Split Lip is an indie actioner that borrows heavily from intense films like John Wick, Pulp Fiction, Kill Bill, and The Losers. The result is a delightful, if somewhat unoriginal, sucker punch of a good time for fans of low-budget ultra-violence.
Set (Doreé Seay) is a contract assassin who’s made an unforgivable mistake, an error in judgement that has triggered a hit on her. She must run a deadly gauntlet to undo her error and convince her former mentor, Karlton (DeJean Brown), to call off the rest of his hired squad gunning for her. She flees to Arizona to prepare for the killers she knows will find her.
Karlton, acting on orders from shadowy superiors, sets into motion the seek and destroy mission to find Set, posting the bounty, and also making contract offers to particularly nasty specialists. He and his right-hand man Richard (Mike Dolphy) remotely coordinate the mission, accepting bids and new candidates as one by one by they fail to kill her.
“…gets punched so hard her lip is busted, and this injury draws empathetic Samuel to her, a curious good samaritan…”
As she scrambles to survive, she is helped by an oddly naive young man named Samuel (Chris Labadie) and his sister Dana (Maryam Cné) while she struggles to stay alive long enough to sort the problem out. In her first fight Set gets punched so hard her lip is busted, and this injury draws empathetic Samuel to her, a curious good samaritan.
We witness high weirdness in the desert: there’s something very off about Samuel. He takes Set to a bizarre masked dance at a bonfire. They are eventually pursued by another mask: the leather face worn by an especially disturbed hired psychopath named Ghetty. Dorée Seay as Set handles herself with skill and grace, one powerful woman against an array of seasoned killers, a screwdriver her weapon of choice.
Split Lip falls solidly into the cheesy B movie space, but that is not a criticism. The fight scenes with a retro synth soundtrack work perfectly in this context. Overall the pace is a little slow and the film is too quiet, but it’s definitely a notch above typical low-budget fare and entertaining to watch. Respect to this film for knowing what it is and unabashedly just being that as hard as it can with no apologies.
Split Lip (2019) Written and directed by Christopher Sheffield. Starring Dorée Seay,DeJean Brown, Chris Labadie.
6 out of 10