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The Gratuitous B-Movie Column: Asian Connection

July 6, 2016 | Posted by Bryan Kristopowitz

The Gratuitous B-Movie Column Issue #365: Asian Connection

Hello, everyone, and welcome once again to the internets movie review column that has never had to fight a mutant tree for any reason, The Gratuitous B-Movie Column, and I am your host Bryan Kristopowitz. In this issue, issue number three hundred and sixty-five, I take a look at the low budget crime flick Asian Connection featuring modern action stars Steven Seagal and Michael Jai White.

Asian Connection

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Asian Connection, also known as The Asian Connection, really isn’t an action movie. Despite the presence of modern action legends like Steven Seagal and Michael Jai White, Asian Connection is more of a low budget crime thriller than an action movie. It has action in it, yes, but the movie is more about the crime spree the main characters engage in and what it does to their lives as opposed to the main characters beating the crap out of people in martial arts brawls throughout.

The movie stars John Edward Lee as Jack Elwell, a low level criminal that has managed to make a life for himself in Thailand by, well, being a criminal. When we meet Jack he’s in the middle of a Cambodian bank robbing spree with his buddy Sam (Byron Gibson). Their scheme is pretty simple: go over the border from Thailand into Cambodia, find a local bank with lax security, jack it (ha!), and then ride back into Thailand with the money taped to their bodies. The border guards never, ever want to check a person’s body, so, as long as they don’t get caught by the police it’s an easy job. Things start going to shit pretty quickly, though, as Sam, the more rambunctious of the two, starts shooting at people in the banks as opposed to just menacing them. Sam also wants to start using his ill-gotten gains to live an even better life, something Jack counsels against. It’s better for both of them to keep their money hidden for as long as possible (it’s all about not attracting attention to themselves).

Now, why is Jack stealing all of this money, besides being a criminal and that’s what criminals do? Jack has a hot, younger girlfriend, Avalon (Pim Bubear), a woman he eventually wants to marry. Jack figures that, if he can accumulate enough money, he can give Avalon a tremendous life where they live together on a tropical island. Avalon loves Jack and is generally okay with Jack “finding” all of this money, but at the same time she’s scared of what could happen to him. She knows that Jack doesn’t have a “real” job and takes part in sketchy activities, but she can’t but support him. She loves him too much to tell him to stop (although you do get the feeling that she wouldn’t mind it if he worked as a ditch digger or something like that. He wouldn’t have to carry a gun or get shot at digging ditches).

While all of that is going on, local crime boss Gan Sirankiri (Seagal) is freaking out. Who the fuck is stealing his money in Cambodia? Sirankiri wants to know and wants to know now. He puts his best henchman, Niran (Sahajak Boonthanakit), on the case. Niran finds out quickly that Jack and Sam are the ones robbing Sirankiri’s banks but, instead of stopping Jack and Sam from stealing from his boss, Niran comes up with a scheme that will make him, Niran, a very rich man. Niran confronts Jack in his apartment and “makes him an offer”: rob the banks I tell you to rob and I won’t kill Avalon. After some chair bondage torture Jack agrees to Niran’s “offer” and starts planning on how the hell he’s going to get out of this scheme alive.

So the rest of the movie is Jack and Sam robbing the banks Niran suggests, Sirankiri becoming more and more agitated about losing even more money, and Jack trying to keep Avalon alive and Sam from going on a wild shooting spree. It isn’t easy for anyone.

I think the thing that surprised me the most about Asian Connection is how engaging John Edward Lee was. With Seagal in the cast you sort of want to see more from him because he’s Steven Seagal. I mean, who the hell is John Edward Lee? And why is Michael Jai White in only one scene? What the hell is going on here? But John Edward Lee has a charisma that makes you want to see what his Jack is going to do next. How is he going to get out of this situation alive? Will he get out of this situation alive? And you sort of see, to a certain extent, what Avalon sees in him. Jack me be a low level criminal scumbag, but you want him to be your low level criminal scumbag. John Edward Lee is also, in an overall sense, a pretty good actor. He sort of looks like a low budget Josh Duhamel but or a Johnny Knoxville stunt double, but he blows both of those guys out of the water in terms of his screen presence. He also doesn’t look like an idiot holding a gun, which always helps in crime movies.

