Champions (1997) Poster


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pooh-245 July 2001
Just another straight to video movie filled with violence,bad acting,slow motion takes on some of the violence,and all around crap that makes me wonder how come the cable tv channel FX is showing this nonsense?They couldn't fill in the time with another M.A.S.H epidsode? The movie has the oldest plot in the book,that is that a martial arts veteran comes out of retirement to avenege the death of his brother at the hands of an illegal underground martial arts league where presumeably the martial arts veteran's brother died while participating in.Well whoop dee doo! We see all sorts of fights scenes and such including a female martial artist who ,the movie shows,could beat up a man rather easily.I don't believe this politically correct crap anymore than anything else in this schlock fest.This is trash that should make the makers of this film ashamed and the people who put up money to have this film made totally embrassed.
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You need a lot of patience to see the fun parts.
Comeuppance Reviews24 October 2017
Warning: Spoilers
William Rockman (Mandylor) was a professional fighter who decided to become a Martial Arts instructor for children after accidentally killing an opponent in a tragic training accident. When Congress outlaws UFC-style underground fighting (is this supposed to take place in the future?), it morphs into something called "Terminal Combat", a far deadlier sport (and should have been the title for this movie). When Rockman's brother Ray Rockman (Wolfe) is killed by reigning Brakus/Tong Po-style super-evil baddie The King (Shamrock), well…you might find this surprising, but William comes out of retirement to get revenge for his fallen brother. It just so happens that unscrupulous Terminal Combat promoter Max Brito (Trejo) is staging the biggest contest yet – a multi-billion dollar fight extravaganza broadcast by satellite. He gets fighters from all over the country, imprisons them in his lair, puts chips in their necks so he can control them, and forces them to fight to the death for amusement and big bucks. But they didn't count on one thing – the scrappy and tenacious William Rockman. He now has to corral the other remaining, non-dead fighters to break out of prison and save the day. Will their fate be terminal…or will they come out as CHAMPIONS? Watching Champions is the Punchfighting equivalent of what a doctor must feel like when they are observing a patient fighting for life who is hooked up to an Electrocardiograph machine. There are long stretches of a flatline where the doctor must despair that the patient is dying, but occasionally it will spike up, and excitement must ensue that there is life left in the patient yet. In other words, there are some commendable things about Champions, but the movie is too damn long at 98 minutes. This stretches out the better aspects and unnecessarily makes them fewer and farther between. If it were streamlined and the lead weight taken out, this movie could almost be a minor classic. If it were 80 minutes long, we'd really have a winner here.

Okay, so it was the 90's, Ken Shamrock is involved, and it's what you might call the "early days" of UFC. Most of the fight scenes are like live-action versions of the classic video game Pit Fighter, but with sillier pants (or lack thereof - see cover above). Most of the fighters and fans shout "Yeeeaaaaaahhhhh!!!!!" a lot. This must be why these underground Punchfights to the death are so heavily traded on "black market VHS", and/or why George "Buck" Flower is involved (perhaps they gave him an Irish accent here to distinguish him from Randall "Tex" Cobb).

As far as our hero is concerned, it appears that Louis Mandylor is physically shrinking more and more as the movie goes on. If you compare his height to the other people in the movie, it appears he devolves to Tom Cruise-level proportions as proceedings roll on. He also narrates it, presumably for people who find the story too hard to follow. To add more unnecessary plot, it appears he has a history with "The King", there's a love interest between him and fellow fighter Kimberly Pepatone (Blackford, a Paget Brewster lookalike who you might remember from "Force"-ful productions like Total Force and The Silent Force), and a fighter who looks as if David Letterman was younger, and a meathead – who also has a love interest. This guy, who we'll call David LetterMeat, is played by Lee Reherman – a very similar last name to Letterman. Coincidence? Danny Trejo is engaging as the promoter Max Brito, although it sounds like other people are either calling him "Lance Ito" (it was the 90's, after all. Maybe Judge Ito promotes underground fighting on the side. What a thought), or "Max Burrito", which might be horrendously racist. A good chunk of Trejo's dialogue consists of him giving an extended maniacal laugh. Speaking of which, the "corrupt politician on the take", subplot – yet another subplot – was one of the better ones and should have replaced some of the lesser ones. Another bit of the storyline, that Pepatone is a fighter who takes out her repressed anger that stems from a prior assault on her opponents, could be a movie in itself. It was another strand that was undeveloped, which in this case might be good because we didn't want Champions to be over three hours long.

