Kali Karate: The 2nd Beginning
7 May 2022
Sean Russel Herman
Sean Russel Herman
Sean Russel Herman, Josh Plasse, Shu Lan Tuan
They say if at first you don't succeed, you should try, try again. This appears to be something that comedian/film-maker Sean Russel Herman has taken to heart and we should all be very glad that he did. What seems to have started as a comedy character/routine and then grew into a six-part web series has now been revamped, repackaged and comes to us as a brand new feature in the form of found footage mockumentary Kali Karate: The 2nd Beginning.
Voiced by an unknown narrator, who supposedly must have stitched the footage together, we immediately get enveloped into the chaotic, egomaniacal life of SENSAI Houston (Herman) who freely tells us that he has blackmailed a producer so that he can get his martial arts talk show on the air and hopefully win back his (most recent) ex-wife, Jessica.
Through a series of cross edited clips we find out that Sensai Houston is a self styled legend of martial arts as well as an action star and rapper. He was in line to star in his own show TV show, Beach Kumite which consisted mostly of him riding round on a jetski and beating up crims on the beach with his top off, but this was cancelled before the first episode aired due to a series of sexual misconduct allegations.
Now, when we find him, Sensai Houston is living with his ex-best friend, Shu (Tuan) who is sick of his laziness and the stream of easy women he brings home through the door. Their relationship is tense and confrontational and Shu pulls no punches when telling Sensai Houston exactly what she thinks of him. In return the Sensai uses Shu to edit together his training clips and footage from the Kali Karate shows, whilst also using his ex-sparring partner, Coen Mahoney (Plasse) and anybody else he meets to help him create content.
As the Kali Karate shows air we get a further insight into the egomania and psychopathy of Sensai Houston as he roasts his guests with gratuitous nudity, inappropriate advances and withering comments about their fighting prowess. These episodes are the meat of the film and serve as the basis upon which every other segment is built. They run like a strange mix of Wayne's World, Da Ali G Show and Between Two Ferns with the guests doing their best to rein in the ridiculousness of Sensai Houston and his antics.
With everything being repackaged for the film the editing, sound editing and SFX get a leg up from what they were on the original web series and everything looks and sounds great as the footage flits from segment to segment. As with all mockumentaries the ability to sell the premise to the audience rests a lot on the main actors' commitment to character, and there is no shortage of that here. Everybody involved, from Sensai Houston himself, to Shu, to Coen, to the guy in the background of the Broga session, is perfectly cast and fully committed to their role. It is very easy to imagine coming across Sensai Houston on the beach in LA as he flexes his pecs, rides about on his jetski and belittles everybody around him.
Spending time in the company of Sensai Houston obviously isn't fun for the people actually having to do it, but that's exactly what makes him so enticing to watch. Like a roided up Borat he pushes people's buttons and acts like a buffoon, albeit an aggressive egotistical one, and it's hard to pull your eyes from the car crash that's happening on screen. For eighty minutes it's easy to lose yourself in Sensai Houston's crazy little world and laugh along with the ridiculousness of his life.
Right from the off Kali Karate: The 2nd Beginning bares its chest for everyone to see and doesn't put its top back on until the end. Sensai Houston is a first class comedy creation who not only deserves his own web series and feature film but also anything else he can extort from his producers to get his face and ripped torso back on screen. Kali Karate and Sensai Houston rightly deserve every piece of cult status that they are likely to earn from this gloriously bonkers film.