This latest offering from Eric Jacobus and The Stunt People is nothing short of amazing, and the groundwork laid by their previous films is finally bearing fruit. Eric has grown and matured as a filmmaker, writer, and actor, and the entire production is first rate. Excellent cinematography and a complimentary musical score mask the film’s impressively lean $100k budget, and you can tell that all of the money is on the screen. Nearly everything is shot in camera in real time, which adds an extra sense of authenticity to the production. The acting is surprisingly good, and bolstered by a script that allows for character development through body language and minimal exposition. And being that the cast is made up almost entirely of stunt people, body language is what they excel at. The fight scenes in the film are excellently realized and hard hitting, evoking the look and feel of classic Hong Kong action cinema. Shot in chronological order one angle at a time, the rhythm and cadence are perfect and the give-and-take progression creates an excellent sense of dramatic tension. The speed, precision, and complexity of the knife fight between Eric and Alvin Hsing is so intense that you almost wish it were slowed down a bit so you could see more of the individual moves. The final showdown between Eric and Johnny Yong Bosch is also extremely satisfying for those who appreciate the skill and craft of thoughtful fight choreography and editing.
Jackie Chan’s “Heart Of Dragon” (1985) immediately comes to mind when watching the film, but it wisely stays away from the melodrama and overwrought sentimentality that weighed that movie down. While the story maintains an appropriately sober and serious tone throughout, brief moments of humor help to alleviate the tension here and there, including a wonderfully realized showdown involving an auto-flush toilet. What’s brilliant about this sequence is that it’s not treated as a gag, but rather an unusual (and absurd) situation that requires a unique solution (another nod to Chan’s genius). The minimalistic dialog does an excellent job of establishing the characters, keeping them self consistent, and maintaining a good pace, but at the expense of not fleshing out the larger world. You leave the film wanting to know more, which I suppose is ultimately a very good thing. Especially in American films, which nearly always tend to divulge too much information. … Definitely worth checking out if you enjoy and appreciate the cinematic flair of 1980’s action cinema.
Dan’s Movie Report … uh, reports:
Leave it to Eric Jacobus and his fantastic Stunt People crew to come up with a highly original film concept, the theft of a magical coin with a biblical connection, and wrap it around the backdrop of some of the finest fight sequences ever recorded.
… [A]ll of the actors are rather intense and obviously Eric took time with the actors and himself to get the facial and body actions to belay their respective characters’ emotions.
The plot is rather complex for a lower budget film, and requires careful attention from the viewer, there are religious and demonic undertones, but by the end of the film things become quite clear. Follow the coin, and see where it goes!
I hate when reviewers spoil the plot of films, and the events occur in Death Grip, should not be revealed, but I will reveal the action. Eric and his crew have made an epic action film, the fights are stunning, well lit and expertly filmed.
I was almost immediately pulled into the story. The film opens with a serious scene with Kenny (Eric Jacobus) about to get his brother Mark out of a mental institution. Nathan Hoskins plays the roll of Mark and was nothing short of amazing. They both tell a story with their facial expressions and simple, not over the top dialogue. Which I feel can be a fatal flaw in low budget films with untrained actors.
There is immediate character investment with Mark and Kenny and their relationship and there is a desire to learn what happened to them to bring them to this point in time. Along with a great score which reached into your heart during the serious moments and made you laugh at the jokes, it seems like they had re-written the book on action movies with a good story.
The film continued to amaze with great locations, extremely well choreographed fight scenes, heart stopping action and several well timed laughs.
The end fight with Johnny Yong Bosch and Eric Jacobus was memorable, but more importantly it kept you on the edge of your seat. It was fast, well thought out and well shot. It is what we have come to expect from The Stunt People, yet so much more. I wanted to include, that what you seen on screen for all of their fight scenes isn’t sped up or cut and reassembled. It’s shot in sequence at speed with a single camera which is very impressive.
Lastly, Fictonia raves:
Holy crap, there is so much I can say here. The fighting was intense and exciting, and genuinely felt real.
The cinematography was beautiful and the picture was sharp and clear, with fantastic use of color and lighting.
The sets and environments were interesting and it was fun and satisfying watching them get destroyed over the course of the many fights.
The story was engaging, and easily bounced around between being funny, touching, dramatic, and exciting.
The acting. Holy crap, the acting. I never thought I would say this about a Stunt People movie, but the acting was fantastic. Nathan Hoskins in particular had an amazing performance as Mark, the main character’s developmentally disabled brother. With only a few minor exceptions, the entire cast did a fantastic job bringing their characters to life.
… It feels like a long time since I’ve had this much fun watching a movie. Death Grip was genuine entertainment from start to finish, and one I will be watching over and over. It’s exciting, it’s brutal, it’s dramatic, and it’s really, really funny. But most of all, it’s an engaging story with characters you actually care about, which is something you don’t often get to say about an action movie. The DVD and Blu Ray are on sale now in their store, and you should go buy it. Seriously. Right now. Go.
Scott Brown of the Shortz! Film Fest comments:
If you are into martial arts action flicks, this one should be on your list of “must sees” Eric Jacobus and The Stunt People have reached a new pinnacle that all other independent action flicks will now be forced to live up to.
Often I’m asked, “What can we do to help your films?” The best thing you can do is buy Death Grip (Blu Ray also available) and write a review on your blog or whatever your preferred online publishing tool is. If you write for a print magazine or a major website, contact me for a reviewer’s screener copy. You can also review it at the Death Grip IMDB page. I’d link it directly, but if a bunch of reviews come directly from my blog to the IMDB page, the review aggregator will suspect foul play and won’t count the reviews, so just go to IMDB.com and search “death grip”.
Thanks everyone for the glowing reviews. These kinds of things really help us jump into the next one.