I recently attended the launch of ‘Australia’s first urban martial arts action adventure’, Maximum Choppage Round 2, at the Fairfield School of Arts in Sydney. When introducing his film, producer, director, screenwriter and main actor, Timothy Ly, said that he was trying to make a Hollywood film, in Sydney’s West, with no money. Big ambition indeed, but looking at cinema’s history, it is not hard to find examples of films that were made with extremely limited budgets, which were good enough to catch people’s attention, become crowd favourites, and launch the careers of talented new filmmakers. Has Maximum Choppage Round 2 got the potential to achieve such success? Here’s what I think.
Maximum Choppage Round 2 tells the story of Tim, the newly crowned martial arts champion of Cabramatta, who meets a beautiful girl Roxy. When Roxy’s Bible is snatched by a mysterious young boy, Tim helps her chase after the thief. What Tim does not realise is that this young boy has been sent by a strong enemy who is after his kung fu champion title, and soon finds himself being forced to face some really tough opponents…
The story is simple, and if you think through it, it does not make complete sense. For example, if it is all about pride and honour, the Champ would just send an invite for Tim to meet him at the temple for a fight, instead of getting fellow fighters to lure him, and beat the crap out of him in the process. The story here only serves the purpose of providing the actors with a reason to show off their martial arts skills. Tim faces a difficult opponent, then someone stronger… till he finally fights the toughest enemy. This style, as well as the film title, gives the movie the feel of a video game.
The film really succeeds as an action comedy, delivering plenty of kung fu showdowns and laugh out loud moments. The fight scenes are outstanding, innovative and beautifully choreographed. The cast performed all the stunts, and it is not hard to see the hard work they have put into creating these spectacular action scenes. For me, the highlight is the extended fight scene featuring Tim, Sister (Maria Tran) and Lil Brother (David Tran). The other fight scenes do not quite match the originality and humour of this particular action scene, but are nevertheless still really well-made.
I think it would be unfair to criticise the movie for being rough around the edges, considering it is a ‘no-budget’ production. However, I do have a few constructive comments, which will hopefully help the young filmmakers when they make their next project. Firstly, the story could be improved by having more details, such as how Tim became the local champion, what the title means to him, and how much is at stake if he loses to the new challengers. Secondly, on quite a few occasions, the soundtrack gets too loud for the audience to hear what the actors are saying. Thirdly, the actors are too often seen with baby powder (a common tool used in action scenes) on their clothing, and this is a bit distracting during the otherwise fantastic fight scenes.
In this day and age of big-budget blockbusters dominating cinema multiplexes, it is wonderful to see a group of talented young filmmakers overcome the difficulties of having limited resources and make a movie that is consistently entertaining and refreshingly creative. The crew of Maximum Choppage Round 2 should be commended on what they have achieved through their hard work and determination. I hope more people will get to see this movie, and I’m looking forward to seeing the filmmakers’ next film in a cinema.