1992, 20th Century Fox/The Movie Group
Peter E. Strauss
Phillip Rhee (original characters)
Paul Levine (original characters)
Max Strom (screenplay)
John Allen Nelson (screenplay)
Eric Roberts (Alex Grady)
Phillip Rhee (Tommy Lee)
Chris Penn (Travis Brickley)
Eden Gross (Walter Grady)
Sonny Landham (James)
Meg Foster (Sue)
Ralf Moeller (Brakus)
Wayne Newton (Weldon)
Patrick Kilpatrick (Mike)
Betty Carvalho (Grandma)
Simon Rhee (Dae Han Park)
The sequel to the 1989 martial arts drama goes the straight action route with revenge as its central theme, yet it still packs a heck of a punch.
After competing against the Korean team in competition, U.S. Karate Team members Alex, Tommy, and Travis re-locate to Las Vegas to open up a martial arts academy. When Alex’s son Walter fails to earn his black belt, he is praised for his ability to be to realize that he can get it on the next try. Meanwhile, Travis has been moonlighting as an underground fighter in an arena called The Coliseum, run by nightclub owner Weldon.
When Walter is forced to go with Travis, Travis reveals to Walter that he is competing against the champion Brakus at the Coliseum. As Walter blackmails him to see the fight, Travis is decimated and ultimately killed by the champ. Walter makes his escape and tells his father and Tommy. When Travis’ body is found and is ruled an accident, Alex, Walter, and Tommy are now targets. They hide out with Tommy’s adopted grandmother, who tells Tommy that the one who can help them is James, Tommy’s alcoholic “brother” as James has had a run-in with Brakus. When Tommy is kidnapped and forced to fight in the Coliseum, Alex reunites with an unexpected ally to rescue Tommy.
1989’s Best of the Best is an underrated American martial arts film that revolved around the bonding between members of a team. Known more as a drama than an action film, it brought a tear-jerking finale. With this sequel, it is a basic action thriller that has revenge as the motive in terms of two of the original film’s protagonists having to avenge the death of their friend and teammate while attempting to survive themselves.
Eric Roberts and Phillip Rhee once again lead the charge in the roles of Alex and Tommy. Unlike the original film, there is no mention of Alex having his bad shoulder this time around and Tommy once again becomes the focal point of most of the film’s action scenes. The late Chris Penn makes more an extended cameo as the ill-fated Travis, whose death becomes the catalyst of the film. Roberts gets more action time as well and his training proves to be worth the effort as he looks quite good. As for Rhee, he still struts his stuff in both Taekwondo and Hapkido along with some action from older brother Simon, who reprises his role as the former Korean team captain turned ally Dae Han.
Former bodybuilding champion Ralf Moeller makes his film debut as the Coliseum champion Brakus, who uses his brute strength as well as having trained in basic martial arts moves from the Rhee brothers. Moeller looks pretty good for his film debut as the villain, who has that warrior spirit when he berates one of his own thugs for carrying a gun en route to the Coliseum. Wayne Newton seems a bit of what is expected of a mastermind, but his performance may even bring Richard Dawson’s Damon Killian to mind as well in terms of being a bit over the top at times.
While the film goes the straight action-revenge route, Best of the Best II is actually a pretty good sequel that still packs its punch thanks to the performances of Eric Roberts and Phillip Rhee. Rhee would go solo for two more films until a 17-year hiatus from films.
WFG RATING: B+