Archive for the Frank Dux Category

Review: Only The Strong (1993)

Posted in Frank Dux, Mark Dacascos with tags , on January 21, 2014 by Michael S. Moore

 

Only The Strong

Starring: Mark Dacascos, Stacey Travis, Geoffrey Lewis, Paco Christian Prieto, Frank Dux

 

Fight Choreography by Frank Dux and Paco Christian Prieto

 

Directed by Sheldon Lettich

 

Some of the best martial arts films out there are the ones that center around a particular style like Drunken Master, Ip Man, Hapkido, and the Master of Ballroom Dancing (Just kidding ). The dynamic style of Brazilian Capoeira is so awesome to see on screen that surely someone would have made it into a film. Well, thanks to Sheldon Lettich (Double Impact, Lionheart) we have that, and a proper introduction to one Mark Dacascos. So how does the film hold up?

 

Pretty damn good, I’m actually sad to say, but more on that later.

 

Mark plays Louis Stevens, an ex-marine skilled in the art of Capoeira, returns to him home in Miami and to the school he graduated from to find that gangs are as bad as ever, and the kids are going downhill fast. He teams up with his friend and former mentor Kerrigan (Lewis) and creates a program to teach the worst kids in the school the martial art of Capoeira. Louis is even able to reconnect with an old girlfriend, Dianna, who now teaches at the school. Louis has trouble with the kids at first, but then begins to get through to them, but this brings Louis head to head with Silverio (Prieto), the marble-mouthed leader of a local Brazilian drug gang, whose nephew is one of Louis’ students. Silverio is an expert in Capoeira, and before long Louis must save his friends and the neighborhood from Silverio once and for all…

Only The Strong3

 

The basic story of the film isn’t much different from films like The Principal, The Substitute and Dangerous Minds, with a group of thugs turned into good kids by a traveling hero who must reconcile a past relationship, and of course one of the more sympathetic kids must get killed so the hero and the other kids and rally at the end for the finale. This in no way hampers the fun. Mark Dacascos is great as Louis, and has the right amount of naiveté and heart. Prieto, whom I found hard to understand, did a great job as Silverio, bringing a lot of menace to the screen. The kids were decent, and ranged from ok to pretty good. The music used, is just all kinds of awesome, and I find myself humming some of them, especially the “remix” of the tune Louis brings with him.

Only The Strong2

 

The fight choreography is actually pretty good, with the fights brought to us by Frank Dux, he of Bloodsport (he’s in the film as the helmeted fighter in the garage fight scene), and Prieto, and their combination gives some really great Capoeira fights (the beginning and end displays are awesome) and the fight between Silverio and Louis is done fairly well. The camerawork is plain and the editing is basic, in the style of all late 80’s-early 90’s American martial art films, but that can sometimes help as it’s far better than the MTV-style edited-to-hell-and-back fight scenes that come down the pike in the late 90‘s to this day.

 

The sadness I mentioned earlier is that no one has really made a better Capoeira film than Only The Strong. It’s still the best!

 

Kiai-Kick’s Grade: 8.5

 

 Mark Dacascos in his first starring role does a great job, and successfully showcases the exciting art of Brazilian Capoeira! 

 

 

NEXT: They killed WHO? Scott Adkins returns in Ninja 2: Shadow of a Tear!

 

Advertisements

Review: Lionheart (1991)

Posted in Frank Dux, Jean-Claude Van Damme, Reviews with tags , on October 30, 2010 by Michael S. Moore

Starring Jean-Claude Van Damme, Brian Thompson

Fight Choreography by Frank Dux

Directed by Sheldon Lettich

Once again Jean-Claude Van Damme jumps back into the familiar world of tournament martial arts films with his latest entry, Lionheart. This movie would do fairly well again, but it would ultimately prove to be tournament fight film overload for him, and won’t go back to it again for quite some time…but first we get LIOOOOONNNNNNNHEEEEAAARRRRRT!

