Somewhat drunken and disgraced journalist John (Matt Scully) tries to redeem himself at his former newspaper with a story about an odd symbol he found burned into a tree near a recent murder crime scene. When the paper goes for his story, John begins following the footsteps of underground fighter Simon (Ian Chinsee), who goes by the fighter name Quicksilver. There’s more to Simon than just his status as undefeated fighter, however, and soon John finds himself immersed in a hidden world of master assassins caught in a blood feud.
House of Cards is a mixed bag, at times brimming with an almost Mortal Kombat-level of assassin combatant action and other times a bit too convoluted for its own good. It’s a wonder, no matter how honorable an assassin is, that they ever wind up working for a guild or, in this case, a tribe or house, because doesn’t it always end the same way nowadays, with everyone turning on everyone else?
Here, the blood feud underway involves what appears to be a rogue assassin getting her revenge on the House that wronged her, only it’s never that simple, especially when the highly skilled victims start to question each other’s loyalty, and Simon’s own history with the rogue assassin comes into play. Does he know more than he lets on? Whose side is he on anyway?
When House of Cards isn’t running the various characters, all of whom wind up being assassins or connected to the underworld in some way, whether it be John’s ex-girlfriend Miya (Kristy Jackson) or his co-worker at the paper, Holly (Anna Doody), into knots around each other, the story seems to focus on Simon’s trouble with women. Vying for Simon’s affections are the ultra-violent assassin, Alison (Grace Endicott), whose obsession lends itself to some unfortunate actions, the soon-to-be-retired assassin, Holly, who seems to love him, and the rogue assassin (Kathleen Doody) that he has history with. I just wish I could figure out what makes him all that interesting to them because, beyond his ability to fight well and fast, he’s not the most engaging person to be around.
Since the film involves quite a bit of fighting, it’s worth noting that the onscreen battles range from incredible to surprisingly weak. Some of the hand-to-hand combat is handled with wonderful fight choreography, but then you’ll run into a sequence where everything looks a little off, a little too slow and precise, and it becomes clear who knows what they’re doing, and who doesn’t.
It doesn’t help matters that some fights, including one of the more important ones near the end, are shot in little light, making it hard to really follow or focus on the action (otherwise the cinematography for much of the film is pretty good, garnering little complaint here). Additionally, the audio in some scenes, particularly one sequence with House leader Reynard (Vincent Gorce) near the end, left quite a bit to be desired and had me straining to understand what was being said.
Overall, House of Cards has its moments, despite its penchant for meandering around with Simon while overly complicating the revenge plot at the core. When it’s on, the film’s action truly delivers some solid combat imagery. When it’s not, it’s still watchable, just not memorable and, due to its running time, sometimes a bit of an endurance challenge in its slower moments.
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