Archive for the Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa Category

Review: Showdown in Manila (2018)

Posted in Alexander Nevsky, Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa, Cynthia Rothrock, Don"The Dragon" Wilson, Mark Dacascos, Matthias Hues, Olivier Gruner with tags , , , on January 19, 2018 by Michael S. Moore

Starring Alexander Nevsky, Casper Van Dien, Tia Carrere, Mark Dacascos, Cary Hiroyuki-Tagawa, Matthias Hues, Cynthia Rothrock, Olivier Gruner, Don ” The Dragon” Wilson

Fight Choreography by Al Dacascos

Directed by Mark Dacascos

After years of watching Marc Dacascos on the big and small screen, he finally steps behind the camera for his first film, produced and starring 3-time Mr. Universe Alexander Nevsky and a whole horde of b-movie stars. So how did his first venture do?

It has moments that aren’t as good as it could have been, but this movie…

… is a LOT of fun.

Alexander Nevsky stars as Nick Peyton, a disgraced Thailand cop who now works as a private detective after he his whole team is killed in a botched raid on a drug den owned by a man known as The Wrath (the CHT!). Two years later Nick and his sex-crazed partner Charlie (Van Dien) are hired by a police sketch artist (Carrere) whose husband, a secret agent, is killed by The Wrath right in front of her. She pays them to bring him to her…alive. Now working in Manila, Nick has a second chance to get revenge for his fallen comrades, but he’ll need some high-powered help to finish the job…

The film, despite the Raid-like opening moves a little slow at the beginning, but picks up steam as the film goes on. While Alexander Nevsky is a little wooden in his acting, which may be a lot better had he spoken in his native Russian dialect, he is aided well by the presence of his co-star Casper Van Dien. They have a good on-screen chemistry with each other that more than makes up for a few weak acting moments from Nevsky, who is a large presence in the film, and the Dacascos family had the good sense to use that largeness for maximum effect. Van Dien does well bringing in the comedy aspects of the film, which helps keep things light and helps propel the film forward in its slower moments. The CHT is as a good a villain as always, but I wish he had been in the film more, but we do get some villainy from the always great Matthias Hues, but here again, I wish we had more of him. The directing by Mark is confident, even in the slower scenes, which I think could have been slightly better with just a little more editing down, but that’s a minor nitpick for the treasure of goods this film delivers, which comes in the form of a boat ride that brings in some of Nick’s friends during the climax of the film: Cynthia Rothrock, Olivier Gruner, and Don ” The Dragon” Wilson.

That’s right, ya’ll. China O’Brien, Nemesis, and Bloodfist show up to kick all kinds of ass 90’s style.

So let’s get into the action side of things, shall we? Early on we get a quick fight scene with Mark Dacascos that shows that the man can still kick all kinds of ass, and we need to see him back in a movie doing so pronto! His fight scene is really quick and far too short, but it looks good and is shot well. Fast forward to the big action finale, and I was transported back to 1992, ya’ll. At first there is a lot of gun play, and while I loved seeing everyone, I came to terms with the fact that they may all be too old to actually do a fight scene anymore, and that seeing them shooting folks will just have to do.

Silly rabbit. I should’ve had more faith in the film’s director. He knows what true fans want to see…

…and eventually the bullets run out.

What follows is an orgasmic cavalcade of action goodness, with Cynthia Rothrock going knives-out, and punching and kicking foes like the good ol’ days! ( Now I want to see what China O’Brien has been up to this past decade!) Don ” The Dragon” Wilson also gets a scene where he gets to show he can still kick with the best of them, and no one looks like they can take a hit and keep fighting like Don, and Olivier looks more brutal than I’ve ever seen him in an action scene. The fights are shot well, showing us the FULL action of what’s happening without quick-cut edits…because what we see on screen is real martial artists doing onscreen what they’ve been doing for decades. Kudos to Al Dacascos for making sure each action scene plays to the strengths of each fighter. I wish we could have had a bigger hand to hand combat scene for Nevsky, but there is so much other cool action happening I didn’t mind this time, but he does mix it up a little with Matthias Hues, and I wish THAT fight had been bigger, but maybe next time?

 

Look, this film isn’t for everyone. If you want something on the order of Tony Jaa or Iko Uwais, you won’t get that kind of wild action here. But for those of us who grew up on these kinds of films, it’s mana from heaven. Alexander Nevsky and Mark Dacascos did what The Expendables couldn’t do: provide a film that truly showcases what these action stars can still do, and make them look great at doing it. 

