14th Aug2023

‘Johnny Z’ VOD Review

by James Rodrigues

Stars: Ryan LaPlante, Michael Merchant, Félix Cortés Rodríguez, Jason Delgado | Written and Directed by Jonathan Straiton

A blaring alarm opens co-writer/director Jonathan Straiton’s latest film, as someone tries evading armed guards at a mysterious location. It turns out this is a decoy set by Dr. Fisher (Ryan LaPlante), so he can escape an evil corporation with a half-human, half-zombie referred to as Patient Z (Michael Merchant). Their plans are halted by a vehicular crash, which is stumbled upon by martial arts master Jonray (Félix Cortés Rodríguez). The dying doctor asks the figure to look after his patient, whose blood can save everything in this zombie-ravaged world.

Jonray begins bonding with the half-zombie that he brings back to his home, eventually seeing him as a surrogate son that he names Johnny (a name that has links to the lead’s obligatory tragic flashback). Mutual respect builds between the pair amidst fight training, something that is vocally disliked by Jonray’s brother, Crisanto (Jason Delgado). There could be something interesting about this attitude stemming from being beaten down by an unforgiving world, yet it becomes difficult to care when most of the character’s dialogue amounts to complaints and whining. It is worth mentioning that, within this meandering film, this is just one of many stiff performances.

As momentary glances are cast over a wrestling-style showdown, and a pursuing hunter sent by a boss with a wavering accent, these thin attempts at plot feel like padding around Straiton’s real focus. The film feels crafted to show off the cast’s fight choreography, following a tradition of action cinema which has fuelled careers such as Michelle Yeoh, Jackie Chan, and Iko Uwais. This makes it disappointing how unremarkable and dull the action scenes are, more resembling middle-aged men trying to imitate their favourite samurai films to avoid talking about their feelings. As dubstep plays over the credits, there is an inescapable feeling of this film being a hollow mash-up of things that a focus group believes is cool.

½  0.5/5

Johnny Z is available on UK digital now, courtesy of Reel 2 Reel Films.


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