Martial artist, acrobat, action performer and choreographer, Dean Alexandrou is the star and writer of this time-looping, action-packed thriller. Also featuring Selina Lo (“The Scorpion King 3”), Ron Smoorenburg (“Who Am I?”), Ammara Siripong (“Chocolate”), Byron Gibson (“Only God Forgives”) and Kecha Khamphakdee (“Asian Connection”). Directed by Daniel Zirilli (Steven Seagal’s “Asian Connection”). Previously titled “Reflex”.
Dean Alexandrou stars as “Alex”, a witness to a murder caught up in a time-loop. Dean is a multi-skilled martial artist and acrobat whose skills have been used in “Batman Begins”, “Tom Yum Goong/The Protector/Warrior King“, and “RED 2”. His pre-visualisation film “Shanty Town Showdown” showcasing his parkour and martial arts skills went viral on YouTube.
Selina Lo plays “Jane”, Alex’s love interest who helps piece the puzzle together. Selina is a Chinese martial arts expert, actress, singer and model, noted for performing her own stunts. She has appeared in “The Prince and Me”, “The Scorpion King 3” and “Shanghai”.
Ron Smoorenburg is the deadly “Prevara Captain”, who chases down Alex. Ron is a Dutch martial artist best known for his classic rooftop fight with Jackie Chan at the end of “Who Am I?”. He has appeared in numerous action roles including Louis Koo’s “Born Wild”, “The Avenging Fist“, and “Ninja II: Shadow of a Tear“.
Byron Gibson plays “Brink”, whose fate is at the heart of Alex’s mission. Byron is a Muay Thai coach who has appeared in Jean-Claude Van Damme’s “Soldiers”, Gary Daniels’ “The Mark”, and the Ryan Gosling film “Only God Forgives”.
Thai stunt co-ordinator Kecha Khamphakdee plays the henchman “Prevara Commander”. Thai actress Ammara Siripong, who appeared in Jeeja Yanin’s “Chocolate”, plays the “Taxi Driver”.
A man called Alex wakes up on some dusty ground, confused and with no memory of who or where he is. He looks at his watch which is counting down 30 minutes. Hearing gunfire, a man appears, chased by three paramilitary security guards. “Remember”, the man tells Alex, before he is shot dead.
On a repeating time loop, Alex, with the help of his girlfriend Jane, must put together the pieces of the puzzle with each reset to uncover who he is, what has happened to him, and how he fits into a sinister experiment by the mysterious Prevara Corporation.
Due to the nature of the plot, the action scenes are actually non-linear and repeat and alter as the film progresses.
The first action scene is a relatively straightforward chase on foot through the alleyways and streets of Bangkok. The exotic and exciting setting looks great as Dean runs along the tracks of the famous Train Market, with a locomotive bearing down on him just a couple of metres behind. Equally picturesque are Bangkok’s rivers, the backdrop for Dean’s escape on a boat.
When we get to the first proper fight scene, the time-loop plot device cleverly uses slow motion to “rewind” the action like the “Prince of Persia” videogame. When it replays forwards, Dean adapts his fighting skills to gain the upper hand. “To be forewarned is to be forearmed”, literally. There are plenty of impressive hits and falls taken by the Thai stuntmen as they tumble from various heights and bounce off the floor.
Ron Smoorenburg is swift and versatile with his powerful punches and kicks. There is a nice little fight in a kitchen when one of the chefs hilariously declares “I know kung fu”! Dean demonstrates his Hong Kong-style timing and skill as he jumps from a building onto the roof of a moving lorry, rolling and bouncing from that to the roof of a taxi, and then to the ground. The sequence concludes with an incredible stunt in which Dean and Ron dive through a hotel window together, and fall some four or five floors in a shower of broken glass to the concrete below, tracked by a camera all the way to the ground. Even though wires were used, it is still a hugely impressive shot to have captured, not least because the camera operator had to fall with the two stunt performers!
As the story flashes to London, Selina Lo shows she is more than capable of looking after herself when she is attacked by a pair of drunks! Using longfist techniques to escape the grabs and punches of her attackers, she dispatches them with a range of high kicks.
