If you want to make an action movie that’s going to stand the test of time, you need money. That’s been the cardinal rule of filmmaking since the days of Charlie Chaplin. Then, along comes a no-budget indie effort like “Extreme Heist” (aka “Wicked Game”) to laugh hellaciously in the face of that logic, while wowing viewers a devil-may-care stunt or insane martial arts fight every five minutes.
Produced by the Alpha Stunts team of “Power Rangers” fame, “Extreme Heist” is a testimony to the kind of astonishing action stunt pros can pull off on a shoe-string budget – while leaving visions of what they could pull off with $100 million just dancing in your head!
Johnny Yong Bosch and Jason Narvy assume the role of the film’s anti-heroes, Billy Ray Leung and Guile Lyndon, professional thieves chasing their next big score. Motoko Nagino portrays undercover detective Kim Matsuda, while Michael Hexum tackles the role of the film’s heavy, Michael.
George Cheung also appears as Christopher, Kim’s duplicitous superior on the police force, while Paul Schirer makes a brief but amusing appearance as a bartender named “Mom”, engaging in a little comedic banter with Narvy to recall their Bulk and Skull days on “Power Rangers”.
Following an unsuccessful bid to steal a case of diamonds, professional thieves Billy Ray Leung and Guile Lyndon find themselves stranded in a small town in the Mojave Desert.
However, they soon have a chance to score again after stumbling upon a vacant warehouse and uncovering a money laundering plot. Billy Ray and Guile think they’ve siphoned off all the stolen money after stealing a book full of bank access codes, but Michael, the leader of the illicit operation, has no intention of letting them make off with his stolen dough.
The situation is further complicated when Kim Matsuda strikes Guile’s fancy at a bar, with he and Billy Ray not knowing she’s an undercover detective monitoring the heist. With Michael and his gang in hot pursuit, Billy Ray and Guile must do their best to stay one step ahead of their enemy, an endeavor made more difficult by the fact that Michael’s partner in crime, Christopher, happens to also be Kim’s superior.
Right out of the gate, saying “Extreme Heist” was made for pennies would be an understatement. If it wasn’t for its early 2000’s release, you’d be forgiven for thinking that it was shot on a cell phone, and nothing suggests there was much of a budget in place for renting sets or doing location scouting. And yet, none of that matters in the slightest, since “Extreme Heist” is concerned exclusively with wowing you with one outrageous stunt or wild martial arts fight after another.
Just in the first ten minutes alone, which involves skydiving and a car chase through the desert, it seems that much more miraculous that no one died making the film, both from the pedigree of the stunt work, and the fact that everyone involved was clearly working for peanuts.
There’s simply no way to overstate just how much the players involved put their bodies on the line with such stunts as leaping out of, and then back onto, a moving truck, being tossed off a rickety shack as a car barrels into it, or being kicked twenty feet onto a bale of hay. And, once more, this is a movie whose budget is clearly in the neighborhood of “practically nothing”.
The absence of a Jackie Chan-style end credits outtake reel frankly feels like the most glaring omission of all, as there were doubtless injuries and mishaps on this no-budget action masterpiece. Has anyone ever been kicked down a whole staircase and just stood up to shake it off and keep going on four cracked ribs? It certainly seems like the folks who made “Extreme Heist” have.
“Extreme Heist” is also no less breathtaking in its fighting action, which is further elevated by its extremely low budget. Admittedly, the opening on the Las Vegas strip is a little on the jarring side, with Billy Ray flipping into action against a fellow diamond thief, with no real context given until the skydiving stunt (which itself just jumps right into the heat of things).
However, it is nevertheless absolutely mesmerizing to see Johnny Yong Bosch soar into action in each fight. While far from the slapstick tone of his “Power Rangers” days, the film is fairly lighthearted and even comedic at times in the action, leaving the viewer to laugh and wince simultaneously. That’s certainly bound to be anyone’s reaction in the throwaway moment when Billy Ray dodges an opponent’s punch, with said opponent’s fist hitting the wall behind him. Our hero also encounters quite the challenge in the bone-headed but formidable Michael, who proves to be quite the adept fighter himself and a real test of Billy Ray’s dexterity throughout the film.
Picking a single highlight is tough, but the showdown in an airplane hangar is a true sizzle reel of Bosch’s abilities, as our hero runs circles around a dozen opponents before facing off with Michael once more. On top of that (minor spoiler warning), for a movie that hits us with a skydiving sequence so early on, it’s cool that “Extreme Heist” finds a way to bring that full circle in the end.
If ever an action movie benefited from lowered expectations, it’s “Extreme Heist”. The cinematography is barely above that of a home movie, and the film just about wears its budgetary restrictions as a badge of honour. And yet, those limits only serve to make the film’s incredible stunt work and outstanding martial arts action that much more impressive.
Additionally, Johnny Yong Bosch and Jason Narvy further elevate the film with their excellent buddy-movie chemistry, and give viewers a real emotional investment in our two anti-heroes. For “Extreme Heist” to come together this well despite a near-total dearth of resources and opportunities for death around every corner is truly a minor miracle, and one for true action FUcionados to absolutely relish!
- The film’s directors, Koichi Sakamoto and Makoto Yokoyama, appear early in the film as the two thieves Billy Ray and Guile are trying to steal the diamonds from.
- In addition to his film and television work, Jason Narvy holds a PhD. in Theater Studies from the University of California, and is currently an associate professor in the Theatre Department at Chicago’s Concordia University.
- Motoko Nagino is the wife of co-director Koichi Sakamoto. She would later appear alongside Johnny Yong Bosch in “Broken Path”, which Sakamoto also directed.
- “We’re only five miles from the nearest town. It could be fifty!” – Billy Ray (offering a silver lining to Guile after their failed diamond heist.)
- “Better to burn out than to fade away.” – Billy Ray’s signature (on a playing card, directly quoting Def Leppard’s song “Rock of Ages”.)