Cung Le delivers A Certain Justice
I've been a big fan of Cung Le for quite some time. From his prolific career in the Octagon to his gradual transition to the screen a few years back, he has demonstrated a natural charisma that draws on his best elements as a fighter and performer.
From supporting roles in the likes of Bodyguards and Assassins, True Legend and The Man with the Iron Fists, to recent leads in fight films like Dragon Eyes and A Certain Justice (the latter of which we'll discuss in a moment), he has approached the medium of film with the heart and attitude of a fighter and holds more screen fighting experience than one might think.
There is criticism that has been directed towards competitive fighters for some time that real fighters don't make good screen fighters. Often, this can be true, as real ability and the raw, brute strength required to knock out and submit an opponent has nothing to do with the rhythm, timing and athleticism required in choreography.
It's a different ball game altogether. However, some do get it right. What's more, the fighting discipline of sparring and competing can certainly lend itself to the discipline of drilling the shit out of fight scenes and taking and delivering real hits on camera! This is where real, raw talent like Cung Le come in.
In my view, guys like Cung have successfully created their on screen signature style by following their own formula. I've always enjoyed watching his choreography and fighting style and, for a throwback style revenge story, it's extremely satisfying to see him pummeling the shit out of the bad guys in his own unique fashion. When taking choreo duties alongside the performance (eg Dragon Eyes and A Certain Justice), his MMA signature style, delivering combinations, heavy, powerful finishers and brutal takedowns works very well and looks believable - even within the context of a film. This is a guy you can buy in to because he really does these things. At the very least there's no suspension of belief in the way he gets the job done and, as an action audience, that's something to appreciate.
His latest film, A Certain Justice (aka Puncture Wounds) offers a similar, 'one man army' revenge formula to that of John Hyams' Dragon Eyes (in which he appeared alongside Jean-Claude Van Damme) but this time serves up a more varied role. In the story of ACJ, the lead character of John, having returned home from a traumatic tour of duty in Iraq, finds himself struggling with PTSD. What little peace he had managed to build around him is shattered one fateful day when he rescues a local call girl (Briana Evigan) from a group of violent Aryan Brotherhood pimps. Having killed several of the high-ranking brotherhood during the rescue, John and his family are now the prime targets of Hollis (Dolph Lundgren), the ruthless criminal leader of the violent gang.
Playing John, Cung gets the opportunity to portray a far more emotionally tortured character, battling his demons and dispatching the criminal element with ruthless efficiency. But that's not to say he enjoys any of it. He is a man on a mission and follows an uncertain, one way path for much of the story, seeking some form of salvation. It's a great character type and one we've seen many times in the classic genre films of our younger days. It's just nice to see a fresh serving of an old recipe. In this character and genre tradition, Cung Le nails both the physical performance and dramatic role very well, giving one of his best on screen deliveries to date. Elsewhere in the film, the performances are solid, particularly Dolph who has a great time playing a quirky and unsettling lead villain, complete with long hair and Fu Manchu 'tache!
Overall, the film is solid B-movie fare but much better than you might expect, with some nice moments throughout. From the same team who previously made Hard Rush and Blood of Redemption, A Certain Justice feels like their most focused effort - now tailored to the strengths of the team and reigning in the story to a refined, hard-hitting revenge tale. It's also interesting that Cung fought to get the film made since 2009 as a passion project. Clearly there was a vision and idea behind it all that simmered to become this final product.
For those who still love the simplicity, heart and the raw, uncompromising grit of old-school action-thrillers, A Certain Justice is one to seek out. Furthermore, Cung Le has proven he does an excellent job in these types of films so here's hoping there's much more from him very soon.
Finally, and as a further note, here's a previous interview I completed with actor/producer Gianni Capaldi where this film, Hard Rush and Blood of Redemption are discussed in further detail.
A Certain Justice is out now on DVD.