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The Fifth Commandment
cast: Rick Yune, Keith David, Bokeem Woodbine, Dania Ramirez, and Roger Yuan

director: Jesse Johnson

86 minutes (15) 2007
widescreen ratio 16:9
Metrodome DVD Region 2 retail

RATING: 5/10
reviewed by Barbara Davies
Chance Templeton (Rick Yune) is an expert at killing people, as is his stepfather Max (alias, the Jazzman). Max was in LA's Chinatown on the fatal day that 'Z' (Roger Yuan) killed Chance's parents. He saved young Chance's life and raised him with his own son, Miles (Bokeem Woodbine).

When Chance does a background check on the target of his next contract, singer Angel (Dania Ramirez), he has a surprise. Miles isn't dead, as Max had told him, but working as Angel's new bodyguard. Chance turns down the contract in Bangkok and warns Miles, but a psycho husband-and-wife team (one of whom is - surprise, surprise! - 'Z') accept it. Soon, Chance, Miles, and Angel are on the run from the unscrupulous 'Z' (now called 'Damage') and his henchmen... and also from the Thai police.

I enjoyed the trailer so the film came as something of a disappointment. Perhaps it's a case of 'jack of all trades, master of none'. Not only did Yune star in and produce The Fifth Commandment (which, for those who have forgotten, is 'Thou shalt not kill'), he also wrote it. His reasons were primarily financial - a writer would have charged him 'an exorbitant amount' to turn his idea into a screenplay - but someone should have reminded him that you get what you pay for.

The plot comes across not as a coherent, logical whole but as a series of set pieces loosely strung together. Coincidences strain credulity and many of the situations and characters were last fresh in early blaxploitation and Bruce Lee movies. As for the emotional content, it's uneven. So the scene in which Angel tells Chance about her past, meant to add depth and backstory, seems to come out of and go nowhere. More crucially, the film's underlying plot engine (the reason Angel is a target) when uncovered proves to be as unbelievable as her manager's record label: Ominous Records. Clunky dialogue doesn't help - when a character talks about 'collecting our minds' you can't help but wonder if it's a Freudian slip. And Chance and Angel lack any tangible chemistry, so that his assertion that she has "saved me in more ways than you'll ever know" (a claim made twice, in case you should miss it) doesn't hold water.

What about the stunts? I hear you cry. The first and most ambitious stunt, where Chance carries out a hit on the top floor of a hotel, is indeed spectacular and would not look out of place in a Bond movie. And the numerous chases are suitably fast and furious. But the martial art fights mostly come across like the complicated and choreographed routines they are.

Rick Yune (Die Another Day, The Fast And The Furious) is great at action and looks good with his shirt off, but his acting is largely monotone, as is his delivery - the hoarse whisper he adopts, as if channelling Clint Eastwood in a spaghetti western, becomes rather wearing. Dania Ramirez (Heroes) - the only significant female presence - does her best, gamely channelling Jennifer Lopez, but the plot requires her to do the impossible, convince us that her whiney, spoilt singer could form a strong bond with a cold-eyed assassin in just a few hours. As for the rest: Bokeem Woodbine is engaging as Miles but leaves the stage too early; Roger Yuan chews up the scenery as the cartoon-like psycho assassin who never plays fair and won't stay dead; and Keith David (Pitch Black, Platoon, John Carpenter's The Thing) strives to inject a note of realism into the proceedings, seeming at times to be in a different film entirely.

DVD extras include the trailer and two rather dull documentaries: Rick Yune was a hedge fund trader and seems more interested in talking about the production side than the acting in Creating The Fifth Commandment; and director Jesse Johnson and stunt co-ordinator Garrett Warren discuss The Stunts Of The Fifth Commandment.

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