Killer Mike’s I Pledge Allegiance to the Grind II was one of my favorite albums last year. I don’t know that it was 100% good, but I dig it. It was an album with a strong message, and one I can support. The Grind that Mike pledges allegiance to is Getting Rich INDependently. A goofy acronym, but an important one. If you’re working for someone else’s dream, you probably aren’t working toward your own. “If you have a boss, maybe you should fire your boss” is a profound statement. It’s full of arrogance, but it’s also very apt. It’s about getting off your butt and working for you, for something you believe in, rather than someone else’s money machine. The most important statement on the album, for mer personally, is at the end of “If I Can’t Eat Right.” “If you knew how much you were worth, you would ask for more than you get.”
Larry Leong is a friend of mine, and I’d like to think that he subscribes to a similar mentality. He’s been doing stunt work and acting in Hollywood for the past few years, and working on his baby, Yeah Sure Okay. YSO is a martial arts film, but it’s also a response to a lot of trends Larry saw that he wasn’t too fond of. Jump-cut, MTV-style editing, and a general lackluster sense of creativity. He wrote and directed a martial arts movie with no dialogue, no names, and a ton of action, and it ended up pretty entertaining.
The story is simple. There are two friends. One wears a blue shirt, the other a red one. There is a girl, whose face is never seen, that they both fall in love with. There are also several other guys, and all of them want the girl. As these things go, these guys are skilled in various kinds of martial arts, and our heroes end up in the middle of a city-wide battle for love.
YSO isn’t all action. There are moments of personal reflection in the occasional downtime and a couple of flashbacks. Blue has recently broken up with his girlfriend and is in a funk because of it. Neither Blue nor Red have luck with dating. You get the point pretty quickly, and it helps that the story is so familiar. It gives Larry a chance to string along a series of clever and inventive fights while keeping your interest up.
The fights are definitely the highlight. The Zero Gravity team came out and represented well. All of the fights are pretty good, and feature some pretty impressive stunts. They aren’t just the fast-paced, Bourne-style, bone-breaking stuff that most movies have. There’s a real sense of flow, style, and most of all, comedy. Some of the fights have laugh out loud funny moments, which keeps YSO from being an unbearably serious movie.
The fights having their own personality is vital to the film, as well. It makes each fight into an event, rather than a hurdle to be passed before getting to the big end fight. It’s not just “Oh yeah, Blue vs Purple!” when describing it to friends. You recall specific moves, like a guy straightening the creases in his jeans, the scowl on a man’s face, or a classic twin jump kick.
YSO isn’t an unqualified success. There are issues with the lighting, and I’m not too keen on the pacing. It’s a little more stop and go than I’d like, and a tighter editing hand may have helped out with that. I’d also have liked to hear a dual commentary track, though geography apparently prevented that. Larry’s solo commentary is interesting, but I think that the best commentaries happen when a couple of people get a chance to talk over their decisions over the course of making the film.
Overall, though, it’s a fun movie to watch. The complete lack of dialogue has novelty value, but it also helps to show how storytelling can work. If anything, it reminds me of old Tom & Jerry pictures, where the acting was the action. It makes the movie more visually interesting than a lot of films, and well worth a watch. You can pick it up for ten bucks, plus shipping.