Saturday, July 16, 2011

The Gweilo Dojo: KARATE WARRIOR 2 (1988)

Fabrizio De Angelis brings the whole KARATE WARRIOR (1987) crew back to do his KARATE KID rip off right this time.  Well, maybe not, as Ken Watanabe, Janet Agren and Jared Marten figured they had better things to do (Marten actually got a semi-decent gig on the WAR OF THE WORLDS television series; no doubt due to his fine work as the dad in KARATE WARRIOR).  But we do get Kim Rossi Stuart returning as constantly put upon karate schmuck Anthony Scott.  Having defeated the damn good Quino in the Philippines in the first film, Anthony has now returned to the US and gets ready to attend college in Florida.  His grandparents host a surprise birthday party for him and give him a car. Naturally, he immediately goes for a spin it in and runs afoul of some jerks in a car airbrushed with a tiger on it.  He passes them on a double line (a no-no) and they send him off the road into the swamp.  Well, if he hadn’t cross the double lines, none of this would happen.

Anthony is picked up in by Luke (David Haynes), a lonely/creepy rich kid who demands Anthony “become my friend” before he lets him in the car. Seriously, it is a really awkward exchange.  Check it out.

Ohhhhhhhhhhhh-kayyyyyyy.   So Luke drives Anthony into town and Luke fills him in on the local scene including a “gang of delinquent karate fanatics” called the Tigers.  Wait a second - do they tool around town in a car with an airbrushed tiger on it?  And hold on one more second, didn’t we just pass a car just like that?  STOP THE CAR! Anthony isn’t going to let this car drama pass and he goes to confront gang leader Dick (Christopher Alan).  What he doesn’t know is this gang means business.  I mean, they hang out all day in a Ben & Jerry’s! Anthony beats down a couple of Dick’s men and then boldly tells him that he wants…wait for it…a check to get his car towed out of the water.  Yes, a check!  Gee, I certainly hope he also asks Dick for two forms of ID.

Anyway, Anthony enrolls in school and, wouldn’t you know it, Dick and his crew also go to school there.  But it gets better as this dialog exchange between Dick and an underling shows.

Underling: Hey Dick!
Dick: So, what’s the dirt?
Underling: Well, it turns out his father went here about 20 years ago.
Dick: So what?
Underling: He was in your father’s class.
Dick: Who cares?
Underling: Well, looks like he’s the one who had him expelled.
Dick: Okay, the bastard’s dead.  Where is he?
Underling: Somewhere on campus.
Dick: Okay, let’s go!

Haha, yes, this shit’s personal now. Dick and his crew punch Anthony a few times before being scared off by a janitor.  Oh, it is real personal now. Anthony says he won’t break the promise he made Master Kimura (Leon Elalout, replacing Watanabe) to only use his karate skills in sanctioned combat (guess he forgot about kicking those guys in the ice cream shop), so he tells Luke to challenge Dick to a sanctioned karate match in the school’s auditorium.  Not only that, they go to the local radio station and soon everyone in town is dying to see this go down.  Dick readily accepts, but has a trick up his sleeve in that they will force the hard-up auditorium manager (“he always needs money because his daughter’s sick”) to pat Anthony down with a sponge soaked in chloroform between rounds.  Meanwhile, Anthony has been putting the moves on Patty (Amy Lynn Baxter), Dick’s main squeeze (maybe I should rephrase that).

Anyway, the big fight (held on the stage of a theater) goes down at the 50 minute mark so I am fully expecting Anthony to lose and train hard to get his big redemption in the next 40 minutes.  But what the hell is this?  They do the chloroform trick but Anthony still wins by knocking Dick out.  What? Seems De Angelis is messing with kung fu convention and he fooled me.  So Anthony is victorious and we all live happily ever after, right?  Well, no.  Dick now has a super plan – pay Mark “The Killing Machine” Sanders (Ted Prior) $5,000 to beat up Anthony…in a sanctioned match, of course.  It is personal again you see as Mark founded the Tigers 10 years ago and he can’t stand to see his boys humiliated. Ha, yeah right, he is doing it for the money and didn’t even know the gang was still around.  So Anthony writes a letter to Master Kimura, who flies to Florida for some training time.  It’s on!

Larry Ludman…1980s…you know what I’m talking about.  This was a period right before the bottom fell out of the Italian film industry, especially the exploitation market.  Ludman aka director Fabrizio De Angelis was making the most of this dwindling era in the late 80s.  He had just finished up his THUNDER WARRIOR series and was nursing the KARATE WARRIOR series to all of its 6 film glory. The switch from the Philippines to Florida is definitely welcome as it helps as setting it in the US gives it the KARATE KID feel.  Of course, that and karate kicking kids is about as close as you will get. Anthony Scott is such an oddball that you don’t have any sympathy for him like Daniel LaRusso.  And don’t get me started on Kimura. He is definitely no Mr. Miyagi as most of his knowledge consists of lines like “you must win” and “do it now.”  He doesn’t even show Anthony any moves.  His training consists of him saying spouting some fortune cookie philosophy and saying “trust the words” before karate chopping Anthony in the neck.  Thanks boss.  Kimura even shows himself to be unethical as he reveals after the final bout that he bet $2,500 on Anthony at 20-to-1 odds.  So what does he do?  He buys the kid a BMW.  Well, this should end well.

The first KARATE WARRIOR has one of my favorite lines of dialog of all-time in it ("Quino? He's damn good. Damn good. Damn, he's good."), so I'm glad to report this carries on the tradition.  When Luke tries to tell Anthony not to confront the gang, he says, "You don't know Dick. He's...Dick!"  The film's biggest highlight, however, is that awkward way the Italians love to portray America.  Their America is the one where radio DJs not only hype a karate match on the air, they show up to do the play-by-play coverage. De Angelis apparently watched ANTHROPOPHAGUS 2 and believes every American is obsessed with football as every male on campus is sporting a football jersey.  Even better is when Kimura arrives in the US and Anthony drives him home.  They drive past a street where half a dozen hookers show their wares while hollering at every passing car.  “So, this is America,” says Kimura.  The best, however, is De Angelis’ depiction of a US street gang, which is second only to Hong Kong films in terms of accuracy.  I’m pretty sure any “gang” that drove around with a tiger airbrushed on their hood would be laughed off the streets, even in the 80s. During the final fight, De Angelis even has the gang supporters in the crowd with hand painted signs and a huge tiger poster.  Best of all, there is even a guy in a tiger costume. Ah, those wacky Italians, how I love them!

0 Reactions:

Post a Comment

All comments are moderated because... you know, the internet.