Filled with youthful energy and enthusiasm, Brush with Danger is more enjoyable as a milestone in the development of its creator than for its current reality.
A national karate champion, Livi Zheng not only stars, she produced, directed, and co-wrote the screenplay with her brother Ken as her co-star and writing partner. You Go, Girl! (JLH: 3.5/5) Not yet seen by Rich.
Brush with Danger is the kind of film that starts a war between my head and my heart. My head says Brush with Danger is pretty primitive stuff and most of it is barely watchable. But my heart says Brush with Danger is filled with youthful energy and enthusiasm, and one day Livi Zheng might just be a filmmaker of renown.
(Note that I found my way to Near Dark long after Kathryn Bigelow was already a major director, but signs of her potential were already evident in Near Dark, as they are here.)
Livi Zheng created Brush with Danger in collaboration with her younger brother Ken Zheng. Livi produced, directed, and co-wrote the screenplay with Ken as her co-star and writing partner.
Brush with Danger begins with a gorgeously lit scene of a seemingly peaceful Seattle construction site. As soon as it is dark, however, two goons appear to break the locks on a shipping container. Out pour about two dozen Chinese migrants including an old man and several children. How long have they been in there? I shudder to think!
They try to scatter as fast as they can, but human vultures swoop down on the tiny group, attempting to steal some of the few meager possessions they have carried with them. When one young woman is assaulted, “Ken” (Ken Zheng) rushes to the rescue, with his older sister “Alice” (Livi Zheng) right behind him. Ken and Alice are skilled in martial arts, and they chase the perp away. Then Alice hears police whistles…
Dirty and scruffy, with no food or water, Alice and Ken seek refuge on the streets of Seattle. Then a surprising new plot element surfaces: Alice may be able to kick, punch, and fly through the air, but her real love is painting. And she is especially adept at copying Western art works because, she explains, people in China would rather have imitation masterpieces than indigenous originals. And this is how Alice and Ken come to find themselves living in a mansion owned by a prominent art dealer…
OK, the plot is totally preposterous. And yet, Livi and Ken Zheng are both very charismatic on screen. Keep watching, and they come to embody the best of America’s Immigrant ethos. They are hard working, sincere, and obviously very talented. Believe in them half as much as they believe in us, and one day they will both be upstanding, tax-paying contributors to their adopted homeland.
When I went in to see Brush with Danger I knew nothing. When I came out, I did some background research. Turns out Livi Zheng was born in Indonesia and began her career as a stunt woman at age 15. First she moved to Beijing, then she moved to the USA when she was 18 to study at Washington State University. During her college years, Livi became widely known as a national karate champion. At age 19, brother Ken, who followed Livi to the USA, is now an internationally ranked martial artist in his own right.
Remember the name Livi Zheng. She is destined for success and when she becomes a “sudden sensation,” I’ll be here to say I told you so!
Top Photo: Alice and Ken on the streets of Seattle.
Bottom Photo: Alice at work in the home of her patron.
Photo Credits: Sun and Moon Films
Q: Does Brush with Danger pass the Bechdel Test?
Not really. There is one kindly female character who takes Alice and Ken under her wing after they fight off the guy who tries to snatch per purse…
But except for the private scenes Alice and Ken have with one another when they are alone, “conversations” are rare in Brush with Danger.