Almost nothing makes sense in Brush With Danger, a bewilderingly incompetent and inexplicably racist Indonesian action film. Written, directed, and produced by stars Livi and Ken Zheng, Brush With Danger pits sibling immigrants Alice and Ken Qiang against wealthy art forger-cum-underground fight manager Justus Sullivan (Norman Newkirk).
Being the film’s token evil white dude, Sullivan tries to trick the Qiangs into giving him kickboxing purse money and forged paintings after he sees Ken demonstrate his martial arts skills at a Seattle street fair while Alice struggles to sell her — in Ken’s words — “Asian art.” Ken’s clueless but sincere description of his sister’s work is not the Zhengs’ attempt at criticizing immigrants’ capitulation to natives’ apathy: That’s just how the film’s stick-figure characters talk.
The Qiangs’ Caucasian friend Elizabeth St. Clouds (Stephanie Hilbert) is inadvertently as bad as Sullivan in that sense. While Sullivan disingenuously calls Alice his “favorite Asian artist,” Elizabeth yelps, “Oh, thank God, Asians!” after Ken saves her from a mugger.
You can’t help but wonder which protagonists are supposed to be sympathetic, like when Ken, a fresh-off-the-boat naif, excitedly runs to a window in Sullivan’s home to see if money literally grows on American trees. Brush With Danger‘s few action scenes, all poorly choreographed, do nothing to extenuate the film’s offensive characterizations. Everyone’s ridiculous in the Zhengs’ film, but only some are supposed to be.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on September 17, 2014