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A few minor spoilers are all in this paragraph. A local Mr Big controls a small American town with the sheriff and other authorities in his pocket. Immune from prosecution, his son Mike, a special forces-trained bully, terrorises the community with his father's blessing. When Terry (Graciella Casillas) rejects Mike's advances, he gets her fired from her job, then scares the customers away from her father's general store. Finally his friends beat up her parents and trash the store while Mike abducts Terry to a lonely place and prepares to rape her. Enter his old army buddy, Jason (the love interest) to the rescue. But Jason is soon put out of action by the bad guys, leaving Terry and family defenceless again. Mr Big holds a mortgage on the store and is about to foreclose, so Terry challenges Mike to a fight if she wins, she gets the store, if he wins he gets her. As he's twice her size and a martial arts expert, while she has no fighting skill at all, this looks like a bad move, but Terry heads straight to the local kali (Philippine martial arts) master (does every American town have one?) who claims to know nothing about fighting, but has an endless supply of sage one-liners. And the rest is fairly obvious.
This movie is full of worthwhile messages about women empowering themselves without losing their femininity, and also gives some interesting background on Philippine history and culture. The dance scenes are particularly good. Graciella Casillas is a martial arts great, a multiple world champion and black belt, who has devoted much of her life to helping women, and now teaches martial arts and self-defence in an American University. Anything she does deserves respect and she is also expert in the fighting techniques used here the scenes of her training sessions are excellent.
Sadly though this is not a very good movie. Casillas was first hired as a martial arts trainer, then offered the lead role when the original actress was fired. She had never been trained to act and got little support from the novice director (no surprise he never directed again). The film plays like Karate Kid with a woman instead of a kid, supported by a bunch of wooden TV actors and bit players. Despite Casillas' obvious skills, even the fight scenes are poor short, scrappy and never competitive enough to be exciting. The plot is simple and obvious, the direction clumsy, there are plenty of sound booms in shot and the dialog is corny and predictable throughout.
Watch this, if you get the chance, for the beautiful, formidable and entirely admirable Ms Casillas alone. But it's a shame such worthwhile messages were presented so poorly.
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