Toronto After Dark 2021: ‘Nightshooters’

Combining martial arts with survival horror and thrills, Nightshooters may have a few rough patches – but it’s a hell of a good time.

In this dark U.K. action-comedy from writer/director Marc Price (A Fistful of Lead, Dune Drifter), a film crew shooting in a condemned building accidentally record a gruesome gang hit.  Led by their high-strung director (Adam McNab), the crew use their various talents to escape the building and outwit the boss (Richard Sandling), who wants the witnesses dead.

Jean-Paul Ly is a standout as the film’s stuntman, Donnie, a martial arts expert.  Ly’s performance in the fight scenes is impressive, but he also gives Donnie a tenderness and vulnerability that makes him one of the most memorable, and likeable, characters in the film.

Action is the name of the game, and Nightshooters wastes no time getting to the point.  We open on a tense sequence in a (fictional) zombie movie titled The Day of the Deadly, in which the heroes are making a grand come-back against an undead horde.  Beginning on a film-within-a-film is a bold choice for an opener and it works well, immediately dropping us into the action.  When it cuts a few minutes later to the bickering, stressed-out crew as they prepare for a long over-night shoot, it’s a crashlanding back into reality;  one that encourages the audience to consider the dissonance between the fantasy movies offer, and the very unglamourous process of making them.

Though things start out strong, Nightshooters struggles to keep up the momentum while balancing both action, comedy, and the tension that audiences expect from a thriller.  The final act, though satisfying, does feel drawn-out compared to the rest of the film.  There are also points where the dialogue feels a bit one-note.  Far too many scenes inevitably descend into arguments where the characters scream profanities at one another ad nauseam.  In a lesser film this would become irritating – fast.  However, thanks mostly to the energy of the performances, Nightshooters manages to make these exchanges humorous.

While the pacing could use some work, the visual effects are impressive, the gore gut churning, and the fights so expertly executed that I caught myself gasping audibly more than once.  Nightshooters (which won Best Action Film at this year’s festival) is a movie that knows exactly what its audience expects and knows how to deliver it.

Nightshooters hits VOD on Tuesday, November 2.


For more information on the festival, visit the official Toronto After Dark website.

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