‘One Million Kicks‘ might not be ground-breaking or high-budget drama, but it gives German martial-artist Mike Moeller’s moves a solid show-reel…
When a couple of failed businessmen Frank (Martin Baden) and Salva (Bartholomäus Kowalski) see Michael Schneider (Mike Moeller) retaliate against a night-club bouncer a quick money-making idea comes to mind. In the age of ‘hits’ and ‘streaming’ they can get fight enthusiasts to watch orchestrated fights between worthier opponents. Schneider is obviously a good martial-artist, so all they have to do is find him opponents… whether those opponents like it or not. At first, Schneider goes along with their plan – simply insisting that anyone he fights must be a good fighter… he’s in it for the adrenaline and money not to hurt people who don’t stand a chance.
However, after several successful outings, another night-club encounter ends with Schneider in the hospital. During his enforced convalescence, a previous opponent, eastern chef Lee ( Li Yanlong) takes more benevolent and forgiving interest in him that Mike’s erstwhile ‘handlers’ and it’s during this time – and with tragic personal news – that Michael decides he must turn his life around.
That isn’t news that goes down well with Frank and Salva or a corrupt police-officer who still have very personal plans for the previous money-maker…
A lot has been written about Mike Moeller over the last few years and One Million Klicks certainly pushes him centre-stage. It takes a while for the film to settle down and get its more subtle kicks in. In early scenes, Moeller somewhat over-plays the pint-size ‘cheeky-chappie’ persona – a guy who has great athletic skills but quite the opposite in the flirting department. It’s cartoonish and exaggerated, which would be fine except at this point the audience is not particularly rooting for him – so far Schneider is just a cocky loudmouth, easily led and talked into instigating fights that portray him as simply a bully prone to showing off. Then again, there’s no point in having a story of redemption if there’s nothing to be redeemed for and the film is essentially about that U-turn that Mike undertakes when his injury makes him realise what’s more important in life.
In essence, One Million Klicks is the story of what might have happened had The Karate Kid‘s Mr Myiagi taken on the task of rehabilitating Martin Kove’s bully Kreese rather than training Daniel. Li Yanlong is in the mentor role here, helping channel Schneider’s innate abilities into more worthwhile pursuits and outlook. Baden and Kowalsi don’t quite have the sinister weight needed for being the villains of the piece, coming across as more bargain-basement ‘The Two Rons’ rather than Kray Twins but it’s the characters’ lack of self-awareness and hopeless lack of ethics that makes them easy to root against
What One Million Klicks is, is a decent show-reel for both Moeller’s hard won abilities and solid fight choreography – and that in itself is no bad thing. Those here for the wham-bang factor will get their money’s worth. An early montage boasts Jean-Claude Van Damme-esque workouts (splits, one arm press-ups etc.) which are at least as impressive as some of the better known martial artists and the cinematography for one-on-one combat and wider scale scenes (like Mike picking a fight with hard-nosed football supporters) certainly delivers on the high-impact levels intended.
No, to be fair, One Million Kicks can’t compete directly with the higher-budgeted output from Hollywood and eastern territories, but if the shoestring budget and lack of originality sometimes show, you can’t fault the sheer enthusiasm and the film ultimately delivers the kind of beats (and beat-downs) that martial-arts enthusiasts will thoroughly enjoy. And it bodes well as an entry-level addition to another stage in Moeller’s fast-moving career.