Todd Roy, writer and director of “KWOON”, an independent and campy martial arts series, has created a film that incorporates both a smart Simpsons-esque humor and some awesome martial arts sequences. Labeled “Bad Acting, Good Kung Fu” by the filmmakers, this film’s acting is actually pretty decent. Considering that most of the film is comedy and action, the actors do a pretty good job of delivering their lines while displaying some pretty impressive athletic abilities. A pet peeve of mine about martial arts films (especially those that involve elements of fantasy and horror, as this one does) is that they often don’t concentrate enough on making the martial arts good, hoping that the recycled humor and tasteless special effects will save them. That isn’t the case with “KWOON”. As is easily seen in the grace and strength of the moves, the martial arts came first, then the film. The way it ought to be.
“KWOON” is actually three separate short films, each about an half-hour, that follow the escapades of the five main characters as they make their way through kung fu school in the Silicon Valley. The shorts all tie together with various inside jokes, but can be watched individually without any of the character development, or fun, being lost. Involving such characters as the mob, demons, mummies, hot chicks, and even death himself, “KWOON” is more than just a regular attempt at action. It’s actually a fun time, and the martial arts are an added plus to what would already be a pretty funny story.
Not to discard the martial arts. It’s obvious that the fight choreography (by Onassis Purungao) was meticulous and designed with as much care as the cinematography was. With each actor actually being a real martial artist, including the guest characters like Death (played in episode two by world champion Cung Le), the respect they have for the sport comes out in the fight scenes in the execution of each move and the care with which it is filmed.
Though it often pokes fun at the characters it stars, “KWOON” makes the often-unlucky martial arts students likeable enough that you find yourself rooting for them against all the obstacles they face, even when it is their mischievous actions that get them there in the first place.
Most refreshing about “KWOON” is that the filmmakers did not resort to tacky sex scenes, excessive gore, or even stylized fighting that requires ropes, wires, and computer imaging. It’s all real, all the jokes are suitable (well, at least tolerable) for kids, and there is nothing fake or self-styled about the praise they deserve. Todd Roy has created a series that seems as much fun to have made as it is to watch. With so many crappy independent martial arts films coming out these days that try to incorporate the low-budget thrills of horror and genre flicks with little or no success, “KWOON” seems to be following that rare path that films like “Fight Circle” have paved through all the knew-deep piles of talent-less goo: A real, well-filmed, well-acted, and marvelously choreographed independent venture that remembers what was right about all those old Jackie Chan flicks…