Jack Grimes is a martial arts expert who has been chosen as a the leader of one of four teams for an upcoming martial arts tournament to take place on a remote island. Despite his wife's pleads not to compete, Jack forms his team but finds trouble in the form of rival team leader Sam Slater, who works for crime lord Ivan. When Rick, a hired gun for Slater, is betrayed by the gangster and is left for dead, he joins Jack's team and now, the stage is set on the island for the Ultimate Game. Written by
Bad Acting, Decent Fights, and the World's Worst-Looking Backbreaker
While watching THE ULTIMATE GAME, I was thinking to myself that this movie was made too late. By 2001, bare bones martial arts tournament films were passé, and this was likely reflected in the movie's very low budget appearance. To my surprise, it was actually made in 1998, at the very end of the boom period of direct-to-video karate flicks. In other words, the film languished without a release for about three years, and after seeing it in its entirety, this isn't surprising. THE ULTIMATE GAME just barely manages a three-star rating, but I can see others easily rating it lower: this one's got a ton of fight scenes to its credit but very little else.
The story: Several teams of martial artists take part in a tournament to crown the best of the best, though fair play is hampered by the unscrupulous antics of an evil manager.
You can pretty much skip the first half of the movie. Not only is the indie budget visible via its video quality, boring direction, and almost nonexistent acting (I nominate Jennifer Doubleday for the "worst crying scene of the decade" award), but the characters are all largely faceless goofballs who you can't care a hoot about. There are some pretty silly scenes - Mark Griffin giving a drunk man the world's most halfhearted beating, T.J. Storm somehow being completely unharmed by a head-on car collision - but they're played too lackluster to be worth laughing at.
Most of the fighters here are pretty unknown in the film world - the most prolific is definitely the aforementioned T.J. Storm, followed by Paul Logan and Andre McCoy - but they're still a talented bunch and get plenty of opportunity to strut their stuff. Once the tournament begins, the film averages one fight every four minutes, and taken as a cumulative total, the collection isn't bad. At worst, the brawls move slowly enough that the strikes and blocks look predetermined, and virtually all of them have that vague amateur look to them of shots being held too long and some disharmony between connecting shots. However, there's no denying the fighters' athleticism, and the choreography has its moments. Stars J.D. Rifkin and Paul Logan are like nimbler versions of Dolph Lundgren, and T.J. Storm performs some impressive kung fu. My favorite fight is a kick-filled match between stunt warriors Stephanie Cheeva and Melissa Barker. This stuff could definitely be worse.
Recommending this movie is difficult. Casual action fans will be alienated by the low budget look of the film, and even seasoned DTV aficionados may not have much tolerance for the movie's low points when there's much better stuff on the market. In the end, I think I can only push this one towards that niche audience of karate cinema that particular enjoys movies with tournaments in them. In general, everyone should rent this one before considering a purchase.
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