Review: Mark Dacascos Action Thriller ULTIMATE JUSTICE Does Little Of It

Actor Mark Dacascos's seldom stake nowadays in action films is something that I begrudgingly continue to deal with, and I know for a fact that I am no island when it comes to this. While surely keeping himself diverse and flexible between projects, it's no secret that the man who won our hearts over the years in films like Only The Strong, Drive, Boogie Boy, China Strike Force and Cradle To The Grave should have at least been in an Expendables film by now. As such, to see the actor take the reigns in a film like Ultimate Justice does have its rewarding moments and is something to appreciate, although you'll be hard pressed to go unchallenged for longer than the first act.

Hailing as the second feature film from Silent Partners - the people who brought you One Million K(l)icks, Martin Christopher Bode makes his directorial feature debut with a story that kicks off in textbook action movie fashion. Dacascos plays Gus, the leader and co-founder of a private security force co-founded with Commander Hans, played by Wolfgang Riehm. Following a botched mission that gets one of their own killed, the two amicably go their seperate ways for years before Gus reunites with Hans who has settled for the quiet, married life apart from a mild ailing condition. When a group of masked, armed men suddenly break into his home, the stakes are raised once again as Gus reconvenes with his team to find the people who've kidnapped Hans's daughter and bring them...Ultimate Justice!!!...

Sorry...I couldn't help myself.

Bode's premiere stint as feature filmmaker with an action movie narrative to work with has its ups and downs. Fanboys won't care for the flaws given the action movie star power both in name and talent we see with Dacascos and the likes of cult action stars Mike Moeller and Mattias Hues, but you're more than welcome to your fairshare of stumbles on this one within the first hour to start with.

The film starts off with a build up to the first major action sequence through a series of kills but gets way ahead of itself in the editing and character introduction, and by more than twenty minutes in, most of our protagonists still remain heavily underdeveloped and therefore flimsily presented. The painfully obvious dubbing tends to leave one in a fit of pique, specifically in the principle dialogue scenes between Gus and Hans with Dacascos being given more screentime than his fellow co-star.

Between the poor editing and mundane action and screen drama sans Dacascos and actress Sandra Tauro who plays Hans's wife, Michaela, the film's first serious attempt at grabbing onto viewer empathy is reduced to nothing short of a farcical rape scene that ends as tragically as it starts. By then, Dacascos is really the only undubbed actor carrying the film's dramatic pace and while supplementary at best, that he hasn't done more than stab a guy at the top of the film raises that familiar, discouraging feeling I mentioned earlier. 

Remedying this, of course, is the addition of actor Brandon Rhea, best known as the German spear fighter in Ronny Yu's Huo Yuanjia action tribute, Fearless, opposite martial arts film stalwart, Jet Li. Rhea plays Doc, the team's stoic interrogation expert whose reluctant return to the unit reopens old wounds from his violent past, and the romantic history he has with the team's only female operative, Julia, played by Yazmeen Baker.

Elements of intrigue and surprise are also a plus midway into the movie and by then, the plot starts to find its footing even if we have wade a little while longer through more hordes of dubbed throwaway bad guys. Just several of the characters are a little more developed at this juncture and provided that you haven't tuned out completely after the first forty minutes or more when this finally starts to feel like the Mark Dacascos headliner it has been sold as, you're not left completely feeling like you've just wasted your time.

Feasible fight choreography helps the cast hold up amply enough with each character averaging in with some action movie screentime, including Henry Muller and executive producer and co-star Mike Leeder. Black Rose co-star and the memorable villain of 1990 sci-fi, I Come In Peace, hulking actor Matthias Hues is as commanding a presence as ever next to Moeller who choreographs as brilliantly as he performs for his own scenes, and German action film fans will get a nice, brief look at Kampfansage: Der Letzte Schüler star Mathis Landwher at the top of the film before long.

The rest of the film plays out as either a hit or miss depending on how you view your taste in film or action genre titles in general. The final twist offered in the film's story would have been jestful if it weren't met with the necessary danger element needed to keep you caring through to the end on top of the strength of watching Dacascos and Rhea work together on screen - a pairing that should have had the same affect between Dacascos's Gus and Riehm's Hans but ultimately doesn't. 

Despite the film's promise, a subpar script, cookie-cutter characters and less-than-inspiring post-production do very little justice for this formulaic action thriller, and if you haven't moved on with your life halfway through the film apart from waiting this long to see Dacascos star in an action flick, you deserve a freaking medal.

Next Post »