Fighting Spirit Birmingham

Martial Arts and Action film fans packed out a heaving Mockingbird Cinema for the first ever Fighting Spirit Film Festival Birmingham. An established festival down in that, there London, the first ever Birmingham incarnation was long-since sold out, but we were lucky enough to sneak a pass to see what all the fuss was about!

Headlined by the UK Premiere of Scott Adkins’ Accident Man, fans came from far and wide (no, not a cliche; one travelled from Switzerland!) just to get a glimpse of Adkins himself and to grill him at the Q&A.

As if that wasn’t enough bang for your buck, the festival also kicked off (sorry) with live demonstrations from Southern Praying Mantis 4Fighters, as well as Wushu Champions Steve Coleman and Sam Mak (Tomb Raider). For those, like me, who were unfamiliar with this particular style, 4Fighters’ Jason was more than happy to get the lesson on: “Northern legs, Southern fists” he told me, before running off to pound his colleagues in front of an audience in awe.

Not content with trailers alone, FSFF Birmingham also treated the audience to screenings of its previous award-winning shorts. For one who’s not been interested in action movies since the early 90’s, this writer had forgotten how much fun they could be. And should be.

Matt Routledge’s The Fixer suitably set the tone with its tongue-in-cheek mission objective and resulting brutal briefcase battle. That the finale got a huge laugh from the audience displayed a sense of cinematic community not seen since screenings of The Room.

The trailer for Amber followed and featured some stunning visuals, especially the golden hour fight overlooking London. Don’t just take my word for it: see for yourself…

Written and directed by Beau Fowler, Express Delivery sees Fowler star as Swifty, a deceptively kick-ass vagabond who, whilst caught by a Bounty Hunter known as ‘The Postman’ (Sonny Louis), becomes ensnared in a much wider web.

Express Delivery Fighting Spirit Film Festival Birmingham

Fresh from winning awards at FSFF17 for Best Action Choreography, it’s easy to see why: there are 360 Degree rotations, 180 degree flips and some jarring impact. And that’s just the camera work.

Louis and Fowler, along with Amber producer Eloise Carrow, are looking to build on the foundations of Express Delivery, which is set to be part of an evolving narrative. Considering Fowler’s the guy who dared to sit in Christian Bale’s seat on the Batman Begins set, you know nothing’s going to stand in his way. One to watch.

Kowloon Killers won the Audience Choice Award at FSFF17 and it’s easy to see why. It’s a finely-spun tale that looks as luscious as Drive but hits that much harder. Set in a supermarket and told through a survivor’s flashbacks, the hit-gone-wrong set-up subverts expectations and leaves the audience with a sweet pay-off.

Kowloon Killers Fighting Spirit Festival Birmingham

It also goes without saying that there’s something satisfying about seeing Donald Trump-masked thugs get effed up.

Director Clayton Barber channels 1990’s Blind Fury in the final FSFF17 film, Blindsided. The winner of Best Short sees a mysterious blind man (Eric Jacobus) literally cane a shake-down crew that’s impeding his grocery run.

Blindsided Fighting Spirit Film Festival Birmingham

Equally impressive as the fight scenes were the lengths to which Jacobus went to portray blindness. As the credits rolled, Jacobus can be seen blindfolded and learning to use a short cane to walk the streets. Kudos indeed.

Finally, the audience were ready for Accident Man. Scott Adkins’ passion project since he discovered the Pat Mills comics as a child, the audience reacted exactly how he’d hoped. As if they were at a fireworks display, their level of laughter would have got them kicked out of their local Cineplex.

You can read our full review for Accident Man right here!

Accident Man Fighting Spirit Film Festival Birmingham

The Q&A that followed saw Adkins open up about constantly trying to raise the bar in his onscreen performances and his directorial aspirations as well as his love for Van Dammage and how he’d like to take on Donnie Yen!

After attending as a somewhat sceptic, all there is to say, is roll on Fighting Spirit Film Festival come September in London.

Robb Sheppard

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