Directed by: Alex Padrutt, Oliver Juhrs
Starring: Mike Moeller, Yanlong Li, Martin Bader, Sabine Steinbach, Volkram Zschiesche, Bartholomäus Kowalski.
When Frank and Salva, two entrepreneurs looking for their next venture, spot a young man called Michael get involved in a spectactular fight with a couple of bouncers twice his size, they instantly know they've discovered a potential money-earner. They convince Michael to pick fights with unsuspecting people in order for Frank and Salva to film them and upload the fights on their new website. Soon Michael is an internet sensation, but his newfound fame brings with it a darkness...
One Million K(l)icks is more than just a showcase for Mike Moeller's awesome martial arts skills and acrobatic prowess. It also delivers a great story of a man finding redemption.
When we first meet Michael, indeed for the first half of the film, he's a bit of a boorish arse. He's short and stocky, has dreadful luck with the ladies (his pickup lines are awful) and has some deep wounds concerning his absent father. In fact his father is the catalyst to Michael accepting the role offered to him by Frank and Salva.
The premise is a solid one. Anyone with access to online social media will at some point have come across people posting footage of fights online, whether they are real or staged. Its not inconceivable that someone might try to monopolise on that, even if it falls within a legal and moral grey area. Unfortunately using the internet as hook is also the film's weakest point although it's not for want of trying. Many films have tried to convey how people watch things on the internet in an interesting fashion, and it always looks false to me.
When Michael accepts the deal, he does have one condition - that his opponents can actually fight. This is good news for two reasons - it provides the film with opportunities to stage some great fight scenes, but it also helps to keep Michael a sympathetic character. Anything less would see Michael just bullying people, and lord knows the internet has enough of those videos to contend with.
The fight scenes are all well choreographed and take place in very different locations. Sometimes Michael will be squared off against one opponent (a jealous boyfriend) or multiple attackers (a bunch of football hooligans). Two of the best scenes however take place in a Taekwondo dojo and the kitchen of a Chinese restaurant.
The fight in the restaurant kitchen marks a turning point in the film and introduces the film's second best character, Lee Aang-song (Li Yanlong). Lee is a kung fu master who now works as a chef, having turned his back on the martial world. The fight scene is brilliant not only for the techniques involved but because it eloquently displays Lee's philosophical outlook and demeanour. The spirit of it reminded me of the fight between Jet Li and Yusuaki Kurata in Fist of Legend.
Despite the excellent fight scenes, One Million K(l)icks would have been a hard watch if Michael remained laddish and hot-headed for the whole film. In fact if you looked at Michael from the other end of the spectrum you could argue that he's the badguy! Luckily the fight with Lee gives him pause for thought, then a bar fight puts him in hospital for a spell where he is not only visited by Lee but also makes an effort to woo his nurse, Lilly (Sabine Steinbach).
Of course, every decent martial arts movie needs a good badguy, and One Million K(l)icks gives Michael a great antagonist in Ritter (Volkram Zschiesche), a corrupt cop who wants to take Michael's internet "crown". He's not above setting up his friends on trumped-up charges to get what he wants, providing the perfect motivation for Michael to get involved in fighting one last time.
One Million K(l)icks is a very modern take on a traditional martial arts story. The scenes of people getting excited about watching the fights online feel a bit false to me personally (but so does any depiction of the internet in movies), but Mike Moeller does an awesome job, making a potentially unlikeable character likeable and the film gives him an inspiring story arc. It also allows for some excellent fight scenes, performed, shot and edited in expert style. And as an added bonus, the film is confident enough to sow the seeds of its own sequel, which seems an exciting development indeed.
8 out of 10 (MikeOutWest)