REVIEW: BEST OF THE BEST 2

 

CAST

Eric Roberts (The Dark Knight)
Phillip Rhee (Hell Squad)
Chris Penn (Reservoir Dogs)
Ralf Moeller (The Bad pack)
Meg Foster (Masters of The Universe)
Sonny Londham (Predator)
Wayne Newton (Licence To Kill)
Simon Rhee (Safe)
Claire Stansfield (Xena)
Frank Salsedo (Power Rangers Zeo)
Kane Hodder (Monster)
David Boreanaz (Bones)

 

In an underground fight club, blackbelt Travis Brickley is killed after losing to the evil martial arts master Brakus. Travis’ death is witnessed by Walter Grady, the son of his best friend Alex Grady. Alex and his partner, Tommy Lee, vow to avenge their friend’s death by defeating Brakus and shutting down the fight club.bestofthebest2still Eric Roberts, and Chris Penn are back as our Tae Kwon Do trio, now running a martial arts school. Chris, however, is bored of the antics and heads off to a place called The Coliseum, where folks basically fight for cash. Chris reckons he can take on the owner, a man so muscly he looks like a rubber glove filled with walnuts. This is Brakus, who thinks guns aren’t manly enough. Chris doesn’t do too well in the fight and the last time we see him he’s being lowered into the ground in a box. Luckily he was stupid enough to take Eric’s kid along to the fight so now Tommy and Eric are all out to get Brakus. It gets better when Tommy smashes Brakus’ face against a mirror and now Brakus has a scar on his face and ends up pouting around the place in a dressing gown staring into a mirror and just getting madder and madder. So Tommy and Eric want to kill Brakus and Brakus wants to kill everyone related to Tommy and kill Tommy in the ring at the Coliseum.MSDBEOF FE005They all have a friendly punch up and then it’s montage time! This time round the film get it right, and just in time too before some of Brakus’ men arrive in a helicopter and seemingly kill everyone except Tommy (Billy himself goes down fighting in an impressive Massimo Vanni style shoot-out). There’s also a massive explosion for all those massive explosion fans out there. So now Brakus has Tommy to fight in the ring and Tommy thinks everyone’s dead, so all he’s got left is the motivation to kick Brakus in the face several thousand times. Didn’t feel like Brakus thought that one through too much. This film is a lot more fun that the last one and is non-stop action and cheese from start to finish. A total winner! Even Eric’s hair is more dynamic and manageable this time round. Buffy fans shud note David Boreanaz has a very small part in the film.

REVIEW: BEST OF THE BEST

CAST

Eric Roberts (The Dark Knight)
Phillip Rhee (Hell Squad)
James Earl Jones (Star Wars)
Sally Kirkland (Bruce Almighty)
Chris Penn (Reservoir Dogs)
Tom Everett (Air Force One)
James Lew (Frankenstein)
Simon Rhee (Safe)

Eric Roberts in Best of the Best (1989)The first “Best of the Best” never got a chance at the British box office. However, as a video release it did quite well from what I recall. Sadly this reputation was short-lived in Britain by its highly criticised sequel, which did make it to the big screen. The 90’s were a very cynical time and at the time of Best of Best’s release martial arts cinema was in its the kickboxer-craze.

In retrospect this was one of the worst times as far style in the genre goes, as kickboxing does not possess the asthetic quality of most styles. This was where Best of the Best stood out . It provided good characterisation, good actors such as Eric Roberts, James Earl Jones, Sally Kirkland, Christopher Penn et al and good martial artists. The dominant style in the film is Taekwondo, performed by great Korean exponents of the style.

Eric Roberts, Chris Penn, John Dye, David Agresta, and Phillip Rhee in Best of the Best (1989)Phillip Rhee, who was involved in the production of the film, had a solid background in both Taekwondo and Hapkido (the latter you don’t see displayed until Best of the Best 2) and plays off superbly against Simon Rhee in the film’s climax.Before Marc Dacascos showed the western world that it was possible to have a great martial artist and serious actor in the same package, Best of the Best lead the way. The sequel, although inferior, is also worth checking for a change in direction of the “Bloodsport” style films.

