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A person could be forgiven for thinking that As Good as Dead is an attempt to capitalize on the popularity of Cobra Kai. The story is about a man named Bryant (Michael Jai White, Batman: Soul of the Dragon) who has left his past behind to start a new life in Mexico. He makes friends with a trouble young boy named Oscar (Luca Oriel, Shameless) and soon introduces him to martial arts. Despite the similarities, there is more to the film than karate dojos and redundant betrayals.
White is reminiscent of the action heroes of the 1980s and ends up being the driving force behind the movie. He has a natural charisma that is important for any badass and he delivers some of the best lines of As Good as Dead. (White is also the writer.) This brings some levity to a story that never takes itself too seriously, but does have a lot going on.
As Good as Dead is willing to lean into its more over the top elements. Things move at a nice clip as the film wisely never gives the audience time to think too deeply about the plot. Instead, it focuses on its wild action which includes machetes, assassins, and lots of firefights. Coupled with the growing relationship between Bryant and Oscar, it all makes for a fun watch.
The story is interesting in that it is equal parts convoluted and undercooked. White brings plenty of elements into his movie – bullying, human trafficking, and Bryant’s own tumultuous past are all touched on. Nothing is ever explored too much, however. It is the action that takes center stage and anyone looking for a deeper story will be disappointed.
Ultimately, it has little impact on the film as a whole. As Good as Dead is an action movie first and foremost. Michael Jai White delivers the goods as the hero who can take out villains with whatever is handy and have a funny quip when he is finished. The story is fast paced, exciting, and plays to its strengths. It is the type of entertaining fluff there is not enough of nowadays.
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