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DVD Review

DVD cover



Starring: Danny John-Jules, Joey Ansah and Mark Strange
Action Extreme
RRP: £15.99
Certificate: 15
Available 18 May 2009

In the shadows of an English suburb twelve men fight to win. They fight for a prize fund of £500,000. Pitting their strength and their martial art skills against each other. Only the strongest can claim victory...

Underground (2007 - 1 hr, 27 min, 15 sec) is not at all like a box of chocolates. Here you really do know what you are going to get as director Chee Keong Cheung delivers a by-the-numbers fight tournament movie, which lacks much in the way of a coherent script - just enough to skim the action and add a little motivation - so you think you’re seeing much more than twelve men beating the living daylights out of each other. However, the film never has any pretensions to be anything other than what it is; a good excuse to film a bunch of fights. The movie looks to be shot on DV so some of the scenes are a little over bright.

On the plus side the fights are stylishly shot and well edited and should please fans of this genre. The acting is variable, but then this isn’t supposed to be a deep and meaningful experience.

For an independent film which has obviously been made on a shoe string the disc boasts a set of extras which would put some of the major studios to shame. First up is Behind the Scenes (8 min, 13 sec) in which you learn that the director wanted to showcase the actors natural talent, so when you’re sitting there being impressed with their moves, you’ll be even more impressed that there is no wire work in the film. What you see is what they really can do. I have to admit that it impressed the hell out of me. Next up is Anatomy of a Fight Scene (3 min, 08 sec) showing fighters practising their moves before they are committed to camera. It has a comparison between the practice moves and how they appeared on the screen. Next we swing round to take in seven cast interviews with Joey Ansah - The Model (11 min, 41 sec); Mark Strange - The Homeless (4 min, 25 sec); Zara Phythian - The Teacher (2 min, 15 sec); Nathan Lewis - The Ex-Convict (2 min, 45 sec); Beau Fowler - The Delinquent (5 min, 23 sec); Leon Sua - The Triad (5 min, 23 sec) and Chris Smith - The Soldier (2 min, 17 sec). The interviews are pretty similar with the actors discussing their personal form of martial art, how they got their part in the film and their hopes for the future. Honestly, I had no idea of what they were talking about most of the time but this should be well worth a look if you are into martial arts.

Taking only enough time to breathe in, the disc continues with twelve deleted scenes (10 min, 30 sec), although none of the missing footage would have particularly added anything to the film. You get eight TV spots and trailers, cast and crew biographies and production art. The disc finishes off with a look at Pain and Glory, the Uk’s premier mixed martial arts showcase and a trailer for Cheung’s follow up film Bodyguard - A New Beginning (2 min, 25 sec).

It’s difficult to think where to place this film. As a movie it’s plainly not a great one as it lacks character development or a developing narrative, but then it doesn’t pretend that this is the reason to watch. The reason to watch is to experiencing the impressive fight sequences, many of which are better than a lot of Hollywood’s output. So low marks for the film, but high marks for the action and for the value of the DVD’s extras.


Charles Packer

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