I had no interest in watching the first Democratic Party debate without analysis from Democracy Now and commentary from my favorite late night and podcasting comedy crews. So, it worked out well that on the same evening I was introduced to a short film that packs quite the punch: The Challenger.

Pun intended.

Writer and director Tran Quoc Bao jumps right in with Andy Le as “Danny, the challenger” practicing a solo Kung Fu form before being interrupted by “Chuck, the king” played by Ken Quitugua, who was also the action director. The fight starts out playful with contrasting styles, but quickly escalates. There are plenty of nods to Kung Fu classics that some viewers will recognize. Though somewhat cheesy, I could dig it. I’ve mentioned before I’m not a big slow-mo fan, but I get what Mr. Tran is going for and why not?

Having recently wrapped a short film with a shoestring budget (no martial arts, sadly), I enjoyed and respected the quality of fluid directing. The fight choreography is also great, and I see Quitugua is a part of the same stunt team — ZeroGravity — as Lateef Crowder. The moves aren’t groundbreaking, but the execution is tight and the guys clearly have a deep knowledge of their arts and have trained well together. I most appreciated the crisp trapping and foot work that’s shot very clearly to show the chess match.

AndyKen1

I really like characters in action flicks that look like regular folk, but then show they can throw down with the best of them. In a previous piece, I called it the Kung Fu Hustle effect. While Le is a champion and is extremely talented — I don’t know if it’s the clothing or what — but he seems like an average Joe. It only strengthens the character’s impact once he gets going.

After only a few minutes it’s over and if you were hoping for more like I was, the good news is that The Challenger is actually a prequel for an upcoming full-length feature.

It’s under ten minutes, so check it out, kick it, and tiger claw it around social media, and follow the team as they move to the feature.

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