I'm not trying to be a hero! I'M FIGHTING THE DRAGON!!

Best of the Best 4: Without Warning

tn_bestofthebest4BEST OF THE BEST 4: WITHOUT WARNING finds our hero Tommy Lee (still Phillip Rhee, also directing again) wandering into yet another action movie subgenre – this time he’s the reluctant badass who gets stuck trying to stop a plot by heavily armed, highly organized commandos. So it’s DIE HARD in a BEST OF THE BEST. In the three years since part 3 Tommy’s had a daughter and had a wife pass away. All he wants to do is bake his daughter a cake for her birthday, but coincidentally his friend at the mini-mart who he asks for baking advice has a computer expert daughter who’s fleeing from Russian counterfeiters with a disc they just stole. And of course Tommy ends up stuck with the disc and everybody trying to kill him.

mp_bestofthebest4These days Tommy does what Seagal used to do in Jefferson Parish – he teaches cops how to knock knives and guns out of people’s hands. So he’s got contacts with the police department, but doesn’t know who to trust because it’s known that a cop is helping the Russians. Also Ernie Hudson is a real asshole and doesn’t believe in “that chop socky stuff.” So Tommy leaves his daughter with a preist (Paul Gleason, not really getting to do much).

The bad guys are led by Tobin Bell (typecast as a counterfeiter after IN THE LINE OF FIRE, I guess) and the main thug is the always reliable Sven Ole Thorsen. The best parts of the movie are just the thugs trying to kill Tommy. Like in part 3 he breaks into their compound and steals a motorcycle, and this leads to a big DIE HARD 3-4 style scene involving a tunnel, a tanker truck and a helicopter. I won’t say what happens. Maybe they all park safely.

My favorite part is a Bruce Lee-esque scene where Tommy’s sneaking around a private estate, goes into a room and finds about 9 guys with scary padded training gear practicing stick fighting. Not really the practice room you want to sneak into – if it was tapdancing or ribbon dancing it would be no big deal, but stick fighting… that’s a problem. They see him come in, he shakes his head like, “Ah, shit,” and then leans a chair up under the door knob. (After a long fight he leaves and Thorsen and some other guys show up… through a different door.)

This isn’t a great movie, but it’s way above average for DTV and especially for part 4s. Although it goes more in a DIE HARD rip-off direction Rhee still manages to put alot of care into several martial arts sequences. And there are plenty of weird touches to give it character, like the scene where a girl drugs him (geez guys, stop accepting beverages from women while people are trying to kill you) and he hallucinates animated butterflies behind her. In the BEST OF THE BEST tradition there’s a bad guy who turns good, but not surprisingly Tommy has mostly abandoned his pacifist ideals and has no problem blowing the villains to kingdom come in a hilarious airport climax where he drives a fire truck out onto the runway, raises himself in the arm and tosses a bomb into the plane’s landing gear exactly as it’s closing. And the best part is one of the villains casually asking, “What was that he threw?” just before exploding.

Even though part 2 is the only one I really loved, this series is an impressive achievement. None of them follow the same template, they’re four different types of movies (serious sports drama, underground fighting, saving a small town from Neo-Nazis, DIE HARD sequel rip-off). None of them have similar villains (honorable Korean athletic competitors, vain German gladiator, redneck Neo-Nazis, vicious Russian criminals). But they all have little BEST OF THE BEST trademark touches: they have one or more “bad” character who sees the light or finds some kind of redemption, they have uncomfortably corny scenes involving poor child acting, they have a little dry humor from Phillip Rhee, they depict a world where different races and nationalities can and do get along.

I especially like that Tommy has new family members revealed in each installment. Part 1 the dead brother, part 2 the Native American grandmother and brother, part 3 the sister and brother-in-law, part 4 the daughter and deceased wife. At least they don’t all get killed like Paul Kersey’s friends and family in his sequels.

And as of part 2 it looks like Tommy has been official best of the best. He needed that Native American training to defeat Brakus, but ever since then he’s been qualified to beat anybody he’s come across without stopping for a montage. My only regret is that we never found out who those other two were who could train him to beat Brakus. I guess that’s kind of a useless skill now that Brakus is dead, but still, it would’ve been nice to meet them.

VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.

This entry was posted on Friday, July 30th, 2010 at 1:36 am and is filed under Action, Martial Arts, Reviews. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

8 Responses to “Best of the Best 4: Without Warning”

  1. I will definitely be checking out part two, thanks for bringing this series to my attention.

    I have to say, also, that I bought nightbreed and fresh on amazon, on a whim based on your reviews, and was pretty blown away by each. Especially Fresh – what an original spin on the crime movie. Love how the movie doesn’t allow the kid any emotional release until the movie’s final scene…it showed admirable restraint, I think, to depict a child so unflinchingly participating in the horrors of that world, and to not be too overt in showing that the kid is crumbling inside. Samuel L. Jackson’s character needs to start mixing up his chess sessions with AA, I think, get out of his own head and start helping Fresh through this shit, because despite the brave front his son is very much alone.

    And nightbreed – please let us know via the site if you ever get word of that director’s cut making it to video. Apparently a version of the DC was screened at some horror-fest and it was every bit the movie that barker wanted it to be at the time…as much as I love the theatrical version I saw, i couldnt help but think they rushed it at the end and cut a lot of relevant story out.

