Zero Tolerance (2015)

Reviewed by Scott Blasingame
December 29, 2015


Dustin Nguyen • Sahajak Boonthanakit • Prinya Intachai • Kane Kosugi • Nina Paosut • Bebe Pham • Ammy Chanicha • Gary Daniels • Scott Adkins
Wych Kaosayananda
Sanchai Burakan
Widescreen. English audio

The films directed by Wych Kaosayananda are very hit and miss with people. But it seems they are mainly a miss, and so is this one. I wonder if it has anything to do with the fact that his name actually contains an alternate spelling of the word ‘chaos’?

Born in Thailand in 1974, Kaosayananda released the movie FAH in 1998, which was made in his homeland, and at the time was the highest budgeted film in the country’s cinematic history. It was such a success that it garnered him the opportunity to direct 2002’s BALLISTIC: ECKS VS SEVER, which starred Antonio Banderas and Lucy Liu. The movie was panned on release by both critics and moviegoers, and did so poorly in theaters that it didn’t even earn back a third of its $70 million budget. He didn’t direct another film until 2012’s ANGELS, starring Dustin Nguyen of the TV series 21 JUMPSTREET. This is the film that would finally be released 3 years later, as it apparently wasn’t receiving good word of mouth based on the release of early trailers. Following this, he directed TEKKEN 2: KAZUYA’S REVENGE in 2014, starring Kane Kosugi. However, though the fight action was rather solid, this film was panned (almost as badly as BALLISTIC) for not being faithful to the characters of the video game franchise. ANGELS was retitled ZERO TOLERANCE and finally premiered Feb. 10, 2015 at the Thailand International Film Destination Festival.

I’m going to be upfront about this. I like BALLISTIC: ECKS VS SEVER and TEKKEN 2: KAZUYA’S REVENGE. I thought they were decent stories with some well done action, especially the latter. I’ve been waiting patiently for ZERO TOLERANCE to finally come out because I was more than willing to give it a chance, regardless of what the overall viewing audience may think of Kaosayananda’s previous efforts.

Dustin Nguyen stars as Johnny, a semi-retired black ops operative, trained by the CIA in the US. It so happens that a former CIA associate of his, named Peter (Sahajak Boonthanakit), is now a police officer in Bangkok, Thailand, who works in the sex crimes division. When the dead body of young woman is found floating in the river, Peter is called in. He immediately recognizes her to be Angel, the daughter of his friend. He makes a hasty trip to China to relate what has happened, even telling his friend to give him a few days to investigate just what happened, and then Johnny can do what he needs to. When Johnny arrives, he, Peter, and Karn, Peter’s partner, set out to run down the leads they have in order to discover the truth behind Angel’s demise, and who might have murdered her.

Johnny hasn’t had any contact with his daughter in years, as she was taken away when her mother left her father. What Johnny soon discovers is that his daughter willingly went into the sex trade industry, and that all her clientele loved her. Specifically among those are her former pimp Sammy (Gary Daniels), and newly enamored boyfriend Steven (Scott Adkins). He learns that Angel was considered too smart for her own good, being quite adept at manipulating men. All of this is discovered through Peter and Karn taking him into the seedy sex trade districts of Bangkok. Some of the information is found out by talking with friends and coworkers; some through coercion.

Nguyen plays Johnny as a father whose anger and desire for vengeance is always right below the surface. He’s a professional, and he keeps his emotions in check for the most part, but just barely. His friend Peter only wants to help Johnny get to the truth, and even allow him his revenge, as long as it’s kept on the down-low. Unfortunately, that doesn’t happen, and Peter loses his position as a police officer. It tests their relationship, but doesn’t break it.

The story is slowly evolved, which isn’t necessarily bad. The film is full of garish nightclub scenes and fast-paced, vibrating dance music, which seems to underscore the core fact of the sex trade industry: it’s on, and then it’s on to the next john. The characters that appear also underline another theme- they’re adept at using people, and in turn are used themselves. And none of them like it. But without fail, they all claim to like or love Angel, and none demonstrates a motive for killing her.

When the action hits, it seems well choreographed. However, the editing and angles of its filming leave a lot to be desired. Nguyen executes the scenes quite well. He takes out men with cool calculation and precision. There isn’t a man he meets that he doesn’t kill at some point. And the final action sequence, set in a nightclub, has to be one of the most casual shootouts I’ve ever seen. In fact, just about all the action scenes involve gunplay, with only a smattering of hand to hand. It’s a shame, too, because there is some screen-fighting talent on display, but sadly none of it is taken advantage of. Kane Kosugi appears only at the opening of the film, and is soon done away with. Gary Daniels, while excellent in his role, has no physical action to perform. Really Scott Adkins is the only one who is utilized. He has a couple of minor skirmishes that are over in a matter of seconds.

I know what you’re thinking: you mean none of these guys face off against one another? Well, there’s one. In the last action sequence, Johnny comes face to face with his daughter’s ‘boyfriend’, Steven, and asks him if he knows what happened to Angel. Johnny has been methodically gunning down every male in the club, to which Steven responds, “Why don’t you put your gun down, and see if you can beat it out of me?” So it’s on, right? The one moment I’d hope for, to justify the expense of this DVD, is actually about to take place. Yes!…sort of. There are some nice exchanges that start to hopefully build up to more involved choreography. Adkins lets loose with a couple of kicks, Nguyen takes out his knee, and it’s over. Wait, what? Yep. It might have lasted 90 seconds.

So, what’s the verdict? Well, I can’t encourage you to spend your hard earned money on this. However, I do think it’s worth seeing or renting. This movie has a lot going for it, but fails to deliver in many regards, especially the action. The plot is good, the acting is good, and the action is good, but there’s not enough of it. And I don’t mean there’s a lack of martial arts action, even though there is. There’s just a lack of steady action. The fact that the story has a slow build is fine, but that would still work with a couple of more action pieces building to a greater intensity at the end. I’ve always been a fan of Dustin Nguyen, and at times in this he just seethes as a man trying to keep a tight rein on himself. He has great presence, is a good actor, and I was hoping to see him showcase his martial arts skills the way he did in THE REBEL against Johnny Tri-Nguyen. Sadly, that didn’t happen. And what a waste to have fighting talent like Kosugi, Daniels, Adkins, and Nguyen, and then not utilize them.

I’ll say this. At the end of the film, when what happened to Angel is finally disclosed, it’s not what you would expect, but is most likely closer to the truth and reality of what really happens in that world. Honestly, for me, that is probably the saving grace of the film because I usually have zero tolerance for movies that cop out on the action and the use of its fighters. But I’d still watch this again.