I was also surprised by Byron Gibson. At first, I thought Gibson was Tim Roth as he sort of resembles him. As soon as Gibson starts speaking, though, you know that Gibson is his own man and knows how to play a true badass tough guy (it helps that Gibson is a Muay Thai boxing instructor). He also has good sidekick chemistry with Edward Lee, which makes their partnership believable. The movie should have had more of Gibson in it (you’ll be sad after seeing what happens to him. I was sad).

Pim Bubear does an okay job as Avalon. Her line reading is a little stilted and there are some scenes where it looks like she’s trying too hard to keep up with Edward Lee, but at the same time you don’t ever really dislike her. I may be wrong about this, but it looks like, according to imdb, that Asian Connection is only her second major movie role (she was also in The Man with the Iron Fists 2). She’ll get better the more she acts.

Sahajak Boonthanakit is awesome as Niran. He’s a total sleazebag and you can’t wait to see him get his ass kicked (and that isn’t a spoiler. Guys like Niran always get their ass kicked in crime flicks). But he’s also a resourceful sleazebag and it’s easy to believe that he could pull off a scheme behind his boss’ back. The man also knows how to slit a throat, something that, I’d imagine, is quite useful in his line of work. Good job Boonthanakit.

Seagal does a decent job as crime boss Sirankiri. He really doesn’t do much beyond walk around his botanical garden with a hot babe that, every so often, does a striptease for him, and hold the occasional meeting with his criminal organization underlings. Sirankiri is also shockingly foul mouthed, which is off putting with all of the eastern mysticism hooey that he’s apparently into. But then he is a crime boss, and there’s a real chance that the mysticism thing is just a bullshit cover. Deep down, he’s a ruthless prick that’s all about the money (although, I guess you could make an argument that he isn’t such a bad guy in the end, since he doesn’t kill Avalon. Sirankiri is complicated, man). Seagal really only engages in action hooey twice, once at the very beginning of the movie when he has a Steven Seagal knife fight with an old guy for some reason, and at the end when he breaks out his machine gun and rides around in a giant truck looking for Jack. The knife fight is pretty good. The gun fight is just okay (I wanted to see more gunfire).

And then there’s Michael Jai White as Greedy Greg. Jai White only appears in one scene, selling Jack some guns, but it’s a great scene that showcases that Jai White, just in case you didn’t know, is a pretty damn good actor. He makes Greg instantly memorable just by the way he sits in his chair, and you want to see more of him. I’d be down for some sort of sequel focusing on Greg and his underground gun business. I think that would kick ass.

I liked Asian Connection way more than I thought I would. I expected it to be more of an action movie, but its crime thriller story more or less works and is fun to watch. John Edward Lee and Byron Gibson make for a great bank robbing team, and if someone else in the low budget action/crime movie world wants to get them together for some other movie, I’d be down for that. And the Jai White thing, too.

See Asian Connection. See it, see it, see it.

So what do we have here?

Dead bodies: At least 30.

Explosions: A few.

Nudity?: Briefly, yes.

Doobage: Aikido, a Steven Seagal knife fight, a big crime gang meeting, guys no motorcycles robbing a bank, money counting, border crossing, a necklace, a hidden gun, money sex, flower cutting, lunch, chair bondage, a guy gets a cigarette put out in his hand, underground gun selling, bullet to the leg, a bank robbery montage, a pretty badass Mercedes, multiple street shootouts, guy riding a motorcycle through an empty street market, carjacking, bullet to the chest, a double punch, bullet to the shoulder, throat slitting, serious ball kicking, broken bottle to the gut, guy thrown off the roof, a severed hand, a gigantic truck, exploding barrels, more shootouts, and a strange ending.

Kim Richards?: None.

Gratuitous: Steven Seagal, Cambodia, Steven Seagal in Cambodia, Steven Seagal engaging in a Steven Seagal knife fight with an old man for some reason, “and Steven Seagal,” Steven Seagal cutting flowers, Steven Seagal saying the “F” word, a burner cell phone, Steven Seagal teaching someone aikido, Michael Jai White, Steven Seagal talking about a fish being a sentient being, a pointless couples argument, MMA training, Steven Seagal knocking over his own table, attempted bullet wound fixing, and a strange ending.