    Favorite line: “He’s got a gun!!!” BLAMBLAMBLAMBLAMBLAM

    Gotta continue with your expendables countdown, though, Vern. There is so much ground left to cover, and every muscular body must be crossed off that list before August 13th!

  2. Verbal Hooligan

    July 30th, 2010 at 2:19 pm

    Vern- This has nothing to do with your post, but I needed you to know that there is a Danny Trejo documentary called “Champion” that I just saw on Netflix instant view thingy. It’s mostly about his life before movies, but it’s still great “Bad-Ass” cinema.

  3. Vern doesn’t believe in Netflix, it goes against his Religion

    I however am a Netflix convert, but I don’t really have a choice since there’s only a blockbuster in my town

  4. When will Cockbuster go bankrupt?

  5. Oh man, I wish a real person was seriously doing hard research on Best of the Best 4: Without Warning.

    I mean, other than us.

  6. So I just saw all 4 Best of the Bests in a 24 hour period. And this is easily the worst of the Bests of the Bests. The scope is bigger and more ambitious than 3, but it feels cheaper, the fights aren’t as well done, Tommy isn’t as funny or as interesting, and I guess “Neo-Western/man comes into town and cleans it up” will always be a timeless genre while “man comes into posession of disc and is chased by bad guys” is not a plot I’d like to see ever again. Oh yeah, no Kane Hodder cameo either.

    On the plus side, Tobin Bell is actually a pretty interesting villain and I like that the traitor in the police force was quickly revealed, since it was an incredibly obvious twist that I was worried they were going to save for the end.

    Vern’s comments re: each film having a villain do a face turn, and also each film doing a reverse Death Wish and ADDING a new Lee family member does make me give this a little bit of love. I wouldn’t even mind if the formula continued in A Best of the Best 5.

  7. neal2zod, that sounds like an amazing 24 hours.

  8. The Original Paul

    June 27th, 2015 at 1:12 pm

    So, after having put off watching this one because #3 in the series was so goddamn terrible, I finally watched it… and I’m glad I got it done. I agree with Neal that Parts 1 and 2 of this series were far superior to Parts 3 and 4, but disagree that 4 was worse than 3. #4 was entertainingly bad. #3 was unwatchable.

    I thought this one had enough interesting moments to redeem it somewhat – the butterfly hallucination that Vern has pointed out in his review being the chief one. It also has the WHITE HOUSE DOWN-esque quality of some of its cliches being so goddamn predictable, they feel like slipping a comfortable old pair of slippers on for the first time in years. For example, Secretly Evil Cop Buddy asks Lee “Have you told anybody else about this?” about thirty seconds before trying to shoot him. Even MINORITY REPORT was more subtle in its use of this timeless old cliche than BotB4 was.

    Talking of Evil Cop, it occurred to me that he was the Friendly Ineffective But Secretly Treacherous White Guy to Ernie Hudson’s Hard-Nosed But Honest Black Guy. I guess Lawrence Fishburne wasn’t available so they asked Hudson instead.

    There’s some inventive gunplay in this one. Hudson has two moments at the end of the film in particular, one involving a mirror which I’m pretty sure defies at least two of Newton’s laws but is still pretty cool, and one where he makes use of his gun by removing two bullets from it (it’ll make sense if you watch it). I liked that. The scene where Tommy Lee takes on a group of villains in their dojo (because no bad guy’s lair is complete without its own martial arts training centre) is inferior to similar scenes I’ve seen starring Bruce Lee, Jet Li, and Roger Moore (Roger Moore Lee?) but it has a certain slapdash charm to it.

    Things I didn’t like: every scene in it with Lee’s daughter, mostly. I don’t want to rag on a child actress here – so I won’t – I think she did as good a job as possible with what she was given. But man, she was given absolutely nothing to work with here. She’s a walking cliche of Every Child Hostage Ever Filmed, with no personality whatsoever to make her likeable. This would be bad enough, but the schmaltzy sentimental scoring of each of these scenes made me want to rip my ears off. Whenever she was onscreen it was like I was watching a movie that was written and scored by a ten-year-old.

    This film also shows its age in its use of slow-motion. I don’t know exactly when filmmakers realised that having the last ten seconds of your fight scene occur at exactly half speed (by very obviously skipping every second frame of action) does not make it more “dramatic”. But clearly it was after this film was made. You remember how, before shakycam came along, I said that badly-placed slow-motion was the thing I found most obnoxious about modern action filmmaking? This is why. Thankfully they only use this device twice in the early part of the film, and after that it’s largely gone.

    Beyond that, #4 has all of the usual weaknesses of bad action movies of its time: generic dull Eastern European bad guys, confused character motivations, reliance on macguffin manipulation (as Neal says, I don’t think the world needed another “man accidentally comes into posession of computer disc” plot), and general lack of respect for audience intelligence. I gotta be honest, I wish this one had been more like BEST OF THE BEST 1 or 2. It had enough good moments in it to stop it from being a total waste of time though, which is more than I can say for #3, which had nothing at all going for it.

Leave a Reply





XHTML: You can use: <a href="" title=""> <img src=""> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <b> <i> <strike> <em> <strong>