On Sat June 30th, Abby and I had the pleasure of getting to see Eric Jacobus/Stunt People’s “Death Grip”
I have known The Stunt People (http://thestuntpeople.com/) and their films since the filming of Under Cut several years ago and have seen pretty much everything that they have done since. If you have never heard of The Stunt People or Eric Jacobus, you wouldn’t be alone. The Stunt People are out of San Francisco and are a talented group of martial artist who also happen to make small budget Independent Kung Fu action films. Over the years they have built up a following of loyal fans that really enjoy their work and support what they do.
They haven’t totally made the big time yet, although they have been involved in a stunt demonstration on the Discovery Channel’s “Time Warp”, still not enough to become a household name. Their work in the past is best described as fun and action filled, low budget martial arts films. The acting and overall production value of the films has been what you would expect from an independent film.
I wasn’t totally sure what this one was going to be like, but I knew that Eric had been working on it for several years and had managed to get Johnny Yong Bosch best known as the Black Power Ranger to co-star in the film. From the looks of the trailer, it had an impressive original score, some great looking production value and a much larger cast. I was definitely intrigued and had been following a lot of their behind the scenes process and little snippets on the YouTube Channel.
The theater was about 75% filled, but every single one of the people sitting in their seats eagerly awaited show time. At about 7:45pm the theater went dark and the opening film credits rolled.
I was almost immediately pulled into the story. The film opens with a serious scene with Kenny (Eric Jacobus) about to get his brother Mark out of a mental institution. Nathan Hoskins plays the roll of Mark and was nothing short of amazing. They both tell a story with their facial expressions and simple, not over the top dialogue. Which I feel can be a fatal flaw in low budget films with untrained actors.
There is immediate character investment with Mark and Kenny and their relationship and there is a desire to learn what happened to them to bring them to this point in time. Along with a great score which reached into your heart during the serious moments and made you laugh at the jokes, it seems like they had re-written the book on action movies with a good story.
The film continued to amaze with great locations, extremely well choreographed fight scenes, heart stopping action and several well timed laughs.
The end fight with Johnny Yong Bosch and Eric Jacobus was memorable, but more importantly it kept you on the edge of your seat. It was fast, well thought out and well shot. It is what we have come to expect from The Stunt People, yet so much more. I wanted to include, that what you seen on screen for all of their fight scenes isn’t sped up or cut and reassembled. It’s shot in sequence at speed with a single camera which is very impressive.
Once the film was over, the crowd cheered and gave a well deserved standing ovation.
As independent films go, The Stunt People have taken the leap from a $5k-6k budget into the $100k range, but they make it look like they spent so much more. The biggest complaint for me was sound. The music and sound effects seems to overpower the film. I thought at first that it might be the particular theater that we were in, but watching the DVD the very next day I noticed much of the same. And YES… I did watch it again the next day and it was just as good the second time.
Eric Jacobus once said in a film making panel that he and I were on “When it comes to martial art films, you can’t take yourself too seriously. No one is going to buy into a low budget serious film, so you have to add comedy to it”. At that time he may have been right and it is good advise to any new film makers. But I think Eric has proved himself wrong with “Death Grip”.
I look forward to their next effort and I am sure after you see the film you will too.
I encourage everyone to check it out. To me it was well worth the watch. DVD’s and Blue Ray’s are available for purchase on their site, so please pick one up and support independent efforts like this one.
Thanks for the read.
I should note that Eric and The Stunt People will be at San Diego Comic Con 2012 at Booth 4015, be on a panel with Ric Meyers on Thursday, and host a Death Grip screening on Saturday the 14th. If you happen to be attending SDCC, you can check them out and watch the film!