Kiai-Kick’s Grade : 8.5

A really fun film that kicks you in the face with nostalgia, and the only thing that’s missing are four people: Jalal Merhi, Billy Blanks, Richard Norton, and the greatness himself, Al Leong. Showdown in Manila 2, perhaps? 

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Old School Action: A talk with Alexander Nevsky!

Posted in Alexander Nevsky, Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa, Cynthia Rothrock, Don"The Dragon" Wilson, Mark Dacascos on January 17, 2018 by Michael S. Moore

Friday January 19th will see the limited release of Showdown in Manila, marking the directorial debut of Mark Dacascos (Only the Strong, Brotherhood of the Wolf, Drive) and marks the meeting of some 80’s and 90’s badasses: Cary Hiroyuki-Tagawa (the CHT!), Cynthia Rothrock, Don ” The Dragon” Wilson, Olivier Gruner, Matthias Hues, as well as Casper Van Dien and Tia Carrera. I had a talk with producer and 3-time Mr. Universe star Alexander Nevsky about the film. We had a LOT of fun talking about the film and the stars involved. I hope you all enjoy this!

M: You’ve taken your career into your hands as both the producer and star. What was it like wearing both of those hats on set?

A: First of all let me explain to you why I do this. I really believe that if you want to achieve something you shouldn’t wait; you should do it yourself. Unfortunately right now, when you talk about old fashioned action movies, they don’t make them much anymore. And what of Showdown in Manila? All of those guys, they’re still in great shape: Cynthia Rothrock, Don the Dragon Wilson, Olivier Gruner, Dacascos himself, Casper Van Dien. They’re all in great shape. Right now, what’s going on in international cinema, even at a studio it’s hard to move forward with a movie (like this) . That’s why I make movies which I want to see; I’m a huge fan of each and every one of them. I love Dacascos’ movies, Tagawa’s movies, all of them. So I always wanted to get involved not just as an actor but a producer.

It’s not easy but as a producer you have more control. And if your a good producer you can make sure your film is finished and released everywhere.

M: The scene where you call for your friends and they arrive on the boat: Cynthia, Don, and Olivier, and I nearly jumped out of my chair, because I loved all of them! That final action scenes reminded me of 80’s action films like Commando and Missing in Action. Was that what you were going for?

A: Exactly. I’m just as excited as you are hearing you talk about it! I was excited as I was dreaming the film, shooting the film, promoting the film. I’m as excited as you are about the film! And Oliver Gruner, I love him in Nemesis!

**Okay, ya’ll have to forgive me. Things had to grind to a halt as we extolled our mutual love for the film Nemesis. If you haven’t see it, get on that

We went from an epic discussion of Nemesis, to talking about old school action films, and what it takes to get one made nowadays:**

A: Times change, and I think when a studio like Lionsgate produces John Wick, and it’s also a great film, and Keanu Reeves doing great things, and in every  John Wick they had four months of preparation, and its him fighting and everything, but you can’t compare him to Oliver Gruner, or Don the Dragon Wilson, or Cynthia Rothrock, as they are all martial artists, with all due respect to Keanu as he’s a great guy and artist. With Showdown in Manila, Mark’s father Al Dacascos even went to Manila to support Mark and choreograph all of the fights. So we had many real people on set, and the set we used for Manila is the same set used in Apocalypse Now.

M: How much training did you all have to do for the fight scenes?

A: That’s another thing, even in a movie like John Wick where Keanu had 4 months to prepare, of course we didn’t have that with Showdown for Manila. We just had a couple of weeks. We spent about five weeks shooting it, and then another month in post production. So for the action we trained for a couple of weeks on that, but because we had people like Oliver Gruner, Cynthia Rothrock, Al Dacascos, Mark Dacascos, Don the Dragon Wilson, they all continue to train and are in great shape, also Cary Hiroyuki-Tagawa, so it wasn’t hard for us to do it all. As for me, I was a boxer before. I did some kickboxing before, but I was a boxer before I started bodybuilding.

Marc as the director gave everyone some screen time, especially at the end in the jungle so you can enjoy Cynthia Rothrock doing martial arts, and Olivier Gruner and the Don the Dragon. It was much easier and everyone knows what to do. It was all real, and I hope it felt real when you watched it. It was tough but it was huge fun.

M: Alexander, I had a lot of fun talking to you! It’s great that your doing it with the love and care your doing it! I wish you great success and I can’t wait to talk with you about Maximum Impact!

