Directed by: Chee Keong Cheung
Written by: Chee Keong Cheung, Mark Strange, Steve Horvath
Starring: Akira Koieyama, Carlos Gallardo, Douglas Russell, Euan Macnaughton, Jasmine Mitchell, Joshua Dickinson, Katarina Leigh Waters, Madeleine Kelly, Marc Baylis, Mark Strange, Martyn Ford, Oris Erhuero
Directed by Chee Keong Cheung
After a virus outbreak turns most of the British population into the walking dead, a group of highly skilled soldiers are tasked with retrieving the doctor who’s suspected to be the cause of it all – Dr Julian Raynes. With Raynes being the only person who could hold the cure to the terrible infection spreading across the country, the eight-member special forces squad must put their lives on the line to find and extract him before the entire quarantine zone is obliterated.
Zombie movies aren’t my favourite of genres as there’s only so much you can actually do with the shuffling undead. That’s not to say I hate zombie movies, but they have to have something more about them to make me enjoy them. Would Chee Keong Cheung’s British zombie flick REDCON-1 join the ranks of favourites Dawn of the Dead, Osombie and The Dead?
With an island already in turmoil from a virus outbreak, it’s up to the charismatic leader Captain Marcus Stanton, played with commanding authority by Oris Erhuero, to guide his skilled team into a suicidal mission that may be the only hope of saving their fellow man. The squad includes, much to my delight, a diverse set of characters including a female sniper Sergeant Kira Paige (Impact wrestler Katarina Leigh Waters), imposing bodybuilder Martyn Ford as marine Jacob, Akira Koieyama as katana-wielding Lieutenant Simon Lau, quiet intelligence private Perry Bernstein (Joshua Dickinson), and Mr El Mariachi himself, Carlos Gallardo, as spiritual Sergeant Frederick Reeves. Gallardo also acts as producer on the film and I couldn’t be happier to see one of the key components of indie cinema working on this movie with Cheung and also with a starring role.
REDCON-1 first came to my attention a few years ago when a casting call went out looking for martial artists in the Greater Manchester area. As one such person, I shared the news with my fellow martial artists and, although I didn’t end up attending myself, I knew to keep an eye out for this production. It came as no surprise that this movie isn’t simply a shoot-em up but incorporates an onslaught of hand-to-hand and weaponised combat to truly destroy the blood-thirsty undead in style. It’s not just the zombies on the receiving end of brutal empty hand combat either with a few fight scenes between the main set of characters also. Pitting a team of testosterone-fuelled individuals with differing opinions will always result in a bit of the ol’ fisticuffs though Mark Strange, who plays Lieutenant Frank Perez and also acts as the film’s fight choreographer, isn’t afraid of showing off his roundhouse kicking skills either. What results is an action-packed display that combines realistic martial arts and gun combat in a fight-for-survival environment that will surely get the viewer’s adrenaline pumping.
Aside from the ass-kicking action, what matters to me most in a movie is how the story both plays out and is performed. In REDCON-1, we see how the virus outbreak affects the individuals in the group and how the stress of trying to locate their target and bring him back to their General causes friction within the squad. Throughout the mission, they must deal with the threat of the infected, who are keen to sink their teeth into the soldiers at any given opportunity, as well as survivors who’ve taken it upon themselves to become their own law – looting and attacking other survivors who may cross their path. The film pits choices throughout the running time and characters deal with these in different ways. For instance, Lieutenant Rodrigo Gonzalez (Michael Sheehan) must make a tough decision with neither option ending well and you begin to question yourself in how you’d react to that same scenario if you were in his shoes. Nothing is ever black or white, and it’s great how these choices and internal dilemmas are dealt with in this movie. The film also evolves its storyline from your bog-standard zombie film and presents a different angle that we’ve never really explored before in this way. Again, another element that helps differentiate itself from other zombie movies out there.
Aesthetically, REDCON-1 hits all the right notes. The zombies are intense and frightening to gaze upon, with blood squirting everywhere from their savage assassination, be it from death by bullet to the brain or from having their head caved in by a brick. Exploding squibs in replace of CGI reminded me very much of Robert Rodriguez’s El Mariachi and to see this replicated here in the presence of Carlos Gallardo only made my film aficionado heart swell even more. The film effortlessly manages to make a tasty meal of intimate scenes though doesn’t shy away from epic scenes of action either. For an independent movie, I never expected to see such demanding environments brought to the screen in such a way that would rival productions from the big boys but REDCON-1 manages to execute them brilliantly, with tanks, military vehicles and a horde of zombies roaring onto the screen, giving the story the extra authenticity it needs to back up its time-sensitive, species-threatening storyline.
Combining all the aspects that REDCON-1 touches upon in its 110 minute running time proves that this Brit flick is one zombie movie that shouldn’t be ignored. Chee Keong Cheung and his crew have crafted an independent film that will make you gasp, jump, pump your fist in the air and even shed a tear, all rolled up in an infectious, pugilistic quest for survival. Loyalty will be tested, orders will be questioned and you’ve a front-row seat to all the action along the way.
The Blu-Ray is presented with 5.1 and 2.0 audio with a host of extras including auditions with the tremendous young actress Jasmine Mitchell who plays Alicia, interviews with the cast and crew, and even interviews with some of the enthusiastic extras who got to be involved with the film.