KAMPFANSAGE dvd review

Germany PAL DVD

Anamorphic Widescreen 1.85:1

German DD 5.1

Subtitles: English



MOVIE: 7.5






If you like ONG BAK, B13 DISTRICT, and old Shaw Brothers films, you should be pretty entertained by Germany’s first martial arts film – KAMPFANSAGE (The Last Apprentice).  The look and feel of the movie felt like a cross between EQUILIBRIUM and AVALON. For a fantasy/martial arts genre pic, this movie was very good!

The story follows the pattern of a Shaw Bros film, but with a futuristic apocalyptic setting – bad guys kill all the martial arts masters in the country and steal a book about martial arts. They think they kill all the masters and supposedly kill an apprentice Jonas, played by German real-life martial arts expert Mathis Landwehr. Jonas survives his supposed death and plans to avenge his master’s death and get the book back by fighting the bad guys and recruiting and training a bunch of other good guys. In this futuristic apocalyptic time, there are no guns left, so everyone is fighting martial-arts style with fists, sticks, clubs and knives. The villains are an evil incestuous brother and sister duo. The hot femme fatale sister is the only one who has one of the last remaining guns in society. And the brother is a really good martial arts expert. The evil brother uses the martial arts book to train his evil goons. The whole movie is non-stop action with a nice simple non-convoluted story with very likable characters.

KAMPFANSAGE looks like an extremely professionally-made movie on a low budget. I read that the movie was filmed with a type of  home video digital camera. Whatever they did, it looks more than cinematic. The look and cinematography are really beautiful. After watching the extras, it turns out that there was tons of CGI in the movie, but I didn’t even notice it. A lot of CGI was used for the backgrounds and even CGI characters. But when watching the movie, it’s barely noticeable. And when the CGI is noticeable, it’s used in beneficial aesthetic way to enhance the visuals of the film.

The action in this movie is pretty much non-stop. Even though the director films most of his action/martial arts scenes quick cut, it still looks pretty good.  The best scene in the movie is a stick fight scene and hand-to-hand combat scene with Jonas and his German (Turkish possibly) sidekick, which actually doesn’t have a lot of quick cuts. It really shows the true talent of Mathis Landwehr. Even with the quick cuts, it is obvious Mathis Landwehr is truly a talented martial arts expert and not a Jean-Claude Van Damme.

KAMPFANSAGE is a totally re-watchable movie – awesome action, good acting, and even some hot-looking German girls. I thought the movie was going to be laughable-entertaining due to the idea of a “German martial arts movie.” But in fact, it’s just a very good genre film, regardless of what country it’s from – the European vibe of the film even makes the film better . Mathis Landwehr has a very good presence and I look forward to see his other German action movies, which will hopefully all have English subtitles on DVD. I hate to say it, but Mathis Landwehr looks a little like James Vanderbeek, but of course is more talented than Vanderbeek.

The 2-DISK German PAL DVD of KAMPFANSAGE is pretty much perfect. The DVD is an ultimate version, and I don’t think there will be any more releases of this DVD anywhere in the world. I’m surprised that there aren’t even DVD bootlegs of this film because this is the type of  martial arts movie that would be in the martial arts bootleg section of legitimate DVD stores. The anamorphic video quality is excellent. There is nothing wrong with the way the film looks on this DVD. The DD 5.1 German audio is very good too, but not as excellent as the video quality. Sometimes some of the martial arts scenes sound muffled and other times inconsistent. But it’s a low-budget film and the audio still pretty much rocks with the surround sounds. The movie has an excellent trip-hop, hip-hop German soundtrack that even makes the action scenes more intense. The English subtitles are very good. I think I saw only one grammar mistake.

The extras are really plentiful – tons of trailers, deleted scenes, 3 audio commentaries (good if you know German), tons of making-of featurettes, Visual Effects featurette fan art, casting clips,  easter eggs and so on. Surprisingly, some of the making-of featurettes have English subtitles while others do not.

There is also an NTSC Region 1 DVD version under the name The Challenge. I have no idea about the quality of that DVD version.

KAMPFANSAGE is pretty much an unknown gem of an action/martial arts film. Definitely check it out if you like such films!

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