Best lines: “You’re out of practice, my old friend. I expected more from you,” “Why would a small bank in Cambodia have this much money?,” “Oh my God! What is that?,” “I think you’ve been naughty, Jack,” “Be careful who you’re calling stupid!,” “Jack, we’re not in any danger because of this, are we?,” “I’m not doing this!,” “Money’s not important!,” “Yo, nigga, get to the point! Can’t you see I’m doing some shit here?,” “Why’d you do that? Ii was about to tap her fucking ass!,” “You’ve got your vices, I’ve got mine. What’s mine? Avalon’s snatch!,” “I don’t think I’m going to make the next job,” “I’ll do what it takes to protect myself out there,” “You’re ridiculous,” “You know, I must be a dumb motherfucker or something because I keep putting my money in these banks,” “Fucking amateur,” “I bet you didn’t see that coming!,” “Son of a bitch!,” and “Hey, Jack, you look like shit!”

Rating: 7.0/10.0

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Did You Know?

StevenSeagalAsianConnection

Did you know that Asian Connection had a brief theatrical run before it hit home video? It actually played, for one week, at the Cinema Village in New York City. It also played somewhere in Los Angeles (I have no idea where). Were there any other theatres out there showing Asian Connection, and if so did you go to the theatre to see it?

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Things to Watch Out For This Week

VigilanteDiaries

Vigilante Diaries: This is a low budget action flick with an all-star cast, or as all-star as the low budget action movie world will allow. Michael Jai White is in it, as are Quinton “Rampage” Jackson, Michael Madsen, Paul Sloan, Sal “Chavo” Guerrero, and James Russo, among others. It looks pretty awesome, and I will have a full on DVD review of this movie fairly soon. So, you know, be on the lookout for that, too.

CodeOfHonor

Code of Honor: This low budget action flick featuring Steven Seagal seems to be dividing the action movie nerd world. Lots of people sort of like it, and lots of people loathe it. Seagal apparently isn’t even the real star of the movie, and while it sounds like Seagal is playing what amounts to The Punisher, it isn’t as cool as it should be. I haven’t seen it, so I don’t know. I think it looks okay, but then I thought Attack Force looked okay, too, and we all know how that turned out.

TermLife

Term Life: Vince Vaughn (yes, that Vince Vaughn) stars in this action thriller along with Hailee Steinfeld, Annabeth Gish, Jon Favreau, Taraji P. Henson, Bill Paxton, Terrence Howard, Mike Epps, and Jonathan “Cuz” Banks. Ralph Parker hisself Peter Billingsley directed it. I’m not sure if this received a token theatrical release, as I don’t remember reading one in the New York Times. Did anyone out there actually see this in a movie theatre? Anyway, based solely on the cast this is very rentable. And, to boot, how often do you see Vince Vaughn in an action movie?

CabinFever2016

Cabin Fever remake: This is apparently some sort of near shot-by-shot remake of the Eli Roth original. I have no idea why anyone would want to do a shot-by-shot remake of a movie that’s fourteen years old, but then what the hell do I know? I thought the first Cabin Fever had its moments. I’m willing to give this a look, just to see how close it is to the original. You’d think, though, that the people involved would want to take the concept of Cabin Fever and do something else with it. But then, again, what the hell do I know? I’m just some shmoe on the internets.

ThePack

The Pack: A low budget Australian horror flick about people at an isolated farmhouse that’s surrounded by a pack of vicious wild dogs? Of course I want to see that. For my money there aren’t enough movies about packs of vicious dogs attacking people.

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And now a moment of Jino Kang

I screwed this up in the last issue, so, to make up for it, here is the moment of Jino Kang that didn’t appear in my review for Fist 2 Fist 2: Weapon of Choice. Enjoy.

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Who is this week’s Douchebag of the Week? Go here and find out!

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Next Issue: The First Power starring Lou Diamond Phillips and Jeff Kober!

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Check out my review of david j. moore’s The Good, the Tough, and the Deadly here!

And check out my interview with the man hisself david j. moore here!

And check out the interview I did with the great Jino Kang here!

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Follow me on Twitter!

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Well, I think that’ll be about it for now. Don’t forget to sign up with disqus if you want to comment on this article and any other 411 article. You know you want to, so just go do it.

B-movies rule. Always remember that.

Asian Connection

John Edward Lee– Jack Elwell
Pim Bubear– Avalon
Byron Gibson– Sam
Sahajak Boonthanakit– Niran
Steven Seagal– Gan Sirankiri
Michael Jai White– Greedy Greg
Dean Alexandrou– Timon
Eoin O’Brien– Lucky
Ron Smoorenburg– Tower

Directed by Daniel Zirilli
Screenplay by D. Glase Lomond, Tom Sizemore, and Daniel Zirilli

Distributed by Screen Media Films and Momentum Pictures

Unrated
Runtime– 91 minutes

Buy it here