Every day Robert Saucedo shines a spotlight on a movie either so bad it’s good or just downright terrible. Today: Stunt Rock!
Stop me if you’ve heard this one before… Three stuntmen walk into a bar and order up one big collective glass of meh.
Hellbinders is the love child of Mitch Gould, Hiro Koda and David Waid, three stunt men with a resume larger and more accomplished than most in the film industry even dream of achieving. Despite their endeavors, though, the stuntmen trio have collaborated on a film that, unfortunately, fails to live up to its potential.
Hellbinders stars another trio of stuntmen: Ray Park, Johnny Yong Bosch and Esteban Cueto. Together, the three represent a trinity of action movie clichés — the bruiser, the martial artist and the gunsman.
Ray Park is Max, a graduate from the school of Jason Statham. As quick with his mouth as he is with his bullets, Max is a mercenary with a slight problem — he’s missing his soul. His inner essence was lost after a trip to the hospital left him dead for 20 minutes; Max is in a unique position when he finds himself in the middle of an ancient war between demons and a mysterious religious order.
For those that remember their bible, Hellbinders‘ big bad is Legion, that loveable collective of demons that once inhabited the bodies of a herd of pigs. Now, though, the demons are residing in Los Angeles, a town full of juicy human hosts. Max’s lack of soul means he can’t be possessed by the demons — but he’s in the minority. For every demon’s host that is killed, there is another body just waiting to be ridden like a meat puppet.
If Max is going to put a stop to the demon league of evilness — and he’s not 100 percent sold on that either — he’s going to need help. Luckily, Hellbinders is the movie equivalent of a superhero crossover book and there are two warriors waiting in the wings to give Max an assist.
Johnny Yong Bosch plays Ryu, a ninja assassin/warrior priest who takes fashion tips from Japanese cartoons and video games. Dressed to impress for his local anime convention, Ryu is ready to use his trusty blade against the demons — especially since they happen to inhabit the bodies of people he was paid to kill anyway.
Esteban Cueto is Cain — an immortal Knight of the Templar who has tangled with Legion before in the past. Apparently not the original biblical Cain, Cueto’s Cain is a hulking juggernaut whose “Mark of Cain” involves male pattern balding disguised with a Steven Seagal ponytail that leaves him looking like Dee Snider on steroids.
Together, the three are the heroes of a movie that tries hard to give off the look and attitude of a comic book.
What this means for the most part, though, is a heavily stylized color pallet, plenty of shots that are given frames with what looks like off-the-rack video editing software, and the usage of the ugliest font ever invented for what I’m assuming were purposely obtuse captions such as “The Weariness of Broken Oaths” or something like that.
The storyline, while interesting in a Saturday-morning-cartoon-sort-of-way, owes a lot to comic books as well — unfortunately, not the good kind.
Watching Hellbinders, I had flashbacks to ‘90s Image Comics from the likes of Rob Liefeld and Jim Lee — people known more for their flashy artwork than any real substance.
Hellbinders has a lot of well choreographed action but it is hidden beneath some truly atrocious production quality. The movie has some dodgy filtering effects going on — giving the film a hazy soft touch that, when combined with the low-budget special effects, makes Hellbinders look like a student film project.
Even worse is the film’s sound design. Some of the actors are almost completely impossible to understand — especially those who play demons and whose voices were fed through any number of special effect modifications to leave the actors sounding like a throat cancer patient.
Hellbinders had some serious potential. It could have been a fun story and, with a cast of talented stuntmen that also includes Richard Cetrone, Gerald Kamura and Derek Mears, Hellbenders had the chance to be a quiet little indie picture that surprised people. Unfortunately, not all stuntmen are good actors and Hellbinders is damned by subpar actors’ inability to believably deliver even worse dialogue.
Robert Saucedo won’t lie. He’s a little worried that the directors of Hellbinders are going to kick his ass. Follow Robert on Twitter @robsaucedo2500.
Tags: Bad Movies Done Right, Image Comics, Jason Statham, Jim Lee, Ray Park, Rob Liefeld