Starring Phillip Rhee, Ernie Hudson, Tobin Bell, Chris Lemmon, Paul Gleason
Fight Choreography by Simon Rhee
Directed by Phillip Rhee
The circle is now complete. We have reached the end of the Best of The Best series, that saw Tommy Lee (Rhee) go from a tae kwon do champion to an underground fighter, to a crusader for civil rights, and now Tommy Lee finds himself…fighting the Russian mob.
The story picks up years after the previous film, and Tommy Lee has had and lost a wife since then, and has a daughter named Stephanie to support now, being a martial arts teacher as well as teaching martial arts to the local police department. Things start to go awry when the daughter of an old friend is murdered by group of Russian mafia led by Lukasz Slava (Bell) who are looking for a disk that contains the specs to print out counterfeit money. Things get even more complicated when his police friend Jack Jarvis (Lemmon) turns out to be working with the Russians and tries to kill Tommy, but is accidentally killed by Tommy instead, and Tommy Lee must go on the run from both the Russians and Jack’s vengeful partner Detective Gresko (Hudson) and try to live long enough to defeat the Russians and save his daughter…
This was a fun film, moreso than the over done “Tommy Fights Racism” theme of the previous film. The acting was much better than the previous film. I’m unsure how a series like this keep getting actors like Ernie Hudson and Tobin Bell (who wouldn’t really become known until the Saw films, but still) but they do, and the series is all the better for it. Philip Rhee’s acting is a little better here, meaning it’s barely passable, but that’s not why we watch his films, is it? I’m still of the opinion that he didn’t have the charisma to be a star, but he does better here than in any of the previous films save the first. Ernie Hudson plays a good jerk of a detective who doesn’t believe in martial arts in a day where everyone uses guns. Tobin Bell makes a good villain, probably the best of this series. Cold and unforgiving, he’s a good foil for Phillip Rhee. Paul Gleason has a small part in this film, and it was a shame he didn’t get more to do.
The fights here are more of the Steven Seagal variety, meaning that only the hero has any real martial arts skills. This also means we get a lot of fights seeing Tommy Lee abuse a bunch of Russian hitmen with fantastic kicks and punches they can’t do anything about…until Tommy Lee gets captured and makes his escape, and similar to what happened to Jet Li in Kiss Of The Dragon, he runs into the wrong room of a group of Russian thugs practicing Escrima stick fighting, and that’s what ensues, and is a great choreographed fight, one of the best of the series. The fight goes from Escima to fencing versus Escrima, and the Russians give to Tommy nearly as good as they get (it’s as if the baddies were hiding their martial artists in this one room the entire film. The plan must’ve been to use them to defeat Tommy Lee should he ever find his way into this particular room, one of about twenty in the mansion.)
The film ends similarly to Die Hard 2, but that’s no bad thing, actually. We need to bring back more one-liners before the baddies blow up. Be sure to watch the closing credits and catch Phillip Rhee going through a Randori (free form practice) using some of the stuntmen.
Kiai-Kick’s Grade: 7
This is a really good Friday/Saturday night film full of ridiculous fun and over the top action, featuring some of Phillip Rhee’s best fighting onscreen.