IMMORTAL COMBAT delivers adequate action/adventure thrills with steroid-pumped fight sequences and surprisingly engaging performances from the leading players. It's a slam-bang free-for-all combining old movie serial-style science fiction, hand-to-hand combat, exotic resort romance, and
international crime sleuthing.
Tenacious cop John Keller ("Rowdy" Roddy Piper) is angry: he's lost an undercover detective to the Signature Killer (Deron McBee)--so named because he carves his name in his victims' flesh--and his buddy J.J. (Sonny Chiba) has been wounded during the same disastrous bust. Keller informs his boss
that he's going to spend his downtime smoking out the high-level perpetrators in their Caribbean lair. Keller rescues reporter Karen Keeler (Kim Morgan Green) from a masher and befriends a kickboxer, Ynagi (Tiny Lister), on the boat en route. Soon after arriving, John breaks up a to-the-death
martial arts exhibition match arranged by criminal mastermind Quinn (Meg Foster), and earns her enmity. Karen, who writes for the National News, claims that Quinn's lab is working on a master race recipe which heals wounds instantly; she's soon caught snooping and is tossed into the dungeon.
John mulishly refuses to cooperate with Quinn or her hired muscle and, with the help of J.J. (who arrives out of the blue and saves his butt), John invades Quinn's fortress. Karen escapes, J.J. uses lethal martial arts throwing stars to thin the ranks of Quinn's gladiators, and the band hides in
the jungle, where they meet a pulchritudinous native woman who reveals an ancient Mayan warrior secret: take one recently dead fighter, blend with special drugs, and the result is an invincible zombie warrior. The group fortify themselves with some "combat tea," which proves helpful. J.J. tackles
kung fu specialist Osato (Woon), while John tangles with the Signature Killer, who's grabbed Karen. Although J.J. uses his martial arts moves to great effect and lands an exploding throwing star in Quinn's right-hand man, John takes a pummeling from the resurrected monster-man until the fiend
catches fire. The flames consume the immortal combatant, who has time for one last fiery embrace with a reluctant Quinn. The zombie formula is no longer a threat to world peace, Karen gets the scoop of a lifetime, and J.J. and John avenge the death of their former partner.
IMMORTAL COMBAT's plot is nothing if not cliched: the kickboxing battle to the death arranged by a criminal mastermind with bigger plans is a genre staple. But it overcomes the burden of familiarity with its tidy science-fiction variations on THE MOST DANGEROUS GAME and embraces the genre's
tired devices as old friends, pouncing on its bad guys with such vigorous glee and investing its outlandish premise with such wide-eyed enthusiasm that the fun is hard to resist. Chiba and Piper work well together, and Green and Piper strike real sparks in their obligatory romantic subplot. Former
wrestler Piper is a surprising mix of brawn and charm. Meg Foster's sinisterly soft-spoken Mother of all Mutant Fighters is also effective in her Oriental garb, and her casual use of sex to start her prey's hearts racing before they're killed is cruelly funny. The ass-kicking, head-busting fight
sequences are unusually well conceived, shot and edited. The film is undermined by long scenes of J.J. solo-training by candlelight back in America, which look as thought they were produced for foreign distribution. If these tedious segments had been better integrated or eliminated, IMMORTAL
COMBAT could have been a contender in the first class action movie arena. (Graphic violence, extensive nudity, extreme profanity, sexual situations.)
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- Released: 1994
- Rating: R
- Review: IMMORTAL COMBAT delivers adequate action/adventure thrills with steroid-pumped fight sequences and surprisingly engaging performances from the leading players. It's a slam-bang free-for-all combining old movie serial-style science fiction, hand-to-hand com… (more)