Round 2, Bout 1: Team Bolo vs. The Women
Jalal Merhi (who we previously saw in the similarly animal-titled TALONS OF THE EAGLE) stars as Lyle Camille, a dorky Canadian martial artist who chooses to go into business instead of pursuing life as a true warrior. He’s just graduated with his MBA, he’s engaged to get married to Ashley (model Monika Schnarre) and his dad (Jamie Farr!) got him a job as VP at his credit card company. This moment of achievement and potential could set him up to get the Goose-in-TOP-GUN treatment, the ol’ one-last-job-before-I-retire curse. Instead it’s his brother Lance (Laurent Hazout, whose only other role is “Interzone Boy” in NAKED LUNCH) who bites it, overdosing on a new opium-based “more addictive than crack” drug called “fish food” or “nirvana” (often pronounced “ner-VAN-uh.”)
The lead villain is Saalamar (Lazar Rockwood), head of an order of kung fu monks who are actually the Black Pearls drug gang who create the nirvana in a secret lab hidden in their temple. He has a team of chemists in lab coats creating drugs and hiding them in little Buddha statues. At one point he’s referred to as “the Mongolian Prince.” He seems to move freely between Hong Kong and Toronto, both to enforce his gang’s supremacy and to attend the “J.A.M. International Tournament” in a high school gym. That’s where we first meet Lyle, losing, but also getting an invitation from fellow competitor Peng (Sonny Onoo, later a manager in WCW wrestling) to come train with his master in Hong Kong.
Having apparently seen BLOODFIST, ANGELFIST, etc. Lyle knows he has to travel to a foreign country and enter a martial arts tournament to find out who killed his brother. Or, actually, he goes to Hong Kong to train, but he also figures out who’s responsible for nirvana and goes after them, and also enters a martial arts tournament. His brother had whinily railed against the bourgeois lifestyle Dad had prescribed for them, and it inspires Lyle to basically tell his pops and his sweetheart to talk to the hand (“I just decided… I’m not ready for dis right now”) while he flies off to do “something I’ve always dreamed about.” In other words, FUCK YOU AND YOUR WHITE PICKET FENCES, MIDDLE AMERICA. Er, I mean Toronto.
Lyle gets into the Do Man School, where the master (K. Dock Yip, YEAR OF THE DRAGON) tries to teach him patience by making him paint the wall while other students fight. Not able to learn patience, or to respect that painting was used as a legitimate training technique in both THE KARATE KID and AMERICAN KICKBOXER 1, Lyle fails this easy test about as badly as any human being could possibly fail it. He throws a tantrum, dumps the whole bucket of paint on the floor of the school and runs away like a fuckin baby, complaining that he came here to learn kung fu not to do repairs. Later he comes back to apologize while some other poor schmoes are trying to mop off the surprisingly impermanent paint puddle, and he says “Did you think I was some kind of an ignorant jerk?” like it was all a big misunderstanding. The master says yes. That would be a good title, Jalal Merhi is… SOME KIND OF AN IGNORANT JERK.
Master Do Man doesn’t want to teach him until he’s ready, although to be nice he does start teaching him when he obviously is way too much of a baby to ever be ready. But the Master explains, “I have had students who have gone and done bad things, evil things.” I assume that means the bad guys but I don’t think they come out and say that.
Peng, from the earlier tournament, is there and happens to be a cop, so he gives us all the exposition about the drug gang, the school and the tournament.
“You want to know about Bamo? No gloves, nor rules. People get killed. Make a mistake in Bamo and you don’t go home with a few bruises and good lessons. You get killed.”
In the tradition of TALONS OF THE EAGLE, the tournament is really not very important. It happens about two thirds of the way into the movie – they fight on a round platform with a moat around it and woods around that. There is a ref wearing a gi. There are fighters of different nationalities and a small crowd in civilian clothes. One guy breaks a board before his fight to show how awesome he is. Saalamar is there in a trainer capacity for Boh (Glenn Kwan, a ninja from POLICE ACADEMY 4) the same guy who beat him back in Toronto.
It’s a long montage of highlights from the various fights, no cutaways to the other plots. It’s dark by the time of the final, and it’s more ceremonial. They play a drum, have some torches and four judges sitting on a platform. Lyle fights Boh … and loses again! It’s weird because he just loses and then goes into a tent and talks about the drug dealers. It doesn’t seem like he cares at all about the tournament, or that you’re supposed to. Definitely the least consequential hero-tournament-loss in the Super-Kumite.
Then it turns into this thing where Lyle and his friends go around together like the Scooby-Doo mystery gang, thinking out loud to each other as they try to prove the monk-nirvana connection, get attacked by masked Black Pearls, etc.