REVIEW: REDEMPTION

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CAST
Don Wilson (Cyber Tracker)
Chris Penn (Resevoir Dogs)
James Russo (Public Enemies)
Cynthia Rothrock (Undefeatable)
Sam J. Jones (Flash Gordon)
400px-Redemption-2002-Taurus92-3When a drug bust led by policeman John Sato (Wilson, Bloodfist series) goes wrong and costs the life of a fellow officer (Cynthia Rothrock, Above the Law), he’s driven from the force. Desperate, he accepts work from a small-time gangster (Chris Penn, Reservoir Dogs) and develops a bond with him. As a new underground deal goes down, he must decide where his priorities lie and whether he is a cop or a crook.You could argue that in casting his performers as actors rather than fighters, director Camacho was showing respect to his ensemble by playing them beyond their stereotype…but that doesn’t make the film’s decisive lack of butt-kicking any less disappointing. In addition to the aforementioned names, the kicking cast includes Richard Norton (City Hunter), Peter Cunningham (No Retreat, No Surrender), Steven Vincent Leigh (Ring of Fire), Eric Lee (Weapons of Death), and even small-time action hero Sam Jones (Flash Gordon) and pro wrestler David DeFalco, and yet, in the course of 86 minutes, there are only three fight scenes (it pains me to refer to them as such), the same amount of shootouts, and one lousy car chase. Half of the aforementioned cast doesn’t so much as throw a punch. The stale gunfights showcase the single laziest application of the “shaky camera” filming technique: instead of swinging and jerking the camera around randomly to at least simulate excitement and suspense, the cameraman merely rocks the camera from side to side as though mixing marbles. Yes oh yes, the action scenes are definitely a shot in the bucket.
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Okay, so maybe the movie was supposed to be more of a cops & robbers morality outing than an action flick. Some effort has obviously been made on the story, and for what it’s worth, the production values are passable and Chris Penn has at least one very strong dramatic scene wherein he’s ambushed by his underworld competition. The rest of the cast, however, is not as talented: Don and Cynthia have a limited chemistry between themselves but don’t bring out anything beyond the mundane in eachother; police captain James Russo (Public Enemies) uses this movie as an opportunity to see what overacting feels like; and Carrie Stevens (The Backlot Murders) as a prostitute trying to go straight deserves punishment for the most passively bad performance I’ve seen in a while. There’s also a rather embarrassing scene wherein the movie tries to show how conflicted John is about working for a gangster via a montage showing him chatting with Chris Penn, hiding his money under two pillows on his couch, and walking down the street looking grim; obviously, this sounded better on paper than it looks in the movie.

There’s absolutely no fun or excitement to be had from this one.

REVIEW: SACRED CARGO

 CAST

Chris Penn (Resevoir Dogs)
J.T. Walsh (A Few Good Men)
Anna Karin (Red Meat)
Martin Sheen (The West Wing)
David Nykl (Arrow)

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A man who thinks that he’s on a mission of mercy finds himself in the middle of international espionage at its most dangerous in this thriller. Father Andrew Kanevsky (Martin Sheen) is a Catholic priest who persuades his brother Vince (Chris Penn) to join him as he travels to Russia to do missionary work with a group of Franciscan priests in St. Petersburg. Or at least that’s what Vince thinks when they take off; as it turns out, Father Andrew is involved in a cloak-and-dagger scheme with the Franciscans to smuggle $200 million in religious relics out of Russia and into the U.S. before a group of Neo-Nazi terrorists who have overrun the city can lay claim to them. However, the terrorists are not easily foiled, and Father Andrew is captured and killed by their number; when Vince learns the truth about his brother’s mission from Father Stanislav (J.T. Walsh), he’s determined to see that the holy icons find their way to the U.S. as planned, even after two renegades split off from the terrorist faction and make off with the valuables on their own. Sacred Cargo was the first English-language feature for former Soviet playwright Aleksandr Buravsky, who also cowrote the screenplay.

This could have been a great movie, instead it comes across as a film school project. Even Martin Sheen can’t salvage it.