2 December 2015 | The_Phantom_Projectionist
"I didn't think you were this [...] stupid"
Director Wych Kaos could only improve after releasing the awful TEKKEN 2, and while he does just that with ZERO TOLERANCE, he's still not making the movie that most viewers actually want to see. Talk about unmatched expectations! This film – a thriller disguised as an action feature - is probably the best movie that Kaos has ever done, but that's still not saying much.
The story: When the estranged daughter of an ex-CIA operative (Dustin Nguyen) turns up dead in Bangkok, he and his ex-partner (Sahajak Boonthanakit) delve into the city's underworld to uncover the young woman's shady past and unmask her killer.
To be fair, I don't think that the movie was ever explicitly advertised as a martial arts feature, but when the names used to promote it include Dustin Nguyen, Scott Adkins, Gary Daniels, and Kane Kosugi, one cannot help but expect a lot of hand-to-hand action. Disappointingly, the film does not even provide the bare minimum. There are two full-length brawls, only one of which counts as an actual karate fight (the Nguyen/Adkins showdown), and neither of them are very good – they could have been shot with anybody, with no need for some of the best on screen fighters to get involved. The action content in general is meager, with only three shootouts to otherwise tide viewers over. One of these – a close-range affair in a crowded room – is pretty enjoyable, but breathtaking action clearly isn't this film's objective.
This is a character-driven thriller, and in that regard, the movie isn't bad. Dustin and his costars all generally excel at playing morally ambiguous characters in a sleazy setting. The movie's pacing is infinitely better than the director's previous picture, and though this is not exactly SE7EN, I felt engaged and anxious to find out who the killer was. The eventual resolution is a serious matter of taste – either you'll find it ironically apt or a complete cop-out – but it highlights the earthy tone of the movie that may turn off people who are used to lighter fare. The subject of prostitution is questionable enough for some folks, but there's an odd, uncomfortable strain of chauvinism running through the picture, with abuse of women by both "good guys" and villains being a common occurrence despite the general anti-trafficking sentiment.
Apparently this movie was edited from an unreleased film, with the footage of Adkins and Kosugi shot a couple of years later. It's integrated pretty well – practically unnoticeable unless you know what to look for. This feat of seamlessness is easily the most impressive part of the movie, which otherwise ends up being relatively unremarkable. ZERO TOLERANCE isn't the debacle it could have been, but it's also not nearly as cool as I'm certain most people were hoping for. Know yourself well before considering anything more than a rental.