FEARLESS TIGER is representing Team Bolo, but Bolo Yeung is not actually in it very much. He plays “the Master on the Mountain” who Peng sends Lyle to for extra training. They practice forms on some stairs outside while the Master’s daughter, in an aerobics outfit, does dance moves. Bolo probly filmed his part over a weekend. I would’ve said in one afternoon except later in the movie he has actual dialogue in a scene where he throws Baoding balls at Lyle. This seems to be our hero’s final lesson, and it takes place after the tournament. He still seems just as stupid as he did at the beginning of the movie, being confused when the Master tells him he wants to give him another lesson. “But I have my red sash. What else do I have to learn?”
When Lyle comes back home to Canada he makes the same mistake Lorenzo Lamas did in NIGHT OF THE WARRIOR, surprising his girl while she’s giving a tour of an art gallery and causing a scene in front of everybody. So yes, he cancelled his wedding out of the blue, left the country long enough to train in martial arts and lose in a tournament, then came back and just assumed she would pick up where they left off. Well, she’s not having it at all… until she immediately gets kidnapped by the Black Pearls because they think she has a computer disk that tells the recipe for nirvana that they need because the only chemist who knew how to make it got blinded when the other chemist accidentally threw acid in his face when Lyle was smashing all the stuff in their lab. Lyle rescues her so then they’re back on again, no questions asked.
The idea of a guy giving up his yuppie lifestyle, going to Hong Kong and learning kung fu is kinda cool (also reminds me of Christopher Lambert turning samurai in THE HUNTED), but the storytelling is just so terrible. It takes too long to get there and has way too many laughable elements for it to work in the ways it was intended to. And the hero is such an idiot.
This might be the worst movie in the Super-Kumite so far (not including the MORTAL KOMBAT video), but it’s pretty funny, with plenty of enjoyable “bad movie” type moments. There’s a drug dealer named Slash, awkward drama with Merhi saying things like “For the first time in my life I’m taking a chance!”, Jamie Farr doing a Lebanese accent, Peng’s asshole boss smarmily telling him off just before being blown the fuck up, a scene where they go into a dark alley and he says “This place sure is spooky at night, huh?”
Maybe the most awkward scene is the one where Lyle goes to make the trade, the disk for the ex-fiancee. They meet at Ashley’s art gallery during business hours, and in the middle of their tense face off a lady tells them to “hush up” and a guy warns them that the gallery closes in 5 minutes. Then it turns out Lyle gave them a fake disk containing a crude animation of a cartoon guy pulling his pants down and farting at them. I wonder how he found the time to program that? Or does he just keep the ol’ Cartoon Farting Guy disk around for disk-switch-requiring emergencies like this?
Another weird attempt at comic relief is during a fight in the back of a moving garbage truck. It keeps cutting to two guys in the front of the truck (?) who are headbanging to a heavy metal tune. The passenger is wearing a curly wig and headband and holding drumsticks.
Speaking of long hair and headbands, this actor Lazar Rockwood, who plays Saalamar, is a big mystery. Look at this guy:
Since he’s introduced overseeing a temple of kung fu monks, I thought he was an old Asian guy wearing an incongruous hair metal wig. It turns out the long blond hair is his usual look, and I believe he’s from somewhere in Europe. Still, I suspect that his voice is dubbed. I learned from the IMDb that he’s in alot of other movies and TV shows. On Witchblade he was credited only as “Lazar” and that was also his character’s name. He also played “Lazar” in VANESSA and DEATH IN HAVANA and “Laza” in FROM BELGRADE WITH LOVE and DEAL OR NOT DEAL [sic].
Luckily he made this autobiographical video on Youtube which explains everything.
Anyway, the fights are okay. There are a couple fiery car explosions too.
Director Ron Hulme only did one other movie, something called OBSTRUCTION OF JUSTICE from 1994. Co-writer Steve Maunder wrote a bunch of other Jalal Merhi movies such as TIGER CLAWS, TALONS OF THE EAGLE, TC 2000, OPERATION GOLDEN PHOENIX, EXPECT NO MERCY, TIGER CLAWS II (also director), EXPECT TO DIE, CRISIS and TIGER CLAWS III, and he worked on the fights too.
And I got no idea why the fuck it’s called FEARLESS TIGER. (In Canada it was released theatrically under the name BLACK PEARLS.)
older mentor: Do Man
training montages: standing on stumps, fighting with a wooden staff, balancing teacups on his knees, throwing dirt, somersaults, splits, blade spinning, balancing on a log
symbols: yin yang on the door of the Do Man School
fight coordinators: Mo Chow, Jean Frenette, J. Stephen Maunder, Jalal Merhi
note: I don’t know how to get screengrabs from VHS, so please check out this review to make up for me borrowing some of their stills
VERN has a new action-horror novel out called WORM ON A HOOK! He has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the film criticism books Seagalogy: A Study of the Ass-Kicking Films of Steven Seagal and Yippee Ki-Yay Moviegoer!: Writings on Bruce Willis, Badass Cinema and Other Important Topics as well as the crime novel Niketown.