When the film resets to the original chase on foot, it adapts and extends as Dean’s memory of events improves. Using some very attractive parkour skills, Dean tries to extend the gap between himself and his pursuers. Ron and his henchmen bulldoze their way through all the obstacles in order to keep up. Dean is chased into a Muay Thai gym, setting up a pair of parallel bruising battles for Ron and his henchman, Kecha Khamphakdee. Ron is like a Terminator, taking full-blooded strikes and kicks to his face and barely flinching, as he relentlessly pursues his prey. Meanwhile Kecha adopts more of an MMA-style as he fights in a cage.
A derelict concrete building proves to be a great location to showcase Dean’s free running skills. In a breathtaking sequence, Dean speeds along narrow ledges, and somersaults, twists and leaps over walls and gaps. Inevitably, Ron catches up with him and what is best described as a kicking duel ensues. The pair deliver combinations of crisp single, double and triple kicks, that seem to change angles when you least expect it. When Kecha catches up with the chase, he reverts to the vicious knee and elbow strikes typically seen in Muay Thai.
As the story extends further, Byron Gibson as Brink breaks out the patients from Prevara, leading to various skirmishes. Ron uses strong and brutal punches and kicks in a fight in a hangar. In a nod to Tony Jaa’s “Ong Bak”, a stuntman somersaults and kicks a pair of henchmen with his legs on fire!
The final fight between Dean and Ron is probably the best of the bunch. Imagine Tony Jaa v Jean-Claude Van Damme! Dean defies gravity with his somersaulting, twisting and spinning kicks. Ron is fast and solid with his bone-crunching roundhouse, side and hook kicks. It’s all shot gloriously wide so the audience can marvel at each fighter’s respective skills.
The story concludes with a spectacular vehicle stunt that you would expect to find in a much bigger budget film, setting up a clever end to the film.
This movie is how you make a calling card! The writer, producer and star Dean Alexandrou told Kung Fu Kingdom in his interview last year, that the best way for him to get a lead role demonstrating his action skills, was to go out and create it himself.
Rather like an old Hong Kong film, the dubbing on the soundtrack exposes the rather clunky and corny dialogue, although there are a couple of funny one-liners. The music score and credits sequence belies the micro-budget of the movie, as does the cinematography. The action is well shot by director Daniel Zirilli and demonstrates wisdom in when to go to handheld, when to go wide etc. He makes good use of the scenic locations in Bangkok and London, especially the Train Market, and a scrapyard full of derelict aircraft. It looks like there is also some drone photography, again giving some scenes the look of a much bigger budget film. It’s also very well edited considering how confusing the narrative could have become. Taking cues from the films “Edge of Tomorrow”, “Jacobs Ladder”, “Memento”, “Limitless”, “Ong Bak” and “District 13”, the story moves along at a cracking pace. It’s basically exposition, action sequence, reset, repeat.
The standout performance for me is Ron Smoorenburg’s bad guy. It reminds me of classic tongue-in-cheek Van Damme, whilst keeping the requisite bad guy tropes. Selina Lo is sassy, sensual and confident as Jane, whilst Dean lets his incredible cocktail of acrobatics and martial arts do the talking.
Considering the obvious budget limitations and poor ADR soundtrack, this is still a very entertaining showcase for some highly skilled and talented action performers, not least Dean Alexandrou himself. Who knows, if it could be remade with a Hollywood budget and polish, this could be a great modern action thriller. As it stands, it’s an impressive example of how to maximise your resources and create action scenes that can compete with, and on occasion even better much bigger productions.
- The film was originally called “Reflex”.
- Inspired by “All You Need is Kill”, the same Manga novel that Tom Cruise’s “Edge of Tomorrow” was based on, work on “Time Rush” actually started many months before its big budget companion!
- Dean Alexandrou was a British blackbelt Taekwondo sparring champion in 2001.
- Selina Lo and Dean Alexandrou starred together in the critically acclaimed short action film “Dohard”.