At least the fighters are skilled and enthusiastic, and have their own individual personalities. It's not a mush of meandering meatheads like in later movies of this sort. It all comes to an entertaining and enjoyable climax, which should have come much earlier, because at that point the viewer's attention has flagged. The sight of Ken Shamrock dressed in not much more than a red wrestling Speedo while screaming and shooting a machine gun amidst a hail of gunfire, explosions, and guard tower falls is nothing short of awesome, but you have to swim the Sargasso sea to get there.

One of the aspects of Champions that adds a level of interest is the fact that rapper Kool Keith is in a couple of scenes for no conceivable reason. He even has an encounter with a confrontational meathead that has "Jesus Saves" tattooed on his chest. So, all is not lost. In other music news, the end credits has a list of bands involved, but no song titles or other information. The list is as follows: Civil Rite, Mother, Try, Faded, Corporate Dick, and Black Ass ID. Maybe they supposed the band names speak for themselves.

In the end, Champions does indeed have some bright spots and noteworthy aspects, but they're spread awfully thin over an overly-extended running time. The verdict has to be that we would recommend the movie to Punchfighting fans with a lot of patience.
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Only if you like Ken Shamrock and "American Gladiators"
The Fox-29 January 1999
I really was NOT impressed with this film. The only reason why I rented it was because of the starring roles of former UFC champion Ken Shamrock and former American Gladiator Lee Reherman (Hawk). I used to watch "American Gladiators" religiously, and knowing the projects that other "AG" alumni have been involved in, seeing Reherman in such a bad flick was disheartening (and he wasn't even my favorite Gladiator!). After all, Deron McBee, who played Malibu, got a part in the big budget "Mortal Kombat: Annihilation," to name one. As for Shamrock, his part is merely a blend of his UFC and WWF personae; no stretch at all. Despite me actually staying awake for this movie, I really couldn't get into it. Too many boobs, too much bad acting, no substance.

If you're a fan of either Shamrock or "American Gladiators," you just might want to find this one at the video store, if only to see your favorites. Otherwise, leave it and keep scanning the shelves.
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Is a consistant plot too much to ask for?
T MAN22 March 1999
I rented this movie because I am a fan of Ken Shamrock from his UFC days and his current WWF days. Boy, I wish I had my $3 back. The worst part of ANY movie is when the director, or edidor, or whomever, cannot string together a plot. When you jump from place to place, how can you follow the story, or even care. I thought this was an action movie, so could we have stayed and shown more action? And if this was about illegal shootfighting, with one dude, or lady dying every fight, how the heck did that tattooed dude get back in the film near the end. And since when does a punch in the jaw KILL somebody. And what was up with that big electronic zit on Shamrocks neck??? AGGHHHHH.
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Underground martial arts fights with big names like Ken Shamrock and Lee Reherman make this movie worth seeing.
rockoforza29 December 2012
This movie revolves around an underground tournament where the "best of the best" fight to the death while bets are placed on the outcome. We've seen it all before. However, what makes this one a cut above is watching guys like UFC legend Ken Shamrock, American Gladiator Lee Reherman, Louis Mandylor and famed Hollywood stuntman Jeff Wolfe, in action. Even perennial bad guy Danny Trejo shows up nasty as ever. Though he doesn't fight, Trejo definitely gives a great performance as the muscle behind the tournament. It remains the fights that drive the plot and some of them are excellent. Be warned, these are death matches so even the "good" guys snuff out their opponents (though conveniently their opponents are usually villains that have it coming.) Shamrock must have trained like an animal for this role and looks like a bodybuilder, while Reherman has fun playing a white collar executive who reveals his inner beast and worked out physique in the ring. It isn't gents only, with Bobbie Blackford as a female cop who takes the life of a vicious ex con in one of the most brutal matches. The ending is somewhat muddled with explosions and firefights, but when this movie stays where it belongs – in the ring with killer martial arts action – it's a winner.
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I'll be in the minority here and tell you...
Fielga30 May 2012
I actually kind of enjoyed it.

