1995, The Movie Store
Peter E. Strauss
Paul Levine (original characters)
Barry Gray (screenplay)
Deborah Scott (screenplay)
Phillip Rhee (Tommy Lee)
Christopher McDonald (Sheriff Jack Banning)
Gina Gershon (Margo Preston)
Mark Rolston (Donnie Hansen)
Peter Simmons (Owen Tucker)
Cristina Lawson (Karen Banning)
Dee Wallace (Georgia)
Michael Bailey Smith (Tiny)
Justin Brentley (Luther Phelps Jr.)
Andra R. Ward (Rev. Luther Phelps)
Kitao Sakurai (Justin Banning)
Cole S. McKay (Bo)
R. Lee Ermey (Preacher Brian)
Tommy Lee faces a new enemy in this solo outing third installment which also marks the directorial debut of Phillip Rhee.
The small town of Liberty, Mississippi have been heartbroken when the local Reverend, Luther Phelps, has been killed at the hands of a neo-Aryan hate group. The Aryan Nation have planned to take over land located on the outskirts of Liberty and the town are debating whether to sell it to their leader, Preacher Bryan. This coincides with the arrival of Tommy Lee, a martial arts instructor who is in town visiting his sister Karen and brother-in-law Jack, Liberty’s sheriff.
When the night of his arrival, Tommy finds his sister, nephew Justin, and Rev. Phelps’ son harassed by some masked members of the Aryan Nation, Tommy unleashes his martial arts skills to fend them off. The next day, at Jack’s request, Tommy dresses up as a clown for the local carnival. When Margo, a local schoolteacher, finds her former student Owen has joined the Aryans, her attempt to talk him out of it forces her to be harassed. Tommy comes to her rescue only to be mad at him for his actions. However, after a blind date is set up between the two, Margo warms up to Tommy. When Margo successfully convinces town hall not to sell the land to the Aryans, a war is imminent and Tommy finds himself in the middle of everything, having to use his martial arts skills as well as help from his brother-in-law to end the hate once and for all.
After two outings with Eric Roberts as his trusted friend Alex Grady, martial artist Phillip Rhee takes his character of Tommy Lee in a solo adventure. The topic of the film is racism, with Barry Gray and Deborah Scott’s screenplay being set in the Southern town of Liberty, Mississippi. Rhee also makes his directorial debut on the film and does quite well as a director. While he no longer has the likes of Roberts (who declined to return to the series), Rhee proves himself to be the breakout of the first two installments so it’s natural for him to go solo especially with a sensitive topic such as racism, one he tackled in the original film from rival turned ally Travis, the late Chris Penn’s character.
Replacing Roberts as Rhee’s most trusted ally is Christopher McDonald, who churns out a dramatic performance as Tommy’s brother-in-law, the local sheriff. While he feels like he can’t do much at first considering the situation in mind, he is pushed to the limit when his wife (Tommy’s sister) is harassed on two separate occasions and supplies more firepower with Rhee handling the martial arts fights. Bloodfight actress Cristina Lawson provides good support as Tommy’s sister.
Gina Gershon proves herself to play Tommy’s love interest quite well as a schoolteacher who also opposes the Aryan Nation, who’s preaching leader is an uncredited R. Lee Ermey but the real puppet master is the maniacal Donnie Hansen, played by Rush Hour’s Mark Rolston, who pulls it off nicely as the main villain of the film. There is a bit of a subplot involving an 18-year old kid played by Peter Simmons who joins the Aryans but soon questions both their motives and the consequences of their actions that meshes well into the film.
Simon Rhee, Phillip’s brother, once again handles the film action choreography and showcases little brother’s skills in Taekwondo and Hapkido. As mentioned, in a fight during a carnival, Tommy dresses up as a clown and confronts one thug he fought earlier in the film by calling himself, “Homey the Killer Clown” before dishing out punishment. The finale is a literal explosive battleground that engages Tommy to face Hansen one on one in a showdown.
Best of the Best 3: No Turning Back has our hero fight racism with Tommy having the best line that makes a valid point: “Don’t forget…your blood is red like mine”. Some great fights and the subject matter drive the film for a good directorial debut for Phillip Rhee.
WFG RATING: B+