AMERICAN SHAOLIN has no story connection whatsoever with 1992's negligible KING OF THE KICKBOXERS, despite the tacked-on subtitle. Overseas the picture was called KARATE TIGER 5 in reference to the four previous (otherwise unrelated) flicks from the same producers. If anything, this
chopsocky also-ran draws inspiration from AN OFFICER AND A GENTLEMAN and other dramas of boot camp and service life.
The opening introduces Trent Bushy as preening, evil martial-arts champ Trevor Gottitall (who wrote this? Keith Spellitout?), surrounded by his arena sycophants. "It's not enough just to win, Twevor," lisps one. "You've got to destwoy your opponent compwetewy!" Trevor follows that admonition not
by maiming or killing, but by pulling his opponents' trousers down during the match! The latest to be so humiliated and defeated is Drew Carson (Reese Madigan), who returns to his embarrassed master wondering why he was singled out. The problem, it seems, is that Drew's master/instructor was not
really a graduate of the legendary Shaolin Temple school of kung fu as he had claimed. To reclaim his lost honor Drew makes a pilgrimage to mainland China to become a bona fide Shaolin warrior. The Shaolin Buddhists, however, have never accepted a Westerner into their ranks before--especially this
loud jock who interrupts their prayers with a shout of "I wanna be a monk!"
Drew maintains a vigil, day and night, rain and shine, in their courtyard before the kindly Master San De (Zhang Shi-yen) relents and admits him as a novice. The rest of the picture revives every basic-training cliche that was old back when Abbott & Costello were buck privates; Drew balks at
having to shave his head, wake up early, train hard, and do chores. He shares his Walkman and Playboy magazines with the young Chinese initiates, teaching them disco-dancing and air guitar. In one dippy cross-cultural musical interlude, Drew leads fellow disciples in a big rock'n'roll production
number as they hoe the garden: "Ain't no cure for the Shaolin Temple blues!" Drew takes some temple pals AWOL and brawls with local rowdies, an act which nearly gets him expelled. But his brother monks demand that the American have a second chance, and Drew behaves, finally earning his status as a
full-fledged Shaolin fighter. Then it's time for the grudge rematch with Trevor Gottitall, who's been giving the Shaolin team serious trouser trouble at a tournament. Drew re-enters the ring and vanquishes the villain with his newly-acquired kung-fu skills and Eastern discipline.
The bulk of these karate pics are so utterly alike in plotting and execution that it's a mild novelty that AMERICAN SHAOLIN even steals from different source material, as Drew learns to be a Kickboxer and a Gentleman. Nevertheless, Reese Madigan's main character is largely a crass boor, the Ugly
American personified, who wouldn't be allowed into a Shriners' Temple, let alone the Shaolin one. Though Yank Drew wins the big bout at the end, it's the Asian actors onscreen who take trophies for acting prowess over their occidental counterparts. There's ample pageantry in the filmed-on-location
details of Shaolin life and activities, including one memorable action sequence: Drew's ordeal in the "Temple of Wooden Men," an obstacle-course cave filled with low-tech robot attackers. As usual though, the reality of the martial-arts combat is undone by overstated audio dubbing that make every
blow, heavy or light, resound with the same thwack! (Violence.)
Sign up and add shows to get the latest updates about your favorite shows - Start Now
- 1. The Most-Watched Netflix Originals, By the Numbers
- 2. Netflix's 2019 Originals: A Complete Guide
- 3. Dani Cares for Bright After an Accidental Drug Trip in Prodigal Son Sneak Peek
- 4. Helena Bonham Carter Will Not Take a Backseat to Olivia Colman in The Crown Season 3 Trailer
- 5. Best TV of the Decade: The Shows, Moments, and Trends That Defined the 2010s
- 6. The 25 Best Shows of the Decade
- 7. FX and FXX Had the Best Decade of Any Networks