Brush With Danger

Brush With Danger

2014, NR, 88 min. Directed by Livi Zheng. Starring Ken Zheng, Livi Zheng, Nikita Breznikov, Stephanie Hilbert, Norman Newkirk, Michael Blend, John McFarland, Melissa Pang.

REVIEWED By Marc Savlov, Fri., Oct. 17, 2014

The Indonesian-born brother/sister filmmaking duo of Ken and Livi Zheng scores high points for creating a new take on the undocumented-immigrant badass story (hola, Machete), and for their obvious martial arts skills, but this first feature from the pair is ultimately hobbled by a paucity of credible acting. Oaken line readings reverberate between the well-choreographed kickboxing action and the narrative through line, which finds the Zhengs, as Ken and Alice Qiang, arriving in the port of Seattle via shipping container. Their gateway to a better life in the West hits multiple snags when they’re robbed of their “92 American dollars” fresh off the boat, and Alice, a painter, isn’t racking up many sales of her “Asian” art in Seattle’s Pioneer Square. Luckily (kinda sorta), oily art dealer-cum-forger Justus Sullivan (Newkirk, all but twirling his mustache) views Alice’s skills with the pigments as a means to an end. Ken, meanwhile, begins training at a local gym and eventually finds himself going mano-a-mano in Bloodsport-lite-style underground combat.

There’s precious little here that hasn’t been done better before, at least when it comes to the martial beatdowns, and apart from the Zhengs, the cast – for the most part Seattle locals – are cookie-cutter archetypes with bad hair and worse delivery. As for backstory on the siblings’ characters, there’s talk of a dustup between Alice and a would-be sexual predator in the old country, as well as an ailing father, but that’s all. Director of Photography Ryan Purcell wrings as much drama as he can out of the Seattle scenery and Ken Zheng (who is currently a student in UT’s Department of Radio-Television-Film) has an amiable way about him, even in the ring. As a filmmaking team, the Zhengs might be people to keep an eye on, but Brush With Danger isn’t the most promising of starts.

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for over 36 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

READ MORE
More by Marc Savlov
Cold Pursuit
Liam Neeson is Mr. Plow ... with a vengeance

Feb. 15, 2019

2019 Oscar-Nominated Short Films: Documentary
Tales of love and hate dominate these Oscar hopefuls

Feb. 8, 2019

KEYWORDS FOR THIS FILM

Brush With Danger, Livi Zheng, Ken Zheng, Livi Zheng, Nikita Breznikov, Stephanie Hilbert, Norman Newkirk, Michael Blend, John McFarland, Melissa Pang

MORE IN THE ARCHIVES
NEWSLETTERS
One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

Updates for SXSW 2019

All questions answered (satisfaction not guaranteed)

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle