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Terence H. Winkless
Don 'The Dragon' Wilson,
Joe Mari Avellana,
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Jean-Claude Van Damme,
Two former ranking figures of the Axis powers schedule a deadly martial arts tournament in an isolated locale. The two rivals then race to assemble the top competitors from around the world, with Steve Hunt being the most sought after fighter. Written by
MASTER PLAN: have the winning team in a deadly tournament. One of several martial arts action pictures that attempted to capture the flavor of the famous "Enter the Dragon" from '73, this one is an effort from South Africa. The villain's stronghold is a bit different, appearing as a white castle-like fortress in the middle of the desert from a distance. The villain himself, a Baron or general, is a slightly more perverse version of the "Dr.No" or Han mold of master villainy, having strange flashbacks to the glory days of Nazi Germany. He does wear the full regalia Nazi uniform at some points. His main ambition in life is to hold an illegal martial arts competition/tournament against his Japanese rival, an extension of their complicity in the 2nd World War (my army is better than your army). It sounds silly and it is, though the suggestion of madness and crazed machismo almost works. The central hero, Steve Chase (Ryan), resembles a white 'Bruce Lee' character, having a similarly lean, lithe physique, though obviously not on the same level of martial arts expertise. I thought he would be some secret government agent here but apparently not. He and his girlfriend have joined the Baron's team of fighters, but decide to quit (what did they think they were getting into?). Of course, it's not that easy. There's an odd sequence of them escaping through the desert using a wrecked car with a rigged sail - those desert winds can do wonders for travel, it seems.
The plot kind of meanders in the 2nd half, as the hero joins the team of the villain's competitor and the girlfriend is held hostage by the villain in a cell, under threat of rape by the hero's rival. The most interesting character turns out to be Chico, a dwarf who is the villain's assistant; he's loyal to the Baron but is sympathetic to the plight of the hero. Much of the fighting utilizes the ballet-like capabilities of the hero, with a lot of leaping and slow motion. The sound FX are also amped up and exaggerated in an attempt to add more impact to the blows. There are a few good fights during the tournament towards the climax, but none really stand out. If one had to pick, I suppose the best involves the brutish muscle man-henchman of the Baron, introduced late in the story (he lifts the back of a car at one point). You wonder how the hero will take him out at the end, since the brute seems to shrug off most of the punches. The acting is very mediocre, descending into camp as far as the girlfriend, who tends to laugh for no reason, as if she's high on grass, though she is very cute. Some of the training scenes are also campy, especially all those guys running over or rolling down the desert sands. And, with such a title, there's surprisingly few actual killings. Ryan, as Steve Chase, returned as a traditional agent in the sequel "Kill and Kill Again." Hero:4 Villain:4 Femme Fatales:4 Henchmen:6 Fights:6 Stunts/Chases:4 Gadgets:2 Auto:3 Locations:5 Pace:5 overall:4+
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