I haven't seen it since it was brand new, mind you, and I was a teenager back then, but I recall finding it a somewhat chaotic but otherwise reasonably enjoyable film. I thought the fighting was very well choreographed and alright I admit that's all I remember in decent detail about the movie, the characters and plot have long since faded and been taken over by better films.

I'm definitely not advising anybody to run out and buy this or even to rent it (and I'm a Ken Shamrock fan sooooo)but if you catch it on TV (which happens every great, great once in awhile), what harm can it do to at least give it a bit of a try? You might just find something in it that amuses you for a bit of your evening.

I would buy it (again, Shamrock fan here) if given the chance, but I'm going to go ahead and guess that I'm one of maybe a dozen or so people in the world who can say that.
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Turn off your brain
Hinopio3 April 1999
This movie wasn't meant for you to think while you watched it. It's about violence and sex and nudity, plain and simple. Don't try to analyze and deep psychological meaning to it, there isn't any. It is more of a popcorn action flick than anything, it's more funny than it truly intends to be. While the whole concept is interesting, it should and could have been done a little better. This movie is more along the lines of a Jean Claude van Damme flick than a Ken Shamrock thing. You could have replaced Shamrock with van Damme and hardly told a difference, except for the accent. This movie would be great fodder for a show like MST3K.
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The only thing worse than a formula film is a film that doesn't even execute the formula right
gridoon8 October 2005
Warning: Spoilers
"Champions" asks you to give up all your usual demands from movies (script: formulaic, the millionth rip-off of "Kickboxer", direction: shoddy, acting: terrible, even Danny Trejo goes through the motions, production values: none to be found), and concentrate on the fighting. For this strategy to work, the fighting had better be damn good. The fighting in "Champions" is appropriately violent and has its moments, but too often it is slow and not very well-captured by the camera. But the worst part of the movie is the last 15 minutes, when it turns from a "revenge / illegal fighting tournament" story to a "ludicrously easy escape" story. The promised big showdown never comes, and the two would-be opponents agree that "the only thing between us is friendship"! Ugh. (*)
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sassheckscher16 January 2002
Erm! What can I say? This is dreadful, the voice over is appalling, "all too frightfully pseudy for words, dear boy", the acting is stilted, only in the fight scenes does this even begin to lumber into any kind of life. Louis Mandylor is one of my favourite actors, and when given the opportunity, he has a natural talent, charm and good comic timing, it's obvious he's a naturally gifted boxer as well, but this kind of thing on his cv can do him no good at all.

The video box promotes the presence of Ken Shamrock from American Gladiators, I suspect that this will do his cv no good either.

A Turkey? I can hear the gobbling from here!
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Bad plot, bad acting, bad movie!
_Sergey_15 June 1999
One of the worst movies I have BOUGHT! I saw the Shamrock's picture on the cover and decided to buy... wrong choice!

Nothing to see if you are not mentally ill. A slow-action no-brainer with a crazy mix of unbelievable brutal fights and unnecessary women's breasts, sex scenes and even necrophilia (absolutely was not needed in this movie).

Whom I would suggest to watch this movie: 1. Fans of Shamrock will enjoy his decent shape; 2. Those who are into bodybuilding and martial arts will enjoy (not sure) some actors' performances (fighter/stock broker is just great, probably the best acting in this movie).
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