Martial Arts
Dir: Jefery Levy
Star: Billy Zane, Stacy Oversier, Byron Mann, Dominic Purcell, Tory Kittles
Cert / Year: 12 - R / 2001
Format: DVD R2

Legend tells of a group of dark angels, known as Shadowmen. Who have walked the earth since time began. They have preyed upon mankind throughout eternity. From the first blood shed in vain through broken treaties, tyrannical oppression, even world wars, they have been involved in every act of hate. But there is a price they pay for free reign over the world: eternal imprisonment. The world is their jail.

After millennia on earth, their sole desire is escape. But there is only one way out for them.... the total destruction of our world. Guided by their leader, Slate, a dark angel so powerful that all others yield to him, they have tempted world leaders into poisoning the environment, pursuing ethnic cleansing, and even to the brink of global thermonuclear war, all in an attempt to end their captivity.

But a greater threat now exists. Slate has located one half of a stone tablet, an ancient relic of terrible power. With a complete tablet the Shadowmen could create an energy vortex with the force of 10,000 suns, shattering the world and freeing them from their bondage.

The only thing standing between them and the end of all life on Earth are four warriors, selected before birth to fight in defence of the world. Trained by Os, once a Shadowman himself and the guardian of the tablet's other half, these four warriors are the best and only hope of humanity.

As you may have gathered from the "introduction" to the film (above) Invincible is another tale of "Good" versus "Evil". The four heroes are Serena Blue / AKA - Air (Stacy Oversier), Michael Fu / AKA - Water (Byron Mann), Ray Jackson / AKA - Fire (Tory Kittles), and Keith Grady / AKA - Metal (Dominic Purcell). They are brought together by the "evil" Slate's (David Field) former right hand Shadowman and all round brutal bad egg, Os. After a spiritual encounter with a mysterious "white warrior", Os is changed forever, he finds and trains the heroes (They all share an unfeasible birthmark) whilst protecting half of the doomsday tablet that could destroy the world.

Frighteningly enough, Billy Zane is rather good as Os and splendidly delivers some quite dry and deadpan lines, even if he is required to harp on about "love" quite a bit. That aside he has a good character that is sardonic and quite good fun to be honest and you just hope he returns in the series. Of all the performances it is Zane that holds them all together and ensures that everything gels together nicely. In addition to an uncharacteristic good performance, Billy Zane also looks surprisingly adept at martial arts and sword play, affording a bit more weight to his role. Admittedly, the "Liam Gallagher" wig and black eyeshadow at the start is a bit worrying but he is nowhere near as cheesy as some of his other performances. "Slate" is unfortunately rather unconvincing as a villain, and his "Shadowmen", including former Aussie "heart throb" Craig MacLachlan are more simpering than sinister. Billy Zane in a good role....... no, seriously! Byron Mann (Crying Freeman) is criminally under used and former Olympic gymnast Stacy Oversier just isn't used to full advantage as they appear to "carry" the remaining cast.

The occasionally over expositional narration by Zane overrall allows the story to flow along at a decent enough pace without having to get too bogged down in back story. Along the way however the film does fall victim to some easily avoided cliches but it doesn't try to over reach or tax itself too much with it's basic good versus evil storylines. But in the end other than some martial arts, what else would you really expect. The martial arts are above average for the standard US TV market and are fluffed a little with a bit of wire work, nothing too gratuitous or violent. Despite an obviously meagre budget by movie standards, there are some good effects and some excellent fight choreography considering this is made for TV and not to mention the fact that only two of the cast had any martial arts training / experience. One or two fight scenes do play out in dreaded slow motion which does tend to appear rather corny after a while, whilst others seem to rely on nauseating amounts of strobe lighting to give the illusion of fast movement, and the final duel is reminiscent of Highlander. There is just a general lack of atmosphere and nothing particuarly gripping to drag it out of 2 dimensional hell. There is a lot of missed potential, but what you do get is quite acceptable. Plenty of Eastern philosophy and mysticism strewn around an interesting plot but terribly unfulfilled.

Invincible is stylishly shot and only occasionally gives away the fact that it is made for TV movie and a pilot for a TV show. I was quite intrigued to see what Executive Producers Mel Gibson and Jet Li would come up with here. Unfortunately, there was very little of real merit as Invincible is a little dissappointing considering it's pedigree and you would have expected better. There are some truly surreal moments during the film which do leave you wondering what the director was using to stay awake during filming. It does dive into kitsch territory with it's love will conquer all type of message but you can't have everything.

Ok. So this is far from a challenging piece of martial arts film making and certainly no masterpiece or classic but it is an entertaining watch nonetheless. To be honest the whole good angel / bad angel thing is done better in The Prophecy and no offence to the talents of Tony Ching but TV martial arts have been done much better in Martial Law. Invincible is far from invincible, but it's certainly an option for the beer and pizza, movie night brigade.


The Shadowmen are coming...

Rating: 2 out of 5

Picture 1.77:1 Widescreen Good quality picture
Audio Dolby Digital 2.0 Pretty good but only stereo so doesn't do anything impressive.
Features Nice animated menu
Series of 4 movie trailers
Small set of production notes
Cool feature trailer, even if it does differ a bit from the film
Verdict Nothing special and lacking some decent extras. Had hoped for better.

Rating: 1 out of 5

Reviewed by Logan Link Back Top Home