When a troubled teen from Cleveland experiences bullying in Cocoa Beach, he soon learns Martial Arts to gain confidence and self-defense skills.When a troubled teen from Cleveland experiences bullying in Cocoa Beach, he soon learns Martial Arts to gain confidence and self-defense skills.When a troubled teen from Cleveland experiences bullying in Cocoa Beach, he soon learns Martial Arts to gain confidence and self-defense skills.
However, because I'm a few years past being a teenager, it wasn't the movie's portrayal of the trials and tribulations of teen life in the 21st century that appealed to me most. What I really enjoyed was the way the movie paid homage to the men and women who helped spread the martial arts in America. Both in front of and behind the camera, the stars were out in force.
Wilson and Rothrock may have retired from competition decades ago, but they still can throw down — and they get a few chances to do exactly that. Among other encounters, Wilson takes on martial artist T.J. Storm, and Rothrock dispatches some baddies on the beach. The man who choreographed those close encounters is veteran martial artist, actor and stuntman James Lew, perhaps best known for his work in Big Trouble in Little China.
Another martial arts veteran contributed her expertise to the making of the movie: Cheryl Wheeler served as co-producer. You probably recognize her name. She's a former Black Belt columnist and WKA kickboxing champ who's done stunt work in scores of movies — including fight-doubling for Rene Russo in Lethal Weapon 4, which featured one of my favorite male-on-female fights.
As I mentioned, Wilson and Rothrock are center stage in The Martial Arts Kid, where they're surrogate parents for troubled teen Robbie (Jansen Panettiere). Yes, critics fired a few shots at Wilson and Rothrock's performances in the early years of their acting careers, but their skills have improved substantially. In fact, their scenes with Robbie are among the most engaging parts of the movie.
I also loved the film's nods to history. I'm talking about things like Rothrock's character hailing from Scranton, Pennsylvania, the city where the star actually grew up. And things like the dojo her character co-owns hosting seminars with real martial arts luminaries like Pete "Sugarfoot" Cunningham, Gerry Blanck, Christine Bannon-Rodrigues, Olando Rivera and Jeff Smith. And details like using old competition photos of Rothrock to adorn the walls of said dojo.
The positive messages that run through The Martial Arts Kid make it perfect for youngsters who are in the martial arts, as well as those who should be. But there are plenty of gems that make it fun to watch even if you're a generation removed from that target audience.
— Robert W. Young Editor-in-Chief, Black Belt magazine
- Nov 2, 2015