There are some movies that take a while to grasp what their all about, where they are going, and what your in store for. Then there are those that, from frame one, you know just handed you your ass. Death Promise is that kind of film. From the low rent wannabe blaxsploitation opening theme song, to the final screeching kung fubar finale, Death Promise is the kind of film that shit cinema aficionados sift through garbage their whole lives to discover. That diamond in the rough so atrociously bad yet so completely enjoyable that your dizzy with pure elation upon its completion. So for you, the denizens of the Infini-tropolis, I give to you my latest discovery of pure trash cinema: Death Promise.
When the tenants of a local New York slum begin to be pushed to the edge, Louis Roman, a former fighter, decides to stand up and prevent his home from becoming the next bulldozed parking lot. However the rich slum lords, looking to make sizable profit from the blocks demolition, off him, leaving his kung fu son Charley and friend Speedy Leacock ready to go to war. Charley, by order of his dojo master Master Ying, goes to Japan to prepare and train to exact his DEATH PROMISE!!!
That is as much of the plot as there really is to tell you. You’ve seen the scenario played out a million times in countless kung fu/action films before. Man has relative/master killed and he decides to take on the “man” or in this case men, that wronged him the only way that he knows how, WITH HIS FISTS!!! Cliché after cliché gets trampled out and overdone like your girlfriends botched attempt at Thanksgiving dinner. There is even a boss villain that strokes a cat, wearing a huge pinky ring. What sets this one apart is that it is so incompetently written, shot, acted, scored, and edited that even the most clever of kung fu send ups couldn’t match the hilarity on display here. It is the film Finishing the Game wanted to be, only this isn’t a comedy…or at least it wasn’t trying to be. That is a DEATH PROMISE!!!
Everyone goes through their kung fu poses and fights screaming like they have just had a habenero pepper shit. One training sequence in particular showcases a Japanese martial arts teacher showing Charley the proper way to sound like your imitating a cat about to cough up a hair ball while going through your different kung fu stances. Everyone must go through a preflight display of power before engaging in any fisticuffs. While these kind of things are to be expected in a film like this, one starts to wonder if this is because they are adhering to the tenements of Kung Fu normalcy or just making sure we see a lot of guys tear their shirts off and pose, sweaty in anger for the camera. We only have 1 female ever grace the screen for more than 10 frames of the picture, and she is topless in less than 30 seconds and then cut away to the next scene. It doesn’t get manlier than this folks.
On the technical side we have boom mics bob in and out of just about every scene, fighting for the most appearances this side of Dolomite. They come through the top of the frame, are shadowed on the wall, or catch the eyes of the actors mid take. Actors look into the camera just about every time they aren’t delivering a line. Color temperature of the film changes from shot to shot. There is even a day for night shot in which we have a man who is stringing his bow to shoot some arrows with out any lights near by.
Most of the fights are so poorly shot that the blows rarely connect, but you aren’t really paying attention because everyone yells more than most women’s tennis players at every movement they make. There is a rather long stretch in the second act where things slow down, but it is cut so unevenly between what we are supposed to believe is Japan and not some random farm in upstate New York, and NYC where Speedy is trailing the slum lords in between wasting “muthafuckas”.
It is hard not to laugh at just about everything in this film. The final 15 minutes feature some of the most hilariously bad fight sequences I have ever witnessed. If you’re having trouble getting through the film proper, just skip to then end and you’ll be glad you watched the film. If your not laughing at the shirtless mustachioed thug #5 fighting the generic Asian partner with nun chucks, than maybe Paul Blart:Mall Cop is more up your alley because you have no sense of humor.
There are few things in life that I enjoy more than a terrible action film. I have a bad addiction to actioners that play things completely straight but are so unbelievable that the whole movie caves in on itself and turns into a comedy. Death Promise may be the king of crappy American kung fu wannabes. For a while I thought that Revenge of the Ninja, starring ninja legend Sho Kosugi, was the pinnacle. I was wrong. Even with the boring stretch in the middle, Death Promise is a gem for all those that love them some shitty film. In the bizarro world of crap cinema this garners 5 stars, but here, where we are rating it against other 'good' films, it gets a generous half star. Grab your favorite beverage, some pals, and seek this one out. You won’t regret it.
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