(Scream it out loud a few times. See if you can sound like Joshua. More on him later)

JCVD plays Lyon Gaultier, a soldier with the French Foreign Legion, who gets word late that his brother Paul, living in Los Angeles, has been murdered while in the middle of a drug buy, and is told to come home. Now this is the hard part, and the legion believes that once you are in, you never get out, which really kind of sucks for him, since his commanding officer is a giant turd. Being what he is, Turd orders that Lyon be placed in the equivalent of solitary confinement for sassing him, and Lyon thinks about it on the way, and quickly comes to the conclusion that “–it would probably be better for me to give one of these guards a beautiful round house kick to the face.” Which he does. Even Tae-Bo creator Billy Blanks gets a kick to the face here, and I swear the kick adjusted that strange flat top haircut he had back then. It’s these opening scenes, and the music that accompanies them, that might make you think, if only for a second, that you’re watching Lawrence of Arabia with right crosses and crescent kicks. Which actually sounds like a pretty good film…

But that’s not this film. Soon Lyon is on a boat to the USA, and of course his Commander isn’t too keen on this, and sends two guys to go get him back. After arriving in New York, Lyon discovers that it’s hard getting around the USA without cash, and soon hears the cha-ching of a cash register as he sees an illegal fight taking place, and enters himself into the fights after convincing the MC and his future manager Joshua (Harrison Page) that he can handle himself, and he does in a really weak fight scene. Soon Joshua convinces Lyon that to get to Los Angeles he needs to win a few fights hosted by the Mysterious Cynthia, a rich woman who runs around with her right hand man Russell played by Brian Thompson. Lyon’s first fight is short and sweet, delivering karmic justice to one guy’s testicles after witnessing him do the same to another fighter that was already defeated.

Soon Lyon has the money and goes to California with Joshua in tow, trying to convince him to fight for Cynthia in LA, but he’s hearing none of it, wanting to get in contact with his brother’s wife Helene and their daughter Nicole, the only relatives he has left. Helene isn’t exactly thrilled to see him, and basically tells him to take his ass away from her. He learns quickly that she’s having problems with bills and other monies that are owed, and so Lyon has Cynthia set up a fake life insurance account, and begins fighting for her, and have the money sent to Helene in the form of life insurance payment checks, so she won’t know that it’s from him. We also find out that the obnoxious Joshua has a previous history with Cynthia, once being one of her fighters who was permanently injured after a fight and dumped.

With the Legion agents after him, and Cynthia secretly betting on another fighter she believes can beat Lyon, can he go into the ring one more time and win with everything against him? Even with his pal Joshua screaming his fight name for no apparent reason, but it sounds good in the film trailer?

LLLIIIIIOONNNNHEEEARRRT!!!!

Like I said, it sounds good in the trailer, but in the film…what the hell?! It’s funny that every JCVD film made during this time has to first take minutes out of the film to explain how a French guy is in the United States and starts kicking people, doing the splits, and showing his bare ass off to the pretty ladies, which he does here, as always. JCVD’s film base is made up of as many women as men, so guys have to live with seeing that ass in every one of his films if we want to see him kick somebody, which he does quite a bit of. The fight scenes are passable, but no one here knows martial arts outside of JCVD, so it’s all just street fighting, which I have very little interest in, but can understand there are those that are. The fights were choreographed by Frank Dux, and he does make JCVD look good as always, but there wasn’t enough martial arts fighting, and the story wasn’t bad, although the acting was, except for JCVD himself. It’s really saying a lot when JCVD is the best actor in the film. Look out for Kenpo Master Jeff Speakman as the mansion guard, which makes me think holy crap, they had Billy Blanks and Jeff Speakman in this and they didn’t really fight? That’s just wrong. Sheldon Lettich, a director and writer of many of JCVD’s films helmed this picture, and kept the camera steady, even though there wasn’t much elaborate fighting to be seen, but he captures those JCVD helicopter kicks better than anyone!

(On a scale of 1-10, 10 being the best)

CHOREOGRAPHY: (3) There simply isn’t that much here. It’s JCVD versus guys who only know street fighting. It’s not horrible, but not substantial,either.

STUNTS: (5) Everything was done fairly well. Nothing fantastic, but nothing badly done either.

STAR POWER: (7) Kickboxer kept JCVD up there, and Lionheart did nothing to tarnish his star image. He’d take care of that on his own much later. No other real stars of note outside Brian Thompson, who always played a dependable baddie.

FINAL GRADE: (5) This is a ho-hum film made at the apex of the JCVD tournament fight films. The story actually kept me interested until after the midway point when you can see the ending a mile away, but overall it’s not bad, just really average.