Recent martial-arts B-movies have shown a rather incongruous preoccupation with social issues, pounding in messages of brotherhood along with human heads. Foremost among the slamming sermonizers is ace kickboxer Don "The Dragon" Wilson, an Asian-American whose RING OF FIRE dealt with his
interracial love affair with Maria Ford.
The title of RING OF FIRE II alludes to the apocalypse Johnny (Wilson) and Julie (Ford) must survive just to get an engagement band. The lovebirds are in a jewelry shop when masked robbers stage a raid that ends with Johnny knocking a couple of the marauders flat as the cops arrive. The helpless
Julie is taken to the hospital as the lead villain Kalin (Ian Jacklin) vows revenge. Sure enough, the criminals kidnap Julie, and Johnny has to follow them where no policeman dares tread, to their lair deep in the Underground--miles of access tunnels and forgotten building foundations beneath Los
Angeles, a haven for outlaws, outcasts and smoky neon lights; it looks like the setting for every heavy-metal music video ever made.
As Johnny and a rescue party descend deeper into the urban netherworld they're attacked by wave after wave of war-painted kung-fu weirdos. Subterranean savages set the tone by immediately ripping off Johnny's shirt so his taut torso is on display for the rest of the picture. Johnny acquires a
guide to Kalin's domain in the person of Ernest (Sy Richardson), a homeless Vietnam vet with an attitude, and they keep up a lame running discourse on the plight of the homeless. The seedy action milieu and regular brawls keep the debate well below "Meet the Press" standards, and the homeless folk
run the gamut of cliches, from the Shakespeare-spouting John Carradine-type to a flaming homosexual D.J. narrowcasting over the Underground's own private pirate radio station.
The heroes confront Kalin's crew in a chain-link arena while Ernest violates the Underground's strict anti-gun policy by raiding Kalin's arsenal and opening fire. The ending has anti-climaxes to spare, with Kalin attacking and re-attacking the ever-victorious Johnny before getting blown up; if
the filmmakers really meant to help the homeless they would have donated their pyrotechnics budget.
To be fair, Wilson's acting skills have improved a bit--though it's still the proverbial game of inches--and in 1992 he starred in a credible mix of action and political themes, the realistic prison drama BLOODFIST III: FORCED TO FIGHT. On the other hand, RING OF FIRE II is formula pulp burdened
by its pretensions. One does not look forward to any further installments about, for instance, the mayhem at Johnny's bachelor party. (Violence, profanity.)
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- Released: 1993
- Rating: R
- Review: Recent martial-arts B-movies have shown a rather incongruous preoccupation with social issues, pounding in messages of brotherhood along with human heads. Foremost among the slamming sermonizers is ace kickboxer Don "The Dragon" Wilson, an Asian-American w… (more)