19th Sep2017

‘Female Fight Squad’ VOD Review

by Phil Wheat

Stars: Amy Johnston, Dolph Lundgren, Cortney Palm, Rey Goyos, Sean Faris, Shaun Brown, Levy Tran, Folake Olowofoyeku, Michelle Jubilee Gonzalez, Jeanette Samano, Briana Marin, Amanda Bell | Written by Anastazja Davis, Miguel A. Ferrer | Directed by Miguel A. Ferrer

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Fresh off her starring role in Lady Bloodfight, Amy Johnston returns in yet another DTV action flick that, this time around, makes excellent use of not only her fight skills (which are as impressive as ever) but also her acting skills…

Here Johnston plays Becca, a former underground fighter who abandons the sport for a life at an animal shelter after a brutal family tragedy invovling her father. However when her sister Kate comes to her and begs her to help repay a massive debt, Becca must re-enter the world of illegal underground fighting and resume her fight career as “Bex the Beast”. Whilst training Kate’s team of fighters – hence the films title – Becca must confront the cruel and dangerous promoter who threatens not only Kate’s life, but that of her daughter.

It would seem, based on the two films Johnston has headlined so far, that her career has been very much modelled on that of Jean-Claude Van Damme: her first film was a straight up action flick a la Kickboxer and/or Bloodsport; and her second actually has more of a story, yet still focuses heavily on the in-ring action – similar to the likes of Van Damme’s A.W.O.L. Now that may sound simplistic, but it’s also not a bad thing. After all, like Van Damme, Johnston is slowly but surely building a name for herself as a legitimate female fight-film talent. And one that, thanks to her vast experience in movies as a stunt woman, knows what it takes to make film fighting work beyond merely editing it together to look good.

But it’s not just about looking good. Like her last film, the choreography in Female Fight Squad combines traditional martial arts with MMA to create fights that look good AND look authentic. Hell, this film makes even the non-fighters, the actual “actors” in this movie, look like they have vast experience and vice versa – the fighters can act! It’s an impressive feat considering this is the debut feature for co-writer and director Miguel A. Ferrer.

So good is Ferrer’s debut film that, had it been released in the mid-90s, at the height of Martial Arts Illustrated and Impact Magazine’s influence within the genre, there would have been page after page devoted to the movie. Analysing not only the film, but the talent behind it – we’d know all there was to know about the film from people whose work did, and still does, shape action-movie fandom, including mine. Today however, we find Female Fight Squad released as a direct to market title, in this particular case a DVD and Digital only release, with little to no fanfare. And a UK release will be just as under the radar and just as badly publicised… Which is a crying shame as Johnston and co. are truly keeping the traditional action movie flame alive, foregoing the flashy CG visuals of Hollywood blockbusters to deliver a film that respects the genre while pushing it forward into a [hopefully] positive future.

As with all action movies of this type, there’s a final showdown between hero and villain. However where Female Fight Squad differs from Johnston’s previous film is that there’s very much a blurred line between the two opposing forces, as Johnston goes full Terminator in a performance that sees the stuntwoman-turned-actress seem like the kind of unstoppable force old-school action heroes used to be. With no vulnerabilities, with a single-minded focus, with one goal. Only in this case its not to win, but to kill… kill everyone! Frankly in those final scenes Johnston looks like a true, and terrifying, action superstar – one that has honed her craft for years (which she has, only as an uncredited stuntwoman than the headliner she REALLY deserves to be), instantly putting herself in the great movie “female badass” canon alongside Cynthia Rothrock and Michelle Yeoh. And yes, that’s not an exaggeration, she really is that good.

Female Fight Squad leaves Amy Johnston two-for-two when it comes to her action “movie star” career. I do hope that mainstream audiences latch on to just how good a fighter and an actress she is, and she finally receives the kind of respect her pioneering peers garnered back in the VHS era. To say I’m looking forward to Johnston going head-to-head with Scott Adkins in Accident Man is a HUGE understatement…

***** 5/5

Female Fight Squad is available on iTunes, in the US, now.

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