Hamstrung by a cliched plot, RING OF STEEL invests the standard action movie formulas with energy, but not much directorial grace. Although the kickboxing, thrusting-and-parrying opponents conduct themselves with flashy elan, the movie is always in danger of succumbing to terminal deja vu.
Devastated when he accidentally kills a competitor during a match, National Fencing Championship contender Alex Freyer (Robert Chapin) is rescued from depression by the love of a good woman, Elena (Darlene Vogel). His career ruined, Alex succumbs to the blandishments of a cunning promoter (Joe
Don Baker) who runs the Ring of Steel, one of those kill-or-be-killed arenas catering to the jaded jet set. Elena disapproves, Arena slut Tanya (Carol Alt) vamps Alex shamelessly, the police investigate the disappearance of a fighter who threatened to reveal the truth about the Ring, and Alex
tries to decide whether or not to put his manly skills to the ultimate test. To guarantee Alex's long and profitable association with the Ring of Steel, the promoter kidnaps Elena. Alex has earned the enmity of the death pit's former star attraction, Jack (Gary Kasper), who thwarts Alex's escape
plans and seizes the opportunity to cross swords with him. Jack also kills Alex's only ally, Brian (Jim Pirri). Elena flirts her way to freedom, calls the police and then sneaks into the sell-out crowd at the neo-Roman Arena. After the police interrupt Jack's no-hold barred grudge match with Alex,
Jack drags Elena off through the building's escape tunnels, shoots Tanya--his former lover--for meddling, and tries to fling Elena off a catwalk. Alex intervenes, and pitches him off the landing. Alex and Elena escape the burning Arena, only to run into Jack on an adjoining roof, where the
diabolical fight promoter runs his former star Jack through with an antique sword. Declining the fickle Ring Master's insistent offer of future employment, Alex and Elena jump into a fireman's rescue net; the promoter eludes the long arm of the law once more.
RING OF STEEL is archetypal direct-to-video fodder; the only reason to watch it is for the carefully staged karate/sword fighting actions. On that visceral level, the film is surprisingly well made--versatile staging for the camera is actually emphasized by the rapier-sharp editing. Sadly, the
rest of the movie doesn't measure up. There's no point in wondering why combat champions like Alex don't hire bodyguards for their girlfriends (who always wind up being kidnapped), or criticizing the listless film's attempts to beef up tension with the police investigation scenes. As long as
viewers pretend they've been invited to Madison Square Garden and given front row seats for a cavalcade of record-breakingly brutal bouts, there's fun to be had. (Graphic violence, extreme profanity, extensive nudity, sexual situations.)
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- Released: 1994
- Rating: NR
- Review: Hamstrung by a cliched plot, RING OF STEEL invests the standard action movie formulas with energy, but not much directorial grace. Although the kickboxing, thrusting-and-parrying opponents conduct themselves with flashy elan, the movie is always in danger… (more)