A:  Thank you very much, and thank you for your support! Me and you are fans of this genre, and fans of these action stars, so thank you for your support! I’m glad you enjoyed the film!

Talk to you soon I hope!

 

We had a really great talk, much longer than what you have here! We went to town on all kinds of cool action movies.  Maybe someday I’ll post the audio from the entire interview! Bug me enough and I’ll do it! Look for the the film in limited release stateside this Friday, and look for it Digital HD and VOD on January 23rd. My review will be up Friday!

Review: SkinTrade (2014)

Posted in Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa, Dolph Lundgren, Michael Jai White, Tony Jaa, Uncategorized on January 15, 2018 by Michael S. Moore

Starring Dolph Lundgren, Tony Jaa, Michael Jai White, Peter Weller, Cary Hiroyuki-Tagawa, Selina Jade, Ron Perlman

Fight Choreography by Dain Hristov

Directed by Ekachai Uekrongtham

After the debacle that was Ong Bak 3 Tony Jaa started doing the Tony Jaa World Tour, and this was another film made while he is/was transitioning away from Prachya Pinkaew and legendary Panna Rittikrai, who had already passed away. Jaa joined this film with martial arts stars Michael Jai White and Dolph Lundgren, and one would expect an action packed fisticuffs classic. I’m sorry to say that doesn’t quite happen here.

Dolph Lundgren stars as Nick Cassidy, a New York cop who is hot on the heels of the Serbian mafia led by Viktor Dragovic (Perlman) and his sons. After Nick kills the youngest son of Viktor during a raid, Viktor attacks Nick and his family, killing his wife and presumably his teenage daughter. After Nick recovers from his injuries he seeks out Viktor and follows him to Thailand, with the somewhat help of FBI agent Reed (MJW) and runs afoul of Bangkok cops Tony and his partner Nung, the latter of whom is killed by an agent of Viktor and frames Nick, causing Tony to go after Nick with a vengeance, but both men discover a human smuggling operation run by Viktor and quickly put aside their differences in order to stop Viktor once and for all…

Human Trafficking of any kind is a touchy subject for even a serious film, and for an action film it HAS to get it just right, and this film really botches things here. Only women are shown being trafficked, and none of them even have much of a dialog in the film, and merely exist to give Lundgren and Jaa a reason to stop fighting each other and going after the bad guys.  Ron Perlman is grossly underused here, and not allowed to create a compelling character. Viktor is just another cackling villain here, which is a waste of his talents, which is sad, as there could have been something more there in relation to his sons. Dolph, is well, Dolph. He’s the requisite action star going out for revenge. Ditto the same for Tony Jaa. Michael Jai White is there but doesn’t really leave much of an impression. The film drives on, but there are no real standout scenes, either with characters or with cinematography or even action, which for a film like this is criminal.

The place where this film SHOULD shine is in the action scenes, but even here they drop the ball. The choreography is uninspiring, as the Dolph vs. Jaa fight is only slightly better than Dolph’s fight vs Jet Li in The Expendables. The fight that should have been the standout, Jaa vs MJW, isn’t as good as it could have been, but this is attributed to camerawork and editing. I’ll never understand why some directors feel the need to have the actions scenes chopped to hell, and editing in quick cuts. It NEVER makes the fight more exciting to watch, and doesn’t allow us the audience to marvel at the martial arts we are watching. MJW and Tony Jaa perform their fights just fine, and parts of it look terrific as one would expect, but the editing just slices and dices it up and doesn’t make the fight feel urgent, and after all of that it ends too quickly.

SkinTrade should have been a martial arts classic, but a number of poor directing and editorial decisions ruin the film. And with all the talent assembled that’s a crying shame.  It should’ve been an action classic.

Kiai-Kick’s Grade: 4

Such great talent is wasted in this film. I’ll hold out hope for a proper Tony Jaa/MJW film. Such a disappointment. 

