Wicked Game aka Extreme Heist (2002)

(On DVD, July 2003) Now here’s a real curiosity: On one hand, this straight-to-video release is in many way the most horrible thing you’ve ever seen passed as a putative “movie”: muddy digital film quality, dumb plotting and some of the worst acting you’re ever likely to see. (No joke nor hyperbole! Motoko Nagino is one hot Asian lady, but her line delivery is atrocious!) And yet, despite the micro-budget, the movie periodically erupts in a flurry of eye-popping stunts and cool action sequences. In many ways, this is a lot like an American early-Jackie Chan film, a comparison made easy by the raw, goofy charm of lead actor Johnny Yong Bosch. Intricate fight scenes, heart-stopping stunt driving and a nifty parachute climax pepper the inane plot like so many unexpected goodies. In this case, even the micro-budget becomes an advantage, as there’s scarcely any place for CGI trickery, stunt doubles or fancy camera angles; everything feels dangerously real. (One standout shot has a protagonist hanging on top of a crashing car, inside a shack, hitting his head against a low wood beam! Ow!) As the film advances, it becomes clear that this is practically a stunt demo reel, strung together by a small crew in order to gain experience and have some fun. Considered this way, Extreme Heist is far more sympathetic, a little unpretentious movie that does because it can. Heck, considered this way I might even recommend that you take a look. The DVD edition is marred by an awful digital transfer and contains no special features: a real shame considering the making-of story that must lie behind the film!

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