Wednesday, September 28, 2016
Review: John Soares's THE DANGER ELEMENT (2016) Plays It Safe With Tons Of Action And Ingenuity
The past couple of weeks or so, for me, have been ravaged by work on top of updating the site, though I found myself stumbling upon a peculiar looking trailer at the time. It was untitled and it drew my curiousity enough to press the play button, and before I knew it, I was sampling a montage of action, science fiction and fantasy and martial arts, and above all else, actor Doug Jones in pure sinister fashion in what I later identified as the new film, The Danger Element, formerly a webseries and now an upcoming feature film from star and director John Soares.
The newly-knit film, a crowdfunded lo-fi dieselpunk action adventure, took nearly a decade to fulfill after having its funding originally pulled at the time. Thankfully the project saw better turns of fortune and is now currently in the works for distribution with details pending. That said, you can certainly understand what filmmakers like Soares go through in the course of productions such as this one. Indeed, the film falters in certain areas as a low-budget affair, but gladly holds its own in others when needed.
Joined by actress Cassie Meder and actor Joshua Krebs, Soares takes the reigns as Jitni, the memeber of a long lost secret order of knights who fight crime. Tasked with retrieving an unknown powerful force capable of infinite uses from a mad scientist named Doctor Elymus, Jitni, with the help of long lost adopted sister Enki, and Billard, a government agent investigating Elymus, reluctantly join together to recover the element in order travel back in time to save her late father. Thus, there's more to the story than she and Jitni initially think, due in part to Enki's past transgressions that have left Jitni battling internal forces of darkness, forces that will ultimately determine whether or not the Danger Element will ensue in mankind's salvation, or its destruction.
Contemporary vehicles and modern-day structures notwithstanding, the prop and costume design and many of the set pieces do wonders for the film's steampunk setting. Soares emboldens the heroic likenesses of Indiana Jones and Han Solo with a martial arts appeal that shines for action fans, sporting a brown leather jacket and goggles, and a 1935 Auburn Speedster. Further doing wonders for the film's inspired vision is co-star and costume designer extraordinaire Evil Ted Smith, helping to assemble an eyeful of the slick costume design along with many of the props and set pieces that do wonders for the film's 20th century steampunk millieu, as do the several locations throughout California where the film was shot.
Jones, a character actor prominently known as the ever-cultured and intuitive, aqua-friendly Abe Sapien in the Guillermo Del Toro's fan favorite Hellboy movies still suffering from its protracted incompletion as a trilogy, steals the show as the thickly-accented villain, Dr. Elymus, often keeping afloat much of the film's dialogue where the acting leaves much to be desired. Soares performs multiple roles throughout the film with two acting as principles, both Jitni and the satanic entity, Abaddon, with whom he crosses paths during scenes of slumber or near-fatal unconciousness, and a duality that further foundates the underlying Faith-based narrative of our protagonist.
Actress Meder takes on the role of Enki whose performance, in large part, leaves little to empathize with, save for at least one scene later on in the film with actor Kevan Hewett who plays her father, and ultimate father figure and mentor to Jitni. Much to her favor are the action scenes in which she's more than a dull-faced gun-toting renegade, but a proven baddass with a quick draw, and long flowing hair that swims in the air with grace while things explode in the background.
Servicing mild comedy relief from time to time is actor Joshua Krebs in the role of Billard, often opposite actor Justin Spurlock who pulls triple duty throughout the film as a henchman along with roles of Billard's superior, Burt, and Derwitt - a crimeboss who conspires with Elymus to retrieve the Danger Element for the doctor's own nefarious uses. Hat-tip to the make up department, of course, for managing to augment Spurlock so as to bring a little more depth to the story through casting, while the rest of the film flounders from time to time with lackluster drama and genuine chemistry between certain characters.
The action, designed by Soares, is a viable asset for Jitni's own character development, and almost always shines brightly from start to finish, a worthy credit due Soares as well as the multi-tasking Spurlock who shoots most of the action scenes will near-acute sharpness, clarity and understanding of action. A small number of the shots are tight at times and you can't really see what's happening, although the rest of the fight scenes, stunts and spectacle truly pay off.
The Danger Element, like most other independently-produced ventures, is not for everyone as much as it's crafted for the sci-fi and martial arts niche. You might be critical of the environmental obviousness of it all between scenes, which is all well and good. Otherwise, you will certainly endulge in what the film accomplishes. Needless to say, with The Danger Element, by the good graces of a doable script, Jones's screen caliber, a beautiful vehicle, a number of terrific locations and an explosive 7-minute opus to start things off, and a filmmaker who brings energy and vibrance to the screen, and accordingly proves his acumen for fight choreography and lensing, you're left with a film that manages to save itself, and its viewers, from complete peril.