I often wonder what would make a good actor star in a bad film. Of course, the true answer almost always involves money, but I still hold out the hope that there is a greater purpose behind these little thespian mysteries. Did the actor know ahead of time that it was going to be a bad film? Was it a risk that just didn’t pay off? Did he owe someone a favor? Just what exactly would cause an actor to put his career at risk for a paycheck?
Shadow Fury boasts Karate Kid’s Pat Morita on it’s front-…f-box list of stars. Granted, Pat Morita hasn’t exactly been Hollywood’s favorite leading man since teaching Ralph Macchio to wax on and wax of, but I was still surprised to see his name prominently listed on the front of the box for this film. “Maybe this is a hidden gem”, I thought; “a kung-fu diamond in the rough”. The ploy worked, my interest was peaked, and I watched the film.
I knew that I was in for a long evening when Mr. Morita first hit the screen. Dressed in a white lab coat with hair that would rival that of Albert Einstein, my optimism quickly turned to dread for what this film may hold. Morita plays a mad scientist who has created a Ninja clone that is genetically engineered to be a killing machine. Oh my. Even more frightening than the plot was the fact that ‘ol Mr. Myagi dies a mere 15 minutes into the film. When your only star dies 15 minutes in, that certainly doesn’t bode well for the rest of the film.
There are so many things horribly wrong with this film, that posting a laundry list if its flaws might create a review of an unmerited and misleading length. The script, casting, acting, sound, lighting, camera work and stunts are all equally horrid. From start to painful finish, this is a movie that is stuffed full of clichés, from the one-dimensional bad guy to the hooker with the heart of gold.
This film has all of the subtlety and nuance of a video game. A bad one.
The audio track for this film, much like every other aspect the disc, lacks depth. I’m afraid that Dolby Stereo is the only option here, and it’s not even a good stereo track. The film uses a very narrow sound field, compressing all of the sound into one small area around the television screen. Dialog is muddled, and often sounds as if it were recorded from a distance. Tones are compressed into a small dynamic range, and they come out sounding tinny and flat. This, coupled with the horrible ‘80’s horror movie soundtrack, makes for a very weak audio presentation, indeed.
Not to be out-sucked, the video also gets in on the act, with a truly regrettable offering. Blemishes are present throughout the film, and while not overwhelming, there are enough of them to distract from the film (not that you’d be missing anything).
The picture suffers from major problems when it comes to the basics of filmmaking, namely with regards to keeping the cameras in focus. Many shots meander aimlessly and out of focus, and some are perpetually blurry, resulting in a very low-budget and amateurish feel. Likewise, lighting is shoddy, with areas of shadow being far too dark, and points of light being harsh and penetrating. As if that weren’t enough, there are also some major flaws with color accuracy, and much of the film has a very bland feel.
I’m not saying that I could have done a better job on this film with my Mac, but I’d certainly be willing to give it a shot.
Theatrical trailers are the order of the day here. There is one for Shadow Fury, and the trailer that has become a standard on all current Lion’s Gate releases, Godsend. While I would normally be clamoring for more extras, in this case I am grateful for the merciful decision to put as little extra content on this disc as possible. The less there is of this title to watch, the better.
Martial arts films aren’t made to tell great stories, display brilliant filmmaking techniques, or present witty dialog… they are made to showcase excellent athletes and fighting choreography. Unfortunately, this film has none of those traits. Bad acting , poor filmmaking, a weak script and average action makes this a film to miss.
Special Features List