Action filmmakers Joseph Pepin and Joseph Mehri have made so many direct-to-video B-movies (including FINAL IMPACT, PRIVATE WARS, DEADLY BET, RING OF FIRE I & II etc.) that they could probably do them in their sleep, and seem to be doing so in the first 30 minutes of TO BE THE BEST.
The first third of TO BE THE BEST is filled with fights, threats, and muscular male chests. Finally, the plot emerges; it revolves around Erick Kulhane (Michael Worth), hotheaded up-and-comer in a dynasty of professional kickboxers. While coach/dad Rick (Martin Kove) readies the US entrants for
the World Kickboxing Championship in Las Vegas, Erick hones his skills in street fights as semi-retired older brother Sammy (Phillip Troy) looks on disapprovingly. A match looms between the Americans and the "feared World Champion Thai Team," so smooth-talking gangster Jack Rodgers (Alex Cord)
slithers into Vegas and tries to bribe Erick into throwing the match. Rodgers and his syndicate have millions riding on the title-holders from Thailand.
Rodgers has Erick roughed up, kidnaps his rich lover, Cheryl (Brittney Powell), and reveals that his dad once had Sammy take a dive for cash. Erick still won't be corrupted, and his "long-legged multi-kicks" defeat a hot-dogging Thai rival in the final arena showdown. For an encore Erick knocks
the gun-wielding Rodgers off the hotel roof and marries Cheryl.
The film's dramatic coup is casting three main actors--North, Troy and THE KARATE KID's Martin Kove--who display a strong family resemblance. Action vet Alex Cord also scores by soft-pedaling the gentlemanly arch villain. But TO BE THE BEST is for jujitsu junkies only; nearly all fights are shot
from a spectator's perspective, with almost no attempt made to pull the viewer into the ring, and casting the Thais as a sort of Yellow Peril against the all-American Kulhanes (who wear Old Glory on their pants) is a leftover piece of ROCKY IV-era jingoism that should have thrown in the towel long
ago. As always, almost none of the athletes in TO BE THE BEST are respectful competitors; nearly all seem to be blood enemies, and the picture's biggest surprise is when Sammy actually shakes hands with an opponent he's just defeated. (Violence, profanity, substance abuse, sexual situations.)
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- Released: 1993
- Rating: R
- Review: Action filmmakers Joseph Pepin and Joseph Mehri have made so many direct-to-video B-movies (including FINAL IMPACT, PRIVATE WARS, DEADLY BET, RING OF FIRE I & II etc.) that they could probably do them in their sleep, and seem to be doing so in the first 30… (more)