REVIEW: Fist of Glory (1991)

fistofglory

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1991, Davian International

Director:
Joe Mari Avellana
Producer:
David Hunt
Writer:
Joe Mari Avellana
Cinematography:
Ricardo Remias

Cast:
Dale “Apollo” Cook (Jake Reynolds)
Maurice Smith (James Lee)
Robert Marius (Max Gunther)
Tony Cooper (Fixit)
Bob Larson (Mad Dog Dugan)
Eric Hahn (O’Leary)
Cris Aguilar (Leung Ta)

World champion kickboxer Dale “Apollo” Cook made his film debut in 1991 with this film that can’t determine whether it is a kickboxing film or a war film.

A team of commandos are hired to take out a Vietcong regime. The team is led by Jake Reynolds and second in command James Lee. In the midst of the battle, some of the team members are killed in action, and Jake is injured, prompting Lee to save him. Three months later, Jake learns that Lee has gone missing after being the scapegoat for the mission, which was unauthorized. Jake decides to look for Lee.

He learns that Lee has become the champion in an illegal underground fight ring run by drug dealers Mad Dog Dugan and Fixit. With the help of the enigmatic Max Gunther, Jake learns that James has been addicted to drugs that he has no memory of Jake. Jake learns the only way he can get to his old friend is to fight in the ring. After agreeing to take on the beast Leung Ta, Jake begins to train under the tutelage of Max. Will Jake be able to save his friend from a life of possible death or will he also fall to the deadly tournament fights?

Well, well, well. This is a very strange movie that can’t determine what it should be. Shot on location in the Philippines, writer-director Joe Mari Avellana (Bloodfist) attempts to combine a war picture with a martial arts tournament film. The problem here is that instead of complementing the two genres smoothly, Avellana oversaturates the film in its three act story. The first act lasts the first third of the entire movie’s 89-minute running time.

What is the first act? A massive shootout where we just see countless stuntmen playing Viet Cong and our heroic team, led by the debuting Dale “Apollo” Cook and former UFC fighter and kickboxing champion Maurice Smith. The shootout and explosions, depicting a war zone, lasts nearly thirty minutes of the film and that’s just the opening. The second act then is set three months later, where Cook’s all-American soldier must find his old friend who has become the scapegoat for the unauthorized mission that opened the film. The third act reverts back to another war zone but with the heroes now taking on the organizers of the tournament in a massive shootout and explosion. It is just what is expected in this B-movie genre made during the heyday of the classic home video market.

It is sometimes hard for a martial arts champion to transition from the ring to the screens. The film marked the debut of Cook, a five-time kickboxing champion and he gets an A for effort. However, he could have made his debut in a more quality picture. This would be the first of his films for Filipino-based Davian International. Cook is a good martial artist. The only issue is that the choreographers of this film don’t really give him a chance to showcase his moves to maximum effect, even when he is paired with the likes of Smith and even Kris Aguilar, a Filipino martial artist who has appeared as a thug or bad guy in many of these films. Thankfully, Cook was invited for a cameo a year later in Yu Rong Guang’s Deadend of Besiegers and that cameo is perhaps one of his best on screen performances.

Maurice Smith, like Cook, is a good martial artist, but his performance here is a bit wooden when compared to his role in Bloodfist II while Robert Marius is perhaps this film’s saving grace as the mysterious mentor Max Gunther, who proves he is not shady whatsoever like his Bloodfist II role of the evil Dieter.

Fist of Glory suffers due to its oversaturating meshing of martial arts action film and war picture. Dale Cook tries his best but suffers on behalf of not being able to really showcase his skills on screen. You will want to hit that fast forward button for most of the first act of the film and go right to the fight portion of the film.

WFG RATING: D

VHS

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