 

 

 

Review: The Man With The Iron Fists 2 (2015)

Posted in Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa, Dustin Nguyen, Grace Huang, RZA with tags , , on August 3, 2015 by Michael S. Moore

fists-2

Starring RZA, Dustin Nguyen, Cary Hiroyuki-Tagawa (CHT), Carl Ng, Grace Huang

Fight Choreography by Kawee Sirikhanaerat

Directed by Roel Reine

Back long ago, I had heard of this group called the Wu Tang Clan, and being the kung fu junkie myself, I fell in love with their music, and their knowledge and love of kung fu films that permeate nearly every track they did. I even had the original playstation Wu Tang Clan video game (I loved it). I had always wondered why no one was using their music in actual martial arts films for years. I even hoped they would make a film themselves. While that never came to pass the way I wanted it to, the RZA, after working on Kill Bill, seemed to get bitten by the bug to make something. I was excited by the prospect…

Until I remembered that 1. The RZA isn’t an actor and 2. He isn’t a skilled martial artist. I roasted his first effort which you can read here, and I was disappointed in how it turned into a kung fu film that got invaded by the X-Men. I also disliked the fact that rather than finding a great African-American martial artist, new or otherwise, to play Thaddeus, he chose himself. That decision brought the entire film crashing down, despite the fact that as a directorial debut, it wasn’t bad, and many people agreed. The soundtrack was awesome, and had the film lived up to the music, we would be heralding it as a classic film. Now comes the sequel, without a Russell Crowe, Dave Bautista, or Lucy Liu. Not to mention a much smaller budget that the first film.

In many ways, the smaller budget actually improved this film over the first. But two items derail everything. More on that later.

mwtif2

The film picks up not long after the first one, and we find Thaddeus (RZA) traveling to the Wu Chi temple, in order to fix his chi and live a peaceful life. Of course marauders led by the brother of Silver Lion, a character Thaddeus killed in the first film, attacks Thaddeus, and though he defeats them, Thaddeus injured, and falls into the river and is carried away. Meanwhile, in the village of Tsai Fu, the people there are practically enslaved to work in the silver mines by Master Ho. Master Ho is a nasty piece of work, killing whomever he chooses and treating the villagers as disposable goods. Li Kung (Nguyen) leads the people, but they are growing tired of his unwillingness to fight. The Town Mayor (CHT) does what Master Ho tells him, but behind his back helps Li Kung as best he can. Before long Thaddeus is found drifting in the river near them, and  Li Kung’s daughter, Innocence, takes him in to heal him. Thaddeus and Li Kung find themselves allied against Master Ho, but little do they suspect that an even greater threat to the people is about to be unleashed…

mwtif Dustin

This isn’t a great film. It’s not even good. It’s…mediocre. It just sits there, does its thing, and leaves without any great impression left. The acting is passable, with two exceptions. One is Dustin Nguyen, who made for a great hero as the conflicted Lu Kung. The film had the good sense to make him the real star of the film, and he delivers. If you’ve seen the work the former 21 Jumpstreet star has done in Vietnam with The Rebel and Once Upon a Time in Vietnam, and films like Zero Tolerence, you wouldn’t be surprised at this. The second exception? Well, the RZA, again, is terrible here, less than passable, with no onscreen charisma to speak of. The script doesn’t help them out as the dialogue is basic and not out of place from one of the Star Wars prequel films. The overall story isn’t bad, kinda generic, but could have been a cool little film except for the shortcomings. The editing is also a bit lackluster during the fight scenes, but gets better toward the end. CHT isn’t in the film nearly enough, and toward the end he goes Shang Tsung on everybody so much so I expected him to say “Let Mortal Kombat Begin!” at one point. Grace Huang is also in the film but only as a cameo as one of the Gemini Twins, the only other characters to return from the first film.

The music, once again, is really the best thing about the film, and the RZA knocks it out of the park. I think some of the music comes from the first film just remixed, but that’s okay. I loved it in the first film, and I have zero problems revisiting it here. I did find it odd that director Noel Reine also handled the camerawork. It’s two really big hats to wear on a production like this, and I wonder if it affected the quality of the final product.

The fight scenes with Dustin Nguyen are pretty good, nothing truly memorable, but good. The RZA, on the other hand, is better than the first film, but still his lack of martial arts skills, and the lack of acting skills to make anyone believe he IS a great martial artist. The finale is the only kinda-gory effects work in the film, and at least here it’s put to better use. The best thing the RZA does is to let Dustin Nguyen carry the heavy loads during the fight scenes.

Kiai-Kick’s Grade: 5

A passable film by the RZA that once again misses the mark due to the RZA’s lack of acting and true martial arts skill. Dustin Nguyen does a great job here, but it’s not enough.

