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A team from the United States is going to compete against Korea in a Tae Kwon Do tournament. The team consists of fighters from all over the country--can they overcome their rivalry and work together to win?
James Earl Jones,
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Barry Gray originally wrote the script as its own original action picture entitled "No Turning Back," whose lead was a black marine returning home from the Persian Gulf. But when Phillip Rhee got a hold of the script, he liked it so much that not only did he produce it, he wanted it to become a new entry in the Best of the Best (1989) series. So he asked Deborah Scott to rewrite it with Tommy Lee as the main character. See more »
Tommy's coffee cup is full when he walks out the door of the restaurant, but empty when shown exiting from outside. See more »
Overall, the BEST OF THE BEST series is one of the most enjoyable martial arts franchises in film. It took two movies before tae kwon do bigshot Phillip Rhee was properly established as the real star of the story, and I'm pleased to say that even in the disappointing absence of Eric Roberts & co., he proves to be a solid solo action hero, not to mention a better first-time director than his more-recognized cohorts Seagal and Van Damme. It's a bit strange that he chose a story dealing with domestic racial terrorism as his first project, but while not perfect, I think it came out much better than anyone could have expected.
The story: Following the events of the the second film, Tommy Lee (Rhee) rides into a rural town besieged by a neo-Nazi militia. When their violent mania takes its toll on the family of his brother-in-law (Christopher McDonald) and his new romantic interest (Gina Gershon), he uses his championship-caliber martial arts skills to fight back.
Neo-Nazism, neo-Confederatism, and white supremicism remain lingering social problems, but while they've been tackled before in drama form (e.g. American HISTORY X), I'm pretty sure that Phillip Rhee is the first filmmaker to make an action film that predominantly dealt with the issue. It's a movie decision that you'd expect Steven Seagal to make, and it's quite possible that despite this one's strong production values, the storyline is what kept it from getting a theatrical release. It's kind of heavy-handed, with a rather tasteless scene early on wherein the militant leader (played by great villain-actor Mark Rolston) beats a black activist priest to death with a baseball bat, but the film does make a point of differentiating between the racial separatism ideology and racial warfare, as well as depicting the kind of social hopelessness that can lead some folks to grasp at extremes. Still, it's an action flick, so don't expect a completely empathetic movie.
Speaking of action, this one's offering is pretty darn good, being mostly limited to four fights and an explosion-filled invasion scene. During his relatively short career, Phillip Rhee was one of the most consistent martial arts performers, and his outing here helps build this reputation. During three one-against-many fights and a single one-on-one brawl with bad guy Rolston, Rhee goes through an encyclopedia of strikes and throws, for the most part exquisitely choreographed and competently filmed. The showdown at the end sort of disappointed me for its change of pace, but by most standards, it's still pretty good, and it doesn't deter from the glorious scene in the first half of the film wherein Rhee - dressed as a clown - takes on a bunch of brutes at a fair. The segment wherein Rhee and Christopher McDonald launch an attack on the supremacists' base is also pretty good, practically at Commando levels of explosions. There are even parts with motorcycles and a rocket launcher.
The cast and their performances round off the good parts of the movie. Along with the aforementioned members, an uncredited R. Lee Ermey plays a racist pastor with his usual infectious talent, and Peter Simmons gives a pretty good performance as young supremacist recruit with mixed feelings about his actions. The fact that the film only connects with its prequels via a minute's exposition is somewhat disappointing - I'd have liked to see the ending of the last movie weigh in more on the events of this one - but Rhee proves himself such a consummate performer that you don't miss the other characters *too* much. This one could technically stand alone, but it still feels like a part of the series. Action fans should definitely give it a try.
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