Wednesday, 11 November 2009

Matthew Tompkins

Any action fan will look at the artwork on Maverick Entertainment’s release of Killing Down and get an immediate sense of déjà vu. It’s an unashamed rip-off of the poster for John Cena’s The Marine. But the comparison between both films ends there. Derivative though it may be, the design is exciting and makes this a must see, but actor/stuntman Matthew Tompkins’ debut as an action lead is a much more tame affair than that wrestler’s.

A paranoid conspiracy thriller set in 1993 (the screenplay was originally written in that year) with grand aspirations and a low budget, Killing Down exceeds expectations. Especially compared to the majority of films on the Maverick label. Sitting comfortably somewhere between The Bourne Identity and Way of War (if you haven’t seen it it’s a dreadful Cuba Gooding, Jr movie), director Blake Calhoun’s gently paced but absorbing film intrigues right away.

The first few minutes are disturbing and downbeat, introducing a potentially unstable hero. Haunted by memories of his torture and the death of a beloved friend in 1987, Steven Down is a broken man, obsessed with finding his torturer. Exposition is severely restricted and we are forced to have reservations about whether we really should be rooting for this tough guy. At least for the first half.

Sadly Calhoun drops the ambiguity and evolves the intriguing premise into something more predictable, with Down becoming just another conventional hero. But that criticism aside there’s a great deal to enjoy in Killing Down. Not least Tompkins’ performance. Despite being an unknown, this actor’s credits are many, including co-staring roles in 6 episodes of Chuck Norris’s Walker: Texas Ranger and the TV movie Logan’s War: Bound by Honor (1998).

Though not a standard action flick there’s plenty in here to keep fans happy. Tompkins was also the film’s fight choreographer and Down gets to prove his hardman status early after a couple of lowlifes try to steal his motorbike. Later he finds himself hunted by assassins, leading to a number of gunfights and martial arts sequences that arguably equal anything in B-movies like Art of War 2 or 3.

Unusually, Tompkins is not the top credited star in this movie. That honour instead was reserved for leading lady Sheree J. Wilson; best known for co-starring with Chuck Norris in Hellbound (1994) and Walker: Texas Ranger. Notably she had previously co-starred with Tompkins in the short film Midnight Expression in 2003.

Made in 2006, Killing Down was not released on DVD in the USA until January 2009. A future in action movies did not beckon, though he landed a key role in Dolph Lundgren’s Missionary Man (2007). But since making the film he’s continued to keep himself very busy. He reunited with Calhoun, Wilson and Natalie Raitano of TV’s VIP (who played his wife in the movie) for the web series “Pink” and co-directed the drama The Fragility of Seconds in 2008.

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