Review: Mortal Kombat Legacy Season 2

Posted in Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa, Eric Jacobus, Larnell Stovall, Mark Dacascos, Michelle Lee, Samantha Jo with tags , , , , on October 7, 2013 by Michael S. Moore

Mk S2 Kitana

Starring Mark Dacascos, Cary Hiroyuki-Tagawa, Michelle Lee, Eric Jacobus, Casper Van Dien, Ian Anthony Dale, David Lee McInnis, Samantha Jo, Dan Southworth, Eric Steinburg, Brian Tee

Fight Choreography by Larnell Stovall

Directed by Kevin Tancharoen

Kevin Tancharoen took the internet by storm several years ago when he made a low budget short film Mortal Kombat: Rebirth and starred Michael Jai White, Matt Mullins, and Lateef Crowder that rebooted the Mortal Kombat series into a much darker, more violent property than the feature films ever were. The short film was a success, finally displaying a good martial arts fight scene and still retaining what made Mortal Kombat great. The powers that be at the WB were impressed, and rightly so. They gave Tancharoen the funds and resources to make a Mortal Kombat webseries. Bringing back Michael Jai White and Matt Mullins, along with Jeri Ryan and Darren Shalavi as Kano, matched together with the fight choreography of Larnell Stovall, and they had an online hit. The Mortal Kombat universe was successfully rebooted for a new generation.

So now we have Season 2. How did it fare this time around?

Mk S2 Lui Kang

The answer is…not nearly as good.

The series starts with the first appearance in the series of Liu Kang (Tee), the hero of the last tournament, now a violent drifter after the death of his fiancee at the hands of a group of thugs. His brother Kung Lao (Dacascos) comes to tell him that he will fight in the tournament, but Liu Kang, his soul darkened by revenge, wants nothing to do with the tournament or his brother. Meanwhile, Princess Kitana (Jo) is coming to terms with the revelations she discovered from last season about her true heritage, while Sub-Zero tries to reason with Skorpion about the attack on his family from last season. All of this at the backdrop of the tournament itself….

MK Season 2 Skorpion

So, let’s first get to the things I didn’t like. The stories overall were ok, but not nearly as good as last season, especially since Michael Jai White, Jeri Ryan, or Darren Shahlavi and their characters are absent, as we get an entire new group whose stories I could care less about, especially that of Kenshi. The story of how he got his sword is weak, and I could’ve done without knowing anything about him. Casper Van Dien doesn’t bring much of anything to the role that Matt Mullins couldn’t have done, and his fight scenes were unconvincing, unlike with Matt, who is a real martial artist. The Mileena/Kitana storyline didn’t follow through from last season with any real weight. The biggest disappointment I had with in regards to the Sub-Zero/Skorpion storyline, arguably the best of season 1, and it is here that I send a criticism straight to Kevin Tancharoen for not standing on the table and keeping their story in Japanese with English subtitles (maybe he did try to argue for it), which completely took me out of the scenes in Japan. I would ask anyone to watch the Season 1 Episodes and Season 2 and tell me a large piece of authenticity wasn’t lost. Tack onto that how their story ends this season, and it was infuriating, especially if you’re a Sub-Zero fan.

MK S2 Shang Tsung

Now for what I liked. Cary Hiroyuki-Tagawa as Shang Tsung. CHT is always great, and even more so here, once again playing the badass of the MK universe, and his line readings are as awesome as ever. Mark Dacascos was also cool as Kung Lao, even if he didn’t get much to do in this season. I liked the Liu Kang story more than I thought I would, and it was a refreshing new take on the hero of earth realm. I won’t ruin the surprise the final episode has in story for Liu Kang fans, but it will make Season 3 really interesting. Also, and this goes into the like and dislike category, Eric Jacobus as Stryker. I thought he did a great acting job, much better than many of the other stars, and his fight with Liu Kang was short, but very good. What I didn’t like was that he didn’t get an episode establishing his character, unlike virtually everyone else. Hopefully next season will fix this (and they keep Eric in the part, and not try to replace him like they did with Mullins. You listening, Warner Brothers?)

The fight scenes were pretty good, the best being Kenshi versus Ermac and Kitana versus Mileena. Everyone did a fantastic job here. I was a bit disappointed in the Skorpion/Sub Zero fight. I can’t put my finger on it, but it wasn’t as good to be as the Season 1 meeting between the two ( I realize Sub-Zero was Quan Chi in season 1, but still…)

Kiai-Kick’s Grade: 6

It was hard to care with so many cast members from Season 1 gone, and the Skorpion/Sub-Zero story was disappointing. I think there are some good seeds planted for Season 3, but it’ll require better storytelling that what’s on hand here. The fights kept this score from being lower.

