20 June 2015 | The_Phantom_Projectionist
"Sometimes a man has to lose everything he's got to get even"
IDES OF MARCH (A.K.A. ULTIMATE TARGET) has yet to see an official release – at least in North America – and it's not difficult to see why. Since it was produced, other films have taken several of its tactics and executed them much better, to the point that if this were released today, viewers who didn't know better might assume that it's a cheap homage to KILL BILL. It's an interesting film, though not nearly as much now as it may have been 15 years ago, and is only worth hunting down online for hardcore fans of Gary Daniels.
The story: A brotherhood of elite assassins turns against one of its own (Daniels) when an underhanded deal threatens to expose them.
Part of what probably stood against the film's release was its rough presentation. As is, the movie gives the impression of being incompletely edited: there's nothing wrong with the audio or video quality, but the narration, the flashback-laden structure, and the frequent use of paused footage looks like something that would be handed back to post-production with a list of things to change. Then again, I have seen plenty of vehicles for Daniels that look a lot worse than this but have actually gotten proper releases, so these imperfections should not make a difference to fans.
The screenplay and the performances it inspires make for a very mixed bag. Both offer amusing highs and embarrassing lows on an even scale, making for a thoroughly B-grade presentation. I'm a fan of the varied cast and the fact that almost all supporting characters enjoy a decent level of exposure, weird as they can be. Overacting is the name of the game, and some performers handle it better (e.g. Michael Madsen) than others (e.g. George Cheung). Daniels himself is relatively low-key, which is fine because this goofy, postmodern script needs at least one straight man.
Daniels' frequent collaborations with the Alpha Stunts team often disappointed me, and even this movie makes me wish they had done more. Most of the action is martial arts-related, though the film doesn't reach the brunt of it until its final third. Though the five fights have a very pleasing pace and nice choreography, they're oftentimes too short for my liking or have unrelated scenes edited into them. Two good fights – involving John Koyama and a couple of masked ninjas – help keep things bearable, but I was hoping for more than just that.
This one may remain simply another casualty of the direct-to-video recession, but no one should feel heartbroken that it never got a release in the Americas.