Champion professional wrestler and kickboxer Mimi Lesseos strives for action stardom in the relentlessly inept PUSHED TO THE LIMIT and comes up empty.
The nominal story begins as Mimi (Lesseos) has just defeated Sheeba (Amy Bancroft) for the women's world wrestling title. To celebrate, she goes home to visit her family, catching her brother, Johnny (Gregg Ostrin) snorting cocaine in the bathroom. Mimi pleases her Mom (Barbara Braverman), who
looks askance at her wrestling celebrity, by announcing that she is going to fill in for a Las Vegas dancer in a revue who has broken her leg. As she dances in the revue, Johnny is killed by rich Chinese drug dealer and kickboxing enthusiast Harry Lee (Henry Hayashi). Vowing revenge for her
brother's murder, she challenges Lee's number one kickboxing bodyguard, Inga (Christi Calven), to a kickboxing match.
With the spiritual guidance of Vern (Verrel Lester Reed, Jr.), Mimi rises in the ranks of kickboxers to fight Inga. During Mimi's and Inga's fight to the death, the FBI, finding out about Lee's illicit drug operations, raids the kickboxing arena, causing a hysterical melee as the audience races
for exits. Mimi's high-kicking renders Inga groggy and, in her stupor, thinking that Henry Lee is Mimi, Inga kickboxes him to death by cracking his spine and breaking his neck. Mimi wins the match and Inga is hauled away by the cops.
Susan Sontag in her seminal essay "Against Interpretation" refers to film as the most exciting and the most important of all art forms because of the "latitude it gives for making mistakes in it and still be good." But a film of the calibre of PUSHED TO THE LIMIT defies criticism by its multitude
of mistakes, from Lesseos's self-aggrandizing screenplay to Michael Mileham's bungled direction--rendering it not good, not bad, but gleefully awful.
Lesseos, as screenwriter, graces her character with such a self-imposed layer of godlike goodness and saccharine self-importance, that she seems to be angling for the Nobel Peace Prize. At one point in the film, a family member tells Mimi that she is "a woman on the move and women admire that. You
know, like a role model. You're a woman of the 90s." To which Mimi responds diffidently, "I don't know. I guess I am a role model." At another juncture in the film, arch villain Harry Lee tells her, "You not only have class and brains, but compassion as well." But this compassionate woman of the
90s is also a kickboxing wrestler of the most cold-hearted sort who dispassionately rises in the kickboxing ranks by snapping and breaking countless spines and necks. Mimi's cheery outlook (she responds to her mother's concern over Johnny's drug dealing by saying, "Nobody's perfect") hides a not
too hidden bloodlust (she tells Vern after first seeing Harry Lee, "Let's kill him now"), which makes her deification very disturbing.
Thankfully, Michael Mileham's incompetent direction blunts any glorification of Lesseos. Mileham directs with his eyes closed--scenes are jumbled and the point of scenes obscured by characters who block the camera lens. The sound is garbled and indistinct and the editing is clumsy and unstructured
(disregarding any editing principles, the film repeatedly cuts from Johnny's murder to Mimi's Las Vegas dance number, which looks like THE RITE OF SPRING meets TARZAN). Technically the film works like a bad porno movie without the sex scenes.
It is unclear to whom PUSHED TO THE LIMIT will appeal. As a kickboxing demonstration, it is defeated by the atrociously directed fight scenes. As a film featuring a strong role model for women, it is defeated by the abject egoism of the star. As campy trash, it is defeated by its neo-fascist
conservatism. But as a truly bad film, you can't get any better--or worse--than this shoddy and cheapjack ego trip.
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- Released: 1992
- Rating: R
- Review: Champion professional wrestler and kickboxer Mimi Lesseos strives for action stardom in the relentlessly inept PUSHED TO THE LIMIT and comes up empty. The nominal story begins as Mimi (Lesseos) has just defeated Sheeba (Amy Bancroft) for the women's world… (more)