REVIEW: A Dangerous Place (1994)

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Teen martial arts action star Ted Jan “T.J.” Roberts stars in this very serious drama that combines shades of The Karate Kid and shades of a Lifetime movie.

Ethan Keats is a high schooler who takes up martial arts in his free time. His older brother Greg is a high school senior and martial artist as well. Lately, Greg has been spending time with a popular group of karate fighters as known as the Scorpions. The Scorpions are comprised of Taylor, Eddie, Walt, and Patrick. After a day at the beach, Greg learns that the Scorpions are more than just a group of karate fighters. The group decides to see if Greg really has what it takes to be a Scorpion. They decide to rob a house. When Greg learns that the homeowners are still there, he decides to get out of it, but is ambushed by Taylor, who kills him. Shocked and worried, the Scorpions hatch a plan to make it look different.

The next day at school, Ethan is shocked when he sees Greg hung on the basketball boards. Ruled a suicide by the police, Ethan knows that something is completely off. With feelings of anger, he decides the only way he can find out what really happened to his brother is to infiltrate the Scorpions. As Ethan eventually gets into the Scorpions, the gang’s sensei, Gavin Smith, wants Ethan to send a challenge to his school, the Lions. As Ethan gets deeper into the Scorpions, he soon learns everything he has wanted to know will all culminate in the upcoming karate tournament between the Lions and the Scorpions.

Directed by Jerry P. Jacobs, a film with the title such as this one may seem like a Lifetime movie and it is best to describe this film as “a Lifetime movie with martial arts action”. For what it is, this is a really good vehicle for teen PM discovery Ted Jan Roberts. Roberts, who is a martial artist, gets to showcase his dramatic skills in this film after playing it like a happy teen in his film debut, Magic Kid. Roberts brings in a pretty good performance as high schooler Ethan, who investigates his brother’s death by infiltrating a popular karate club.

However, hardcore martial arts fans will wonder why they casted 80’s teen idol Corey Feldman in the role of the Scorpions leader Taylor. Feldman may be not exactly what martial arts fans want in a role of a martial artist. However, Feldman does have a bit of a dance background and undergoing training for the film, he holds his own quite well when it comes to the fight scenes. Road House villain Marshall Teague channels the villainous energy he brought to that film as the Scorpions’ sensei, who is a lot more than everyone thinks. He can be described as Sensei Kreese times ten. Meanwhile, the late Mako plays Ethan’s sensei, who acts like a conscience similar to that of Miyagi, always giving Ethan advice even when he doesn’t ask for it.

In charge of the film’s fight sequences is Art Camacho, who utilizes Roberts’ talents very well. Using the trademark PM action shots (the double take followed by a close up shot and the cut into slow motion shot), the action here is nicely done. Even martial artist and actor Dean Cochran (playing Roberts’ tragically-fated brother) has a chance to showcase his action skills against Bloodsport II co-star and former UFC fighter Nick Hill. The karate tournament sequences are not too bad either, all leading to a showdown between Feldman and Roberts that is a two-parter.

A Dangerous Place is a decent combination of Lifetime-style drama with some pretty decent martial arts action. Out of all the films Ted Jan Roberts had made for PM, this is truly his best film in terms of both action and acting and surprisingly, Corey Feldman holds his own in the action sequences and pulls off the villain role quite well.

WFG RATING: B

A PM Entertainment Film. Director: Jerry P. Jacobs. Producers: Richard Pepin and Joseph Merhi. Writer: Sean Dash. Cinematography: Ken Blakey. Editing: Ron Cabreros, Samuel Oldham, and Fred Roth.

Cast: Ted Jan Roberts, Corey Feldman, Erin Gray, Dean Cochran, Marshall Teague, Mako, Dick Van Patten, Derek Basco, Tricia Vessey, William James Jones, Marc Riffon, Jason Majik, Eddi Wilde, Nick Hill.

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