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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.
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.
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!
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).
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.