The last decade has not been kind to the action genre. Once the backbone of Hollywood, now it is struggling to stay relevant among the deluge of super hero movies while being strangled to death by excessive CGI. Promising stars like Scott Adkins, a man who should be standing at the top of the mountain, are forced to watch the ground crumble beneath them. The genre is barely represented theatrically and the DTV scene is being gutted by rampant piracy. Action stars new and old have had to join forces to keep fighting the good fight. In this desperation, we action fans have been treated to some truly great action star team-ups (Universal Soldier: Day of Reckoning), some not so great team-ups (Maximum Conviction), and some that are unexpected if not a little weird (One In The Chamber). Adding to the list of refreshingly unexpected is the battle of the Bloodsport stars, Jean Claude Van Damme (Bloodsport) vs Daniel Bernhardt (Bloodsport 2, 3, and 4).
Kill 'Em All (not to be confused with the 2011 film if the same name) is an intriguing mystery. The film is a bit of a passion project by frequent JCVD collaborator / longtime friend, Peter Malota (the spurs fighter from Double Impact) that has been in the works for several years. Though this marks his directorial debut, Malota has extensive experience behind the camera often serving as stunt/fight coordinator (his most recent work being the upcoming Steven Seagal actioner, The Perfect Weapon). Malota’s involvement and personal investment, gives this film the potential to be more than the average DTV hatchet job.
Returning to the film’s eclectic cast for a moment, one can’t help but be intrigued by the prospect of JCVD going toe to toe with a xerox copy of himself. Daniel Bernhardt built a career out of looking, acting and fighting like Van Damme in the '90s and 2000s. He’s recently stepped out of Van Damme’s shadow by joining up with 87Eleven and making a major impact in films like Parker and John Wick. The prospect of seeing the two action stars square off against one another is intriguing to say the least.
Details on the film’s plot are practically non-existent. Based on the extensive BTS photos that have been released to the public, one would speculate that Van Damme and Bernhardt start out on the same side (possibly bodyguards) but things soon go sideways and bloody action ensues. The cast is rounded out by Peter Stormaire, Maria Alonzo and Kris Van Damme (because nepotism).
Filming wrapped late last month in Mississippi and, from the looks of it, the film is a very contained thriller in the spirit of Die Hard or The Raid. Oftentimes, low budget actioners shoot themselves in the foot by having more ambition than their modest budgets can handle. Kill 'Em All looks to sidestep this hurdle and keep the focus on the action (and hopefully the story and characters).
Much of this article can be viewed as wild speculation. There are still a lot of question marks regarding everything from the plot to whether the action will deliver. The DTV action genre is in desperate need of a few hits after getting hammered by so many recent disappointments (we’re a long way from the days of Undisputed 3, Black Dynamite and the Universal Soldier sequels). Early reviews for Boyka: Undisputed are promising; could Kill 'Em All continue the positive trend? Who wants to start placing bets? Check out a bundle of pics in the album below!