You couldn’t get a more funny premise than Maximum Choppage if you tried.
The Vietnamese community of Cabramatta are terrorised by gang leader Kai Le, who demands protection money from all the local businesses. With the imminent return of Simon Chan after 4 years of martial arts training in China however, the gangs are running scared and the locals are getting bold.
What nobody knows is that Simon was actually in Melbourne at the Marshall Art School learning to paint.
Season 1 of comedian Lawrence Leung’s new sitcom for ABC2 is being released on DVD this month and all 6 episodes are a fantastically fantabulous festival of kung foolery.
What’s unique about this Australian series is not only the focus on a primarily Asian cast, but the fact that every episode breaks into a new genre, continuing the story but with the feel of an anthology. There’s the underdog sports action of fish fighting in episode 3; the supernatural ghostbusting story of episode 4; the murder mystery of episode 5; and the political showdown of the season finale.
Most importantly, the series doesn’t shy away from some good old fashioned kickass kung fu action either, particularly with Stephanie Son as Petal, the female lead and local martial arts teacher.
Director Craig Melville shows great flair in tying together such differing genres to create a cohesive, ongoing story.
Leung plays hapless Simon, protected by his best friends Petal and his even more hapless mate Egg (Dave Eastgate). He’s dominated by his overbearing mum who is obsessed with killing anyone who does her wrong – played to perfection by the sensational Kathryn Yuen.
Together, they face a cavalcade of baddies, headed by Kai Le (Felino Dolloso) and the villainous Mayor Crawford (Darren Gilshenan) who wants to shut down Mrs Chan’s business to build a multi-story car park. The Mayor, in turn, is helped by his callisthenics-obsessed daughter Elle (Georgina Haig) and his hunky, hopeless sidekick, Pump’d (Jason Chong – not to be confused with the local stand-up comedian with the same name!). All of the stellar cast find the ideal balance between fine comedy and cheesy deference to a bygone era.
Maximum Choppage is a homage to martial arts films of yore with far-fetched plots, inane action, over-the-top drama and impossible resolutions. Thankfully, none of it is ridiculous enough to alienate the viewer, but it’s crazy enough to offer plenty of laughs once you warm to the characters and settle into the plot. By the end of the series, you’ll be hard pressed to find a character you don’t ache to see more of, including comical bad boy Andy Trieu as juvenile punk Fury.
Episode 1 is fun but very much the set-up, with Simon Chan returning home to unexpected hero status. For the rest of the series, it’s downhill for him but an ever-increasing amusement ride for the rest of us.
Not since Kath & Kim has there been an Aussie sitcom equally worthy of such cult status but Leung has karate chopped the nail on the head and the biggest crime he could face would be a failure to renew for season 2.
Reviewed by Rod Lewis
Rating out of 10: 8
Maximum Choppage will be released on DVD on 9 July 2015 by Universal Sony Pictures Home Entertainment.