts movie work to me consists of the fight sequences. Are the fight sequences plentiful both in length and number? Are the fight sequences well choreographed, directed, and edited?

Although I have seen enough martial arts movies in my lifetime to know what more often that not makes each example of this genre work or fail, it has come at a price. I have seen so many martial arts movies that it now takes a lot more to satisfy me than when I first started to watch examples Kill And Kill Againof the genre. In many martial arts movies I watch today, I see stuff that I have seen many times before. That's why I keep an eye out for a martial arts movie that has some kind of fresh angle. When I got my hands on a DVD copy of Kill And Kill Again, I felt I had managed to find a unique martial arts movie. That's because the movie (a sequel to a movie called Kill Or Be Killed) was a co-production between the United States and South Africa. It isn't every day that you come across a South African martial arts movie. I must admit the movie did give me a little pause when I realized it was made during the apartheid era of South Africa, but ultimately my curiosity won out and I sat down to watch it. James Ryan (The January Man) plays Steve Chase, a marital arts champion who in South Africa has just won another tournament. Shortly after picking up his award, he is approached by a woman named Kandy Kane (Kriel) who requests his help. Her scientist father, Dr. Horatio Kane (John Ramsbottom), was kidnapped by evil millionaire Marduk (Michael Mayer) after he accidentally brewed up a mind control formula while trying to come up with a new natural fuel source. With Dr. Kane and the formula at his control, Marduk has managed to take control of a remote mountain village, and threatens to take over much more. Chase agrees to help, though realizing that he cannot do it alone, he recruits four of his friends to accompany him, who each have a special talent ranging from weapons to brute strength. But it soon becomes clear that even with all their skills put together, they have their work cut out for them.

As you could probably determine from that plot description that I wrote in the above paragraph, Kill And Kill Again not only has a good excuse for martial arts action, it also has a good excuse for other kinds of action, like gunplay for instance. Though the movie had a green light for a variety of action, it wouldn't matter if the action wasn't very good. Since your biggest question about Kill And Kill Again probably is how good the action is, I'll examine that aspect of the movie first. The first thing that I feel I should mention that if you sit down to watch this movie with the expectation that you'll also get to see non-martial art action, you will be out of luck. There is virtually no action in the movie that isn't martial art related. Still, I think the majority of action movie fans won't mind this fact as long as the martial arts in the movie are plentiful and well made. And as it turns out, there are not only plenty of martial arts in the movie, these scenes are for the most part well done. There may be some martial art fans that initially are a little dismayed by what is displayed onscreen, namely the fact that the participants move significantly slower and that the choreography isn't as spectacular than what is found in your typical modern day Hong Kong martial arts film. But I think eventually these particular fans will be won over. The martial arts in Kill And Kill Again do come across as more plausible; you can believe that many of these kicks and punches would be what a martial artist in real life would pull off in a similar situation in real life. As a result, a genuine feeling of excitement is built as we sense a genuine struggle. I feel I should also add that not everything about these fights is done with deadly seriousness; there is occasionally a quick moment of comedy relief, like in the movie's opening bout where our hero in the middle of his fight picks up a hotel ashcan and jumps over his opponent while conking him on the head with the ashcan.

Obviously with moments like those, the movie is not supposed to be taken completely serious, and the occasional injected comedy relief does make sure the fight sequences don't become monotonous. Another reason the fights remain interesting is because of the character who performs many of them, Steve Chase. Actor James Ryan does bring in a lot to these fights. He injects a great feeling of brute strength in many of his blows, and he certainly looks the part of a wild warrior with his muscular build and his long shaggy hair. However, when it comes to the parts of the movie when he actually has to act, he is much less convincing. When Ryan has to speak dialogue, his South African accent sometimes makes his words sound somewhat mushy. It doesn't help that the tone of his voice also makes him sound like he's utterly bored no matter the situation. Still, in large part due to his instant charisma, he remains a hero that the audience will be on his side. And he comes across a lot better than some of the other characters in the movie. While you think that the character of Dr. Horatio Kane would play a big of the movie, that's simply not the case. Kane only appears once in the movie's first sixty minutes, and as a result it's hard to feel anything about someone who is hardly there. Equally disappointing is the movie's principle bad guy, Marduk. Although he is (among other things) a kidnapper, a brainwasher, and a megalomaniac, surprisingly he doesn't come across as that bad. He is calm and soft with his words and actions for the most part. As a result, he comes across as not much of a threat; even an over-the-top performance would have been much better than what is displayed here. It doesn't help that this role forces actor Michael Mayer to wear one of the most unconvincing fake beards ever displayed in the history of motion pictures.

Kill And Kill Again does somewhat compensate for this weak villain by pairing him up with a lively and amusing henchwoman (played by Marloe Scott Wilson) who keeps calling him pet names like "pumpkin pie" and "chuckles". She is not the only character who brings some funny comic relief to the movie. The four men that Steve Chase recruits for the mission all bring some amusement in various parts of the movie, like "The Fly" (played by Stan Schmidt), a martial artist who has the ability to levitate. Strangely, this ability is not once used in the mission, maybe because it's visible in one such moment that machinery is being used to lift the actor. There are some other moments that look like some cost-cutting was used, like the flimsy looking barroom set. But for the most part, the movie has acceptable production values. Director Ivan Hall shoots on practical locations for most of the movie, which gives an air of authenticity to the movie, and occasionally adds some flair of his own, like one scene where we see around one hundred martial arts students practicing in the same shot. About the only objection that I have with his direction is the pacing for the first third of the movie. While he does manage to set up the situation quickly - by the six minute mark, as a matter of fact - we have to spend over thirty minutes devoted to Steve Chase recruiting his team. It would have been a lot better for Hall to cut down this section before he filmed it. Despite this problem, and the others I earlier discussed, Kill And Kill Again in the end is a fun martial arts movie. However, I feel that it really should have had another title. (SPOILERS AHEAD.) Despite what the title promises, there is only one person who definitely gets killed in the movie's one hundred minute running time. But plenty of people do get beat up along the way, so that shouldn't be too much of a problem for most viewers.

(Posted August 3, 2018)

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See also: King Of The Kickboxers, Martial Outlaw, Survivor

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