Challenge of Five Gauntlets: The Citizen Kane of Low Budget Martial Arts Action Movies

By: The Cinema Drunkie

I’ve been a fan of Red Letter Media for quite a while. Their programming has introduced me as well as many others to incredible entertainment over the years, such as Samurai Cop, Alien Private Eye, and my personal favorite, Parole Violators. But in my opinion, the greatest thing they have ever showcased… was the works of one Len Kabasinski.

An independent filmmaker from Pennsylvania, as well as a highly decorated and multi-award winning martial artist, Len has been hard at work giving some of the best low budget trash cinema we have seen over the past few years. Movies like Swamp Zombies, Curse of the Wolf, Fist of the Vampire, and Skull Forest have delighted many many fans of the genre. But what Len really wanted to make was a martial arts action movie.

The kind of movie he grew up on. The kind of movie I grew up on. So he got down to writing what he would describe as an “epic, globetrotting, martial arts adventure.” And he would call this adventure… Challenge of Five Gauntlets. The second the movie was announced, I waited with great anticipation to finally lay my eyes upon it. And now, that day has arrived. But was it everything I hoped for? Let’s find out!

A desperate family has exhausted all avenues to save their gravely ill young child…..except one. They seek help in the form of a relic historian/adventurer Kane (Len Kabasinski) to track down “Buddha’s Tooth”, a relic believed to have supernatural healing powers. However, to get to “Buddha’s tooth”, Kane must not only travel the globe, but battle through a gauntlet of warrior gatekeepers who each hold clues to the ancient relic’s location…

Ladies and gentlemen… THIS. MOVIE. RULES!!! It was everything I ever hoped for and more! This is without a doubt Len’s finest work yet. And if I may speak so freely, this is truly a masterpiece of low budget, independent cinema. And I mean that. He pays such loving tribute to the martial arts action movies that helped breed us into the men we are now while simultaneously crafting a heartfelt and exciting adventure story. With this film, Len Kabasinski has truly become the Orson Welles of Godfrey Ho movies. And this is his Citizen Kane.

But first, let’s talk about the cast. Len is absolutely fantastic in the lead role of Kane. He projects an earnestness while retaining a level of dangerousness. A truly perfect hero for this story. He kinda reminds me of a modern day Pierre Kirby, and this movie proves that in spades.

Rounding out the cast is some of Len’s usual suspects, like the gorgeous Lisa Neeld as The Mystic, a voodoo goddess, and Donna Hamblin as Ruby, an airplane pilot who helps Kane on his quest. But the standout has to be the man, the myth, Mr. Low Blowhimself, Master Leo Fong as Sang-Jin, Kane’s martial arts master. Oh man, you don’t know how great it was seeing Low Blow kicking major ass again! He has a truly great scene where he runs up in a bar and starts busting up a bunch of bikers. He doesn’t turn anybody’s head into birthday cake, but he does manage to cause a lot of strawberry syrup to be spilled. Just the best!

Speaking of fight scenes, let’s dig into the action, shall we?? Len outdoes himself immensely with the fight scenes in this! These are some really great and creative sequences. My favorite has to be the Scotland barn fight. Just the level of creativity that Len put into the choreography, the camera angles, the choice in music. Absolutely amazing. Once the fight ended, I immediately wanted to watch it again. We also have awesome showdowns with Voodoo Warriors, Russian soldiers, badass ninja women on a beach, Avenging Force style bad guys in the woods, the works. Len has given us a feast of stellar martial arts action, and he deserves our gratitude.

Were there any issues? See, here’s the thing: I can sit here and point out that there were issues with the audio levels. I can point out that some of the international locations look suspiciously like areas in Pennsylvania… but for what? The effort that Len has put into this film makes it practically criticism proof. Well, I won’t go that far. There was a moment of confusion where you think he’s found the tooth, and then all of a sudden he’s back on the quest, and it’s “So was that it or not?” But other than that the movie is absolutely fine. On the obvious low budget he had, this movie really had no business being this good.

But all in all, I enjoyed the hell out of this movie, and I cannot recommend it enough. You have truly found your calling, Mr. Kabasinski. Now, continue to make greatness!

About The Aurthor: With his mind utterly intoxicated off of a steady stream of movies, comics and cartoons, a young boy from Brooklyn, New York grew up to become the man known as… THE CINEMA DRUNKIE!!!

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