Despite an admittedly ambitious plot, TIGER CLAWS suffers from being grounded in a bonehead cops-and-ninjas formula.
Detective Linda Masterson (Cynthia Rothrock) is a policewoman who sees her chance to move from the robbery division into homicide when New York City is terrorized by the "Death Dealer," a murderer who targets martial arts masters. However proficient these senseis and sifus are supposed to be at
defending themselves, they're carted to the morgue with clawlike gashes in their flesh.
Investigating officer Masterson, a martial arts expert, is given the case, but she's unwillingly paired with the force's other chopsocky ace, rogue cop Tarek Richards (Jalal Merhi). He recognizes on the bodies the mark of the ancient "tiger claw" school of martial arts, which emphasizes deadly
gouging swipes with the hands. He himself trained in tiger until he felt its lethal power driving him crazy.
Linda and Tarek locate a tiger cult in Chinatown, and the latter manages to enroll as a disciple. But while the fighting flatfoots try to figure out which of the pupils is the Death Dealer, all ignore a strange, grinning hulk in the corner painting a giant tiger mural. He's Chong (Bolo Yeung),
revealed early on to the audience as the serial clawer. Alone, he practices his fatal technique in front of a tiger altar, monster muscles crackling outrageously as he flexes.
The pumped-up Yeung has been in karate pictures from ENTER THE DRAGON to DOUBLE IMPACT, and he sure is the last opponent anyone would want to encounter in a darkened shaolin. But when his big showdown with Tarek finally rolls around, it's just too clear whose side the filmmakers are on. The cop
can defeat this giant with his hands cuffed--and he does, Chong's hokey dubbed-in tiger growls notwithstanding. It's just too lopsided a contest for fans expecting a terrific tussle, and the treatment brings little allure to the vaunted tiger style.
There's certainly room for an action film that treats martial arts as a philosophical discipline, not just another weapon in the War on Drugs, and TIGER CLAWS would have gained immeasurably had its story been set entirly in the world of competition and mystic secret societies. Instead it's framed
by familiar crime buster cliches, and inept ones at that.
Except for the two stars, police here are monumentally stupid (and badly acted) as they suspect Tarek in the slayings, spurred by electioneering politicians howling for a quick arrest. But the heroes' undercover work wouldn't win any commendations anyway; it takes them the whole running time to
discover Chong's guilt by some opaque deduction, and at that very instant the big guy coincidentally goes nuts and rampages throughout the city. In other words, Chong would have given himself away on schedule anyhow.
The maniac's motive is never spelled out, unless one happens to have a copy of the production notes, which claim that Chong is a fanatical tiger practitioner out to exterminate non-traditionalists and hot-dogging champs whom he sees as degrading the ancient forms. A crazed kung-fu fundamentalist
is a great concept--it would certainly be fun to let such a character loose upon the movie industry.
Jalal Mehri, a holder of multiple black belts and operator of his own martial arts studio, was born in Brazil and raised in Beirut, confirming that these lone-wolf lawmen have a limitless range of accents to match their combat skills. Cynthia Rothrock, known as the female Bruce Lee, bids fair to
become a major action star. She's certainly prolific, and makes a personal appearance on the videocassette of TIGER CLAWS to plug another one of her vehicles, MARTIAL LAW 2.
Despite this movie's pitiless villain, never let it be said that kung-fu masters lack a sense of humor; Bill Pickells portrays himself as one of Chong's early victims, an abusive, egocentric host of a self-defense program who gets thrashed into oblivion while his taped image on TV brags about his
own invincibility. (Violence, profanity.)
Cast & Details See all »
- Released: 1992
- Rating: R
- Review: Despite an admittedly ambitious plot, TIGER CLAWS suffers from being grounded in a bonehead cops-and-ninjas formula. Detective Linda Masterson (Cynthia Rothrock) is a policewoman who sees her chance to move from the robbery division into homicide when New… (more)