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The Fifth Commandment
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After witnessing the brutal murder of his parents as a young boy, Chance Templeton (Rick Yune - THE FAST AND THE FURIOUS, DIE ANOTHER DAY) is taken in by a ruthless killer (Keith David - DIRTY, CRASH) and raised to follow in his footsteps. An assassin's trade is solitary by nature, but Chance shares a tight bond with his adopted brother, Miles (Bokeem Woodbine - TV's "SAVING GRACE," RAY), who's elected a more honorable path working as a bodyguard for a sultry pop star (Dania Ramirez - TV's "HEROES"). When Chance is contracted to gun down his brother's client, he realizes there is finally a line he cannot cross. Uniting with his brother to stave off an expected hit, Chance finds himself targeted by the elite members of his own profession as he struggles to protect a woman who stubbornly rejects his services. Set against the steamy backdrop of Bangkok, this action thriller is bursting with some of the meanest stunts and fight scenes. This is high-octane action at it's best.
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Rick Yune achieves the trifecta. Once a hedge fund trader (and, in fact, the film is partly financed by his contacts in the hedge fund district), Yune stars, writes, and co-produces THE FIFTH COMMANDMENT. And maybe that's too many hats to assume. The stuff he wrote, we've seen it all before. Again, in an action flick, the usually bare bones plot is there only to prop up the action sequences. But what if the action itself is less than fresh?
In 1976, we eyeball the Jazz Man (Keith David), an assassin who is as cool as the other side of the pillow. In the midst of a gun fight, the Jazz Man ends up saving a young boy. He takes the boy in, calls him "Chance," and, as fathers are wont to do, teaches him his profession. Except that this is something the Jazz Man wants his real son, Miles, to have no part of. Still, Miles and Chance grow close. Until Miles abandons the fam.
Cut to the present, and Chance (Rick Yune) has made his father proud, having become one of the world's top contract killers. But Chance balks when his next target, a sultry R & B artist named Angel (Dania Ramirez), reunites him with his long-lost adoptive brother Miles (Bokeem Woodbine) who is on Angel's security detail. Having turned down his latest mark, Chance warns Miles that his client will soon fall in the crosshairs of Chance's murderous replacement. Now Chance and Miles must partner up to fend off Chance's colleagues, specifically the sadistic husband-and-wife hit team called Collateral Damage ("They love killin' as much as they love each other."). I love the smell of dysfunction in the morning.
The exotic backdrop of Bangkok is mostly wasted in this lackluster film. Action that blisters? No, brother. An action hero that turns your head? No, sir. Yune demonstrates minimal flair as a smiter of men. His fight scenes just don't pop. And he doesn't even get to take out the movie's big bad. Yune was attempting to showcase a fighting system called "52 Blocks" which originated in prison and which involves the use of space and certain rhythms. Except that this technique isn't really translated onscreen, and so we're stuck with generic shoot-'em-ups and anemic fighty fights.
Acting-wise, Yune channels Michael Dudikoff at his most laconic. Rick Yune is so expressionless here, he makes professional poker players fidget. The drama plays out in dreary fashion. The actors are weighed down by forced and tedious dialogue. The two most charismatic players happen to be Keith David and Bokeem Woodbine, but even they can't salvage the script. Characters pop up out of nowhere and do a scene and then are disposed of (I'm mostly looking at you, Russian police interrogator). Some stuff bothered me more than others, and I guess I'll drop a SPOILER alert now for the rest of this paragraph. The speech that Angel weepingly delivers after the break-out from the Bangkok police precinct feels non-sequitur and so awkward, as if the writer moments before had just remembered he had to give her a backstory. There's a tired scene which borrows from THE TERMINATOR as the big bad storms the police precinct. One glaring plot hole near the end concerns Angel's over-reacting to what happens to Chance's adoptive dad whom she had never seen before. And if you haven't guessed from jump who's behind the contract on Angel's life, then would you be interested in purchasing Steven Seagal's ponytail? (I also have Van Damme's infamous forehead knot stored in a jar. And Dudikoff's Emmy.)
Do yourself a favor. Get out of the house and see THE RAID: REDEMPTION. Rick Yune wishes he had Iko Uwais's moves... not to mention his screen presence.
I will say that while actress Dania Ramirez gets stranded with a pretty thankless and objectified role, there's no denying that she looks very, very good.
The DVD's bonus stuff:
- "Creating THE FIFTH COMMANDMENT" - an interview with Rick Yune as he discusses his experience in acting in and writing the film, as well as the challenges he faced in producing it (00:18:48 minutes)
- "The Stunts of THE FIFTH COMMANDMENT" - an interview with director Jesse Johnson and stunt coordinator Garret Warren, the most interesting bit of which is when Johnson enthusiastically speaks of Yune's remarkable commitment and his tireless efforts in his many hats during the film's shooting (00:25:53 minutes)
I watched the special features.
On the evidence from this film, Rick Yune is not a talented actor, nor a talented martial artist. However, he has real heart! You should hear him talk about his passion for creating this film, for driving everything forward in the face of adversity, for wanting to produce something that his friends could be proud of. And not least, for wanting to create an experience that would touch people. (Sentiments echoed by director Jesse Jackson.)
Sadly, the film simply doesn't live up to that. But when you've heard his words, it's impossible to look at the film in the same light. For instance, there's a car chase. A very forgetable car chase. Nothing at all that would make you tell your friends that they just had to see it. Nothing about it would even be worthy of mentioning! So why do I mention it? Because it's only in the interview section you learn of the production problems they had which led to the car chase being filmed in the way it was.
That explosion in the intro which looks like over-the-top CGI - watch it, listen to the interview, and then judge it!
My greatest disappointment was in the martial arts department. Or, to be specific - the lack of such. With mentions of Ong Bak on the cover, I was expecting something..., well, just something. There's VERY little. And what there is, isn't filmed/edited well at all. It's very difficult to follow the action, which watching martial arts is all about. There's a half decent fight at the end, but really, the rest is mainly just shooting, but with the odd angle of an elbow strike, cut to a backfist, cut to... YOu know what I mean.
Again, the interviews - they purposefully tried to film in a different way to please both Asian and Western audiences - sadly it didn't work!
The fighting itself - again they tried to portray a different style of combat that hadn't been seen before. Sadly, maybe the reason it hadn't been seen is that it simply isn't that thrilling, that cinematic. Or simply that they choreographed/filmed it badly. Who knows.
However, now I know what they were trying to do, I have a greater appreciation of the final results.
I will watch this film again, but this time with a greater appreciation.
So, the film gets 2 stars for content, 1 star for passion, 1 star for trying to be inventive against the odds.