Are you a martial arts movie lover? Do you have a sweet tooth for twisted endings? If you answered “yes” to one or both of those questions, “Die Fighting” is a movie that you cannot afford to miss. The first feature film from independent action filmmakers: Z-Team Films, “Die Fighting” assaults the viewer with a non-stop parade of show-stopping martial arts action, then completely changes the context of everything they’ve just seen with a twisted ending worthy of “The Sixth Sense”!
The major cast is comprised of three of the four members of Z-Team Films, all of whom use their real names. Fabien Garcia leads the way both as leading man and director, in addition to numerous other duties. He’s aided in his efforts by two of his fellow Z-Team members, Laurent “Lohan” Buson of “Merantau” fame and his real-life brother Didier, with Jess Allen rounding out the four eponymous leads. Adelyne Dandan Liu portrays Fabien’s wife Meilu, who finds herself at the mercy of a mysterious sadist known only as “The Filmmaker”, played by Dave Vescio and seen mostly from behind by the viewer.
Z-Team Films, a group of highly skilled martial artists and aspiring action stars consisting of Fabien Garcia, Jess Allen, and brothers Lohan and Didier Buson, are bound and determined to break into the action film industry. They’ve already released a well-received short film, and although their uphill battle to get their feet in Hollywood’s door continues, the group remains ever optimistic and determined to achieve their dream. Following Fabien’s birthday, their big break presents itself, just not in the way they had hoped. The group receives a phone-call from a mysterious figure known only as “The Filmmaker”, who informs them that he plans to give them the shot at superstardom that they’ve been hoping for. This is to be achieved through an intricate series of hidden cameras throughout Los Angeles. To ensure their co-operation, The Filmmaker has also kidnapped Fabien’s wife, Meilu, leaving the group with little choice but to play along in the shadowy villain’s perversely improvised martial arts thriller.
“Die Fighting” spends roughly its first seven minutes setting up all the pieces on its chessboard, with the remainder of the film consisting primarily of one superbly crafted action sequence after another. At the whim of The Filmmaker, our four leads quickly become fugitives from the law after being forced to rob an armoured truck, and must alternately dodge the LAPD while being coerced into fighting opponents of their puppet master’s choosing, all for the sake of his “movie”. The film frequently has the feel of a horror movie to it. The Filmmaker’s distorted voice and behind-the-scenes string pulling feels like something out of the “Saw” movies, and anyone whose every wanted to see a dash of martial arts thrown into the “Paranormal Activity” series will basically get their wish through the seemingly endless series of hidden cameras the villain has placed all throughout Los Angeles. The enemies that they face throughout the film are chosen by the Filmmaker specifically to fit the purposes of his “movie”. This leads to Fabien being forced to act out half the “script” on his own while his three compatriots are sent on a parallel mission comprising the other half. It also leads to some of the most sensational action scenes you’re likely to see this year.
The word “stunning” comes to mind when describing the Z-Team’s skills but even that doesn’t fully do justice to what they are capable of! When he starts moving, Fabien is simply unbelievable. His solo outing pits him against mobsters in a church, students in a local karate dojo, and low-level thugs in one of L.A.’s rougher neighborhoods. Choosing the best of these is akin to determining which bar of gold is the shiniest, but the last one stands out due to the Filmmaker’s insistence that Fabien employ Drunken Fist to fight off his foes. Fabien is skeptical of its effectiveness in combat then goes on to prove himself wrong moments later. Just how many times in the 21st century have you seen Drunken Fist put to use on film, and with the same kind of grace and power that Jackie Chan used to immortalize the art in “Drunken Master”?
The parallel quest of Fabien’s three friends is just as engaging, beginning with a video-game-like sequence where they are forced to evade a pursuing SWAT team in a warehouse with the Filmmaker’s guidance. Anyone who’s seen “Merantau” already knows what Lohan Buson can do, and he certainly doesn’t rest on his laurels! He may well have found a trademark technique in the form of launching an axe kick. He grabs his foot at its high point to put himself into a full standing-split then lets it land on his enemy -he puts this to use three or four times throughout the film. His brother Didier’s scene-stealing moment comes when he is pitted against a crime boss played by Xin Wuku of the EMC Monkeys, and “two gravity-defying monkeys battling to the death” is a pretty apt approximation of seeing the two of them wage war on one another. Still, it’s the finale of the film that is guaranteed to leave every viewer’s jaw in their laps. Not just for the spectacular final fight in which Fabien takes on an opponent who shall remain unidentified, employing the much-beloved Guyver Kick while he does, but for the twisted-up ending that COMPLETELY pulls the rug out from under the viewer’s feet. This will leave them as shocked and dazed as the characters themselves…!
“Die Fighting” has very clearly been made by guys who have both had a lot of training and seen a lot of movies. The abilities the Z-Team exhibit on screen are the kind that leaves the viewer wondering whether wires were involved when they know for a fact they weren’t. Jackie Chan and Tony Jaa would absolutely love “Die Fighting” – what more of an endorsement could anyone possibly need eh?
- Like their characters in the film, Fabien Garcia and Lohan Buson trained at China’s legendary Shaolin Temple, as did their fellow Z-Team member Yannick Van Dam, who served as executive producer for “Die Fighting”.
- In addition to appearing in the film and directing it, Fabien Garcia also served as the film’s editor, digital compositor, writer and action director.
- Lohan and Didier Buson also served as fight choreographers for the film.