Plan B (2017)Reviewed By Jay Seaver
Posted 09/06/17 23:43:53
(Worth A Look)
SCREENED AT THE 2017 FANTASIA INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL: You see a lot of calling-card shorts meant to show what a director or an actor could do in a feature, whether they're explicitly presented as that or not, but a calling-card feature is kind of rare, especially one as elaborate and meta as "Plan B": It basically announces at the start that its three stars are guys that can do much more, both as actors and stuntmen, than the German film industry is asking of them, and then sets about giving examples. That could be either painfully silly or a bland exercise in fight choreography, but the filmmakers know when to wink and when to let folks show what they've got.Can Aydin, Cha-Lee Yoon, and Phong Giang all play versions of themselves, 1980s-movie-loving German stuntmen looking for work and held back in equal parts by Can's over-enthusiasm - the massive Stallone fan butts head with directors by trying to make fight scenes more elaborate - and having their pal U-Gin (Eugene Boateng) as their manager despite his really having no head for numbers. This includes the location of their next gig, so instead of finding a film shoot, they find gangsters holding their boss's wife Victoria (Julia Dietze) hostage because she's one of the only people who knows where Gabriel (Henry Meyer) keeps his blackmail files on just about everyone in Berlin - or, more precisely, the first stop on a scavenger hunt that leads to it, with a bunch of goons at every stop, which is why the kidnappers hold on to Phong and sent Can, Cha, and U-Gin out rather going themselves.
Each stop on this leads to an impressive fight scene, and the filmmakers do something pretty clever - the opening credits have made it clear that Can, Cha-Lee, and Phong are not just starring in the movie but choreographing the action, and while it's usually not a great thing to associate performer and character too much, these guys often being doofuses on-screen can make you forget that they are actually really good at this part of their jobs. The script may be 1980s Hollywood, but the action is like something out of Hong Kong, and each bit is kind of a delight. Aydin, Yoon, and Giang divide the fight scenes among themselves fairly equitably, and they're smart enough to know that they'll look best by giving themselves quality opponents, giving a lot of fellow stuntpeople a chance to let audiences see their faces as well as just their moves, with Heidi Moneymaker (Scarlett Johansson's stunt double for her Marvel work) and others impressing and letting the filmmakers shoot action scenes Jackie Chan-style, with a ton of medium shots that show motion and aren't frantically cut trying to hide things.
Indeed, it's such a pure delight when one of these sequences gets rolling and then picks up momentum, letting the folks on screen not just build excitement by going back and forth but also sell jokes, that the film might get the audience thinking afterward about how Hollywood has by and large been building action movies backwards, starting from actors and trying to make it look like they can do the stunts rather than figuring out what else the folks who can do physically impressive things can do well. Few can do everything, but the makers of this one know what the appeal of this sort of movie is, and keep what's going on around the action light, within the cast's capabilities, and everything that is not part of what makes the movie entertaining is designed to get the action back to the good stuff.
So even though Aydin, Yoon, and Giang are not necessarily the sort of performers charged with telling a story most of the time, they do pretty well selling the jokes; even if Can Aydin's oblivious enthusiasm is rough, Cha-Lee Yoon's scoffing reactions can usually cove for that. The movie's generally funny all around, with Laurent Daniels providing narration as the sort of character usually looked at from outside (a renegade detective actually named "Kopp") and a fun supporting cast that includes both solid deadpan comedic performers as well as folks who can match up well against the leads in fights.
The script is admittedly wonky enough in a few places that the filmmakers need to call on audience enthusiasm for a few things: 1980s action puns as titles for each chapter helps counter the game-like "get clue/follow to action" set-up, for instance. There are also a few jokes that would probably get cut from an American movie where the producers have to think of how other ethnicities are going to react, even if the intent generally plays as zany comedy with friends busting on each other.Those mostly play as minor bumps that are more than forgivable considering that everyone in the movie, from the stars to the directors, is taking on a bigger job than they usually do to make the sort of action caper that they want to see. The result is often goofy and rough, and the cast might need a bit more seasoning before leading a more serious action film, but they also make a heck of a case for making these kinds of movies based on what they can do, rather than the guys they usually double for.
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