Archive for the Phillip Rhee Category

Review: Best Of The Best 4: Without Warning (1998)

Posted in Phillip Rhee with tags , , on October 28, 2013 by Michael S. Moore

BOB 4 Philip Rhee

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…

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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.

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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. 

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Review: Best of the Best 3: No Turning Back (1995)

Posted in Phillip Rhee with tags on September 3, 2013 by Michael S. Moore

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Starring Phillip Rhee, Gina Gershon, Christopher McDonald, Mark Rolston

Fight Choreography by Simon Rhee

Directed by Phillip Rhee

The Best of the Best series is an odd bird. The first film starred bigger names (for a martial arts film shot at that time) like James Earl Jones, Eric Roberts, Sally Kirkland, and Chris Penn (not a big name, but we all know his bro…). It was a smaller film, and the main attraction was Phillip Rhee. After the mild success of that film many sequels were made, and this one finds Phillip Rhee stepping behind the camera….

The film begins in a small town of Liberty as the local pastor, Reverend Phelps, is beaten and kidnapped by a group of local skinheads, and is humiliated and eventually murdered. Not long after Tommy Lee (Rhee) returns to Liberty, which just so happens to be his hometown to visit his sister and her family, mega tight t-shirt and all.  His sister’s husband, Jack Banning, is the local sheriff of the town, and can’t find enough proof to put the skinheads away for the murder of the reverend as he can’t even find a body. The reverend’s son, Luther, is currently staying with his family, and so Tommy finds he must protect them all from the white supremacists, while also falling for the local school teacher Margo Preston (Gershon), and finding out the grand scheme the skinheads ultimately have for the land and a acquiring a mini-gun. All in a week’s work for Tommy Lee…

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In many respects the film is “ Tommy Lee beats the shit out of Racism!” and is heavy-handed in it depiction of racism. Or is it? I had moments where I rolled my eyes but other moments where the brutality of the racism (mostly at the beginning) were driven home.  The acting was…passable, but I thought some scenes lingered on far too long. Some extra time in the edit room would’ve solved this. Rhee was okay, although I don’t think he has a lot of screen presence or charisma. Gina Gershon, on the other hand, has charisma in spades, enough to cover carry every part of the film she appears in. The same goes for Christopher McDonald. Mark Rolston chews the screen as the leader of the skinheads like it’s a toffee stick. The cinematography is okay, but nothing dynamic. Just really basic, and not really enticing to look at (as it was for most B-level martial arts films of the time).

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I nearly laughed out loud at the end of the film as enough baby oil was slathered onto Rhee that I thought “ if he gets any closer to any of those flames he’s gonna get charbroiled.”

The fight scenes are done well, but there are no really standout fights, but is well done throughout the film, but are really too small. The final fight at the end is the worst, particularly because Tommy Lee beats down the main baddie, but has too much difficulty doing so compared to the skills he shows earlier in the film. The fights here don’t remotely compare to the fights of the previous films. I think Rhee was too busy trying to direct a “message movie” to deliver a fun martial arts film.

Kiai-Kick’s Grade: 5

Best of The Best 3 is a middling film that really doesn’t have enough vision or fights to be anything more than an ok friday night fight film. But hey, sometimes that’s good enough!