You probably haven't heard of directors Andrew Leckonby or John Raine, likewise the independent filmmaking company they formed together, Hydra-X Films. Not yet.
But these guys have been surprisingly prolific over the last few years, either as individuals or while collaborating. Short films which can be attributed to them include the likes of "Fractured Boy", "The Secret" and 2009's "Repercussions".
The latter won acclaim for its raw, violent and at times darkly humorous approach to the well-worn subject matter of vigilantism. So much so, that Leckonby and Raine decided to get their heads together and develop a feature-length outing for that short's lead character.
The character, Dan (Raine), became the Bad Samaritan - a vigilante attired in a gimp mask and ready to punish the more dangerous elements of British society with burst of ultra-violence. Thinking several steps ahead, Leckonby and Raine have already dreamed up a comic strip, number of films and even a soundtrack CD for their titular antihero.
Which brings us to their first film, THE BAD SAMARITAN MUST DIE!
An opening montage of views from members of the public are broadcast via futuristic cable channel Planetary News. In these soundbites, residents of a Northern town speak of how the fabled Bad Samaritan has reduced crime in their area. So significantly, in fact, that each one - including, amusingly, two police officers - wants to join his plight.
However, the authorities view him as a "violent paranoid schizophrenic" who "will not be tolerated" ...
In truth, they may not be far off the mark. The first few times we meet Dan, either masked up as the infamous avenger or taking time out to chill with his mate, detective Steve (stand-up comic John Scott), he's portrayed as a volatile eccentric with a penchant for booze, wacky baccy and cocaine. Steve's not much better: a drunk who's been tasked with the job of apprehending the mysterious vigilante, their close but verbally abusive friendship clearly remaining a secret to his superiors.
But, still, despite being dressed like "a gargoyle's bell-end", the Bad Samaritan does get his job done. Even when pissed, Dan can kick the arses of groups of young thieves while they attempt to take off with some poor pensioner's television set.
It's only when a teenage girl who calls herself The Orphan (Nikita Rachel Shepherdson) sets her sights on becoming his sidekick and is rebutted under no uncertain terms, that Dan's irresponsible attitude towards his public services starts to threaten his own existence.
Incensed that the Bad Samaritan doesn't want her help, the Orphan resolves to kill him instead. With the help of an anonymous online acquaintance, she starts to close in on Dan and the secret meetings he holds with his fervent followers...
Shot on HD and clocking in at just under 50 minutes in length, THE BAD SAMARITAN MUST DIE! is a stylishly shot, frequently attractive and brisk proposition.
It often benefits from inspired camerawork and is tightly edited throughout. In fact, the pace - and the script - are so breakneck at times that it can become dizzying. The film is therefore best enjoyed on second viewing.
While there are one-liners aplenty and there's no denying that the pairing of the dishevelled Scott and Raine (who sounds at times like Steve Coogan) are genuinely amusing, there's also a serious undercurrent at work here that stops the action from ever becoming trite. The social commentary on the violent state of working class Britain is hammered home, while the Orphan's impassioned cries for her absent father resonate even deeper: there's a depth to proceedings here that shouldn't be dismissed as casual black comedy.
Envisaged as part of a trilogy, the Bad Samaritan character is an engaging, intriguing one and the ways Leckonby and Raine can potentially exploit him and his army are endless. Going on this first outing - a keenly shot, flab-free and authentically entertaining film - I'm really looking forward to seeing what happens next.
THE BAD SAMARITAN MUST DIE! is presented uncut on this independently released Region-free DVD.
The picture quality is superb, offering a sharp and crisp 16x9 transfer from the original HD materials which benefits from fine detail, solid blacks and bold colours throughout. It really does look excellent.
Likewise, the English 2.0 audio track provided is clean, clear and consistent for the duration.
The disc opens to a static main menu page. From there, this set continues to impress with some superb bonus features.
"Behind the Mask" is one of the best Making Of featurettes I've seen in some time. Everyone interviewed (cast and crew members) are affable, erudite and enthusiastic. There's an obvious abundance of both intelligence and belief involved here, as well as a genuinely warming sense of camaraderie felt throughout. Leckonby and Raine exhibit differing styles of energy: Leckonby is the intensely focused one, concentrating on the visuals of the film; Raine appears edgier perhaps, and interested more in the actors.
This 30-minute documentary is split into two segments. The first looks at the film's shoot, which began in June 2012, and offers a fantastic insight into filming a low-budget home-grown genre effort. The second contains enjoyable footage of the film's subsequent premiere screening and the lively Q&A that followed.
We also get a 4-and-a-half-minute music video of the Bad Samaritan singing deeply to an original disco tune, while he and his mate Steve dance badly. Throwaway it may well be, this extended version of an early scene from the film is fun and oddly compelling all at the same time.
Much better are the two short films on offer: the aforementioned "Repercussions" (15 minutes) and "Fractured Boy" (7 minutes).
Both are highly recommended slices of quirkily British, disturbing and blackly witty short genre cinema.
That's not all. This package is also lovingly prepared with a 16-page colour comic book detailing yet another adventure of the Bad Samaritan's: "No Remorse, No Redemption, No Reason!"
This glossy effort is set "about 20 minutes" into the future and provides more enjoyably fast-paced, funny and violent action.
And just to ensure this truly is a multi-media proffering, we also get a second disc here: a soundtrack CD featuring music "from and inspired by" THE BAD SAMARITAN MUST DIE! 33 tracks are offered over the course of 60 minutes, and this tightly edited mix of samples and original electronic-led tunes feels like it's just as much a labour of love as the main feature.
For more information, check out www.hydra-xfilms.com. To order the special edition DVD for only £9.99 (UK only), click here.
By Stuart Willis
|Released by Hydra-X Films|
|Region All - PAL|
|see main review|