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The Challenge (2005)
Writer and director: Johannes Jaeger

review by Christopher Geary

Apparently derived from a short film, Kampfansage 2 (2002), The Challenge (aka: Kampfansage - Der letzte Schüler), translating as 'Challenge: The Last Apprentice' is reportedly the first ever German kung fu movie. The fact that its setting is a post-holocaust, mid-21st century world marks it out as worthwhile for fans of Ultimate Warrior (1975), and The Silent Flute (aka: Circle Of Iron, 1978), as it borrows from the above, while essaying low-budget futuristic adventures clearly inspired by the legend of Robin Hood, and the mythos of Mad Max.

Jonas (Mathis Landwehr) is a wounded fighter, returning to a blighted city where bad guy Bosco (Christian Monz) rules the streets, his dictatorship enforced by bullying stormtroopers in sci-fi ninja garb. Yes, only blond hero Jonas can overthrow the forces of tyranny and lead the oppressed population to freedom. Arriving in town he saves a pretty girl who turns out to be the sister of local survivalist Vinzent (Volkram Zschiesche), another keen and cocky martial arts expert, who becomes Robin's (sorry, Jonas') bestest pal and kung fu sidekick as the Little John/ Will Scarlet analogue. All the ladies in this film: Kleo (Zora Holt), Kristina (Kristina Papadopoulou), and Marie (Sinta Weisz) make for great eye candy, even if their characters are rarely more than familiar types, like: mysterious healer, sultry gun moll, and plucky heroine.

Charismatic in the way that only competent martial artists can be, when cast as genre stereotypes, the leads square off in a somewhat interminable series of duels, friendly or otherwise, while the simplistic yet daringly uncomplicated plotline just drifts along from one combative action sequence to another. Shot in video, this film looks great in daytime urban exteriors, where arty use of brown filters lend grimy streets, shattered buildings and underground hovels, the appeal of ruined chic. However, night scenes, poorly-lit interiors, and dodgy CGI work undermines the filmmaker's aesthetic sense with very patchy visuals, constantly revealed to the film's detriment by awful picture quality in darkness and shadows, and budgetary constraints.

See this one for its novelty value, as Teutonic chopsocky if nothing else, but don't expect too much in the way of originality or entertainment.
The Challenge

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