 

Review: Kickboxer 2: The Road Back (1991)

Posted in Benny Urquidez, Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa, Matthias Hues, Michel Qissi, Sasha Mitchell with tags , on September 23, 2012 by Michael S. Moore

Starring Sasha Mitchell, Dennis Chan, Peter Boyle, Cary Hiroyuki-Tagawa (CHT) Matthias Hues, Michel Qissi, Vincent Murdocco, Gene Lebell

Fight Choreography by Benny” The Jet” Urquidez and Jim Nickerson

Directed by Albert Pyun

For whatever reasons, after Jean-Claude Van Damme had his hits films in Bloodsport and Kickboxer the producers were hellbent on selling the rights off to whomever would buy them, and were successful, if not incredibly stupid for doing so, and rather than getting a new JCVD sequel, we get a film directed by B-movie director Albert Pyun (Cyborg, Captain America, the crappy one) and written by future superhero writer David Goyer (The Blade films, Dark City, and Batman Begins) for whom this was his second film, and starring newcomer Sasha Mitchell, famous at the time for starring in the American TV series Step by Step, and was a kickboxing champion.

So…

The film begins as we meet David Sloane (Mitchell), youngest brother to Kurt and Eric from the first film, who has been running their gym a few years after both Kurt, Eric, and Mylee were all murdered at gunpoint by Tong Po after the events of the first film. David is a good man, and takes care of the gym as best he can, but is having problems as the gym doesn’t have enough money to stay open, which had been kept open by the Sloane brothers by the winnings from their fights. The problem is David no longer fights, seeing fighting as the reason his brothers were killed, and has adopted a more zen way of thinking, and fighting. David gets an offer from kickboxing mogul Justin Maciah (Boyle) who wants David to become his main fighter and spokesman, but David refuses, but Maciah is able to convince his star pupil Brian to fight for him. As the bills pile up, David unknowingly sets off a chain of events by challenging Maciah’s fighter Neil Vargas (Hues) to a match, which David wins. Maciah’s business partner from Thailand, Sanga (CHT) has David injured and burns down his gym in order to get Kurt Sloane’s master from Thailand, Xian (Chan) to come to America, and Sanga sets a plan into motion to have David and Xian come face to face with Tong Po, and Sanga will attempt to regain his people’s lost honor…

The film has a decent story, if a very straightforward good versus evil story. David Sloane doesn’t get to go on a journey of discovery the same way that Kurt did, primary because the budget of the film was so low they couldn’t leave Los Angeles, so the scope of the film is limited, and the rest of the film follows suit, even down to the songs, which had to get a guy who sounded a little like Stan Bush to do the music.

Understand the implication of this: they had to get a guy who was a cheap knockoff of Stan freakin’ Bush. Yes, Stan “You Got The Touch” Bush.

That’s how low-budget this film was, but to his credit Albert Pyun didn’t waste whatever dime he had to make the film with. Sasha Mitchell was pretty good as the last Sloane Brother, even if the acting was stilted in places, more blame to the script written than anything else. Peter Boyle was sufficiently slimy as Maciah, but of course classic baddie of the 80’s and 90’s Cary Hiroyuki Tagawa stole the show as the main villain, and Tong Po, for whatever reason, actually looks far more intimidating here than he did in the original film, a good job by Michel Qissi, but he doesn’t appear until nearly the last fifteen minutes of the film. Dennis Chan is as good as ever as Xian, but taking him away from the Thailand setting was a bit disconcerting, but any amount of Dennis Chan as Xian is good enough for me. Look for the legendary Bruce Lee grappling trainer Gene Lebell as the referee, Benny Urquidez as a corner man, and Brian Austin Green (Beverly Hills 90210) as a punk kid getting schooled by Mitchell.

The fights may have been well done, but it was hard to tell, because the fight choreography is lost among too many close-ups, slow-mo, quick edits, and some long shots that are too far away from the action. Benny Urquidez and Jim Nickerson look as if they did a good job, but it was too hard to tell as the editing and Pyun’s directing (no, he doesn’t know how to properly direct a martial arts fight scene) bring it all down, except in the final fight, which has better editing and camerawork than any other fight in the film.

Kiai-Kick’s Grade: 6

A sequel to Van Damme’s film that while showcasing a new talent in Sasha Mitchell, and bringing back Dennis Chan, fails to live up to the first film’s action and training sequences. 

NEXT: Marc Dacascos and Scott Wolf search for the Double Dragon!

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