Karate Rock (1990)

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Italian B-movie filmmaker Fabrizio de Angelis attempts to capitalize on his “karate” films with the debut of current Hollywood star Antonio Sabato Jr.

After causing too much trouble in Oakland, Kevin Foster is forced to move to a new town to start over. His father, John, is an Oakland police officer who takes Kevin to his old friend Billy, who offers to take Kevin in. There, he meets next door neighbor Conny. However, that night, Kevin goes to a disco club and meets Kim, who has gotten in a fight with her boyfriend Jeff, who has some pull in the town and is the town’s local karate champion. When Kevin and Kim win the dance contest, Jeff is not happy and decides to do something about it.

Constantly bullying Kevin every chance he can, Kevin offers to settle the score in a local race. Yet, when the race ends, Jeff and Kevin are tied, which makes Jeff even angrier. When the two compete in a tie-breaker, Kevin wins the race. Later that night, Kevin’s friend Mortimer finds his jeep being destroyed by Jeff and his buddies. When Kevin confronts Jeff, he is beaten up. Billy decides to teach Kevin martial arts to defend himself. As Kevin begins his training, he gives Jeff a chance to settle their differences in a competition with Kim as the prize. When John learns that Kevin has been causing trouble, he decides to head back to stop Kevin before things get worse.

Following up his first two Karate Warrior films, which starred Italian heartthrob turned filmmaker Kim Rossi Stuart, B-movie filmmaker Fabrizio de Angelis attempts to launch another star under his “Larry Ludman” pseudonym. This time, it is Antonio Sabato Jr., who like Rossi Stuart, would go on to a successful career in Hollywood with films such as The Big Hit and High Voltage.

In the role of Kevin, his introduction shows him in the back of a police car, which results in everyone assuming he is a troublemaker. That is true, but add the fact that his father is a cop, played by the late David Warbeck. The film delves into Karate Kid territory, practically taking the plot of that film to a tee, give or take a few small details. The 18-year old Sabato Jr. is truly a fresh face to the film and while he may not have had the skills to match at the time, High Voltage gave him the chance to show his improvement in martial arts.

Playing the big bad Johnny, err Jeff is Andrew J. Parker, who would make his only film appearance here. Sporting a surfer boy haircut, he looks to be the type who gets pull because of his reputation as a karate champion. He has a small group of goons, led by a nerdy type with round glasses who holds a straight face and acts as truly a second in command. Parker relies on mainly handwork in his fights with a lack of good kicking skills, which is expected in the film.

Robert Chan plays Billy, the best friend of Kevin’s dad turned martial arts teacher. Chan looks like he could play a Master Kimura in a Karate Warrior film and brings quite an interesting style of training. To help Kevin with his punching power, Billy would sport a Hannibal Lecter-style mask and even have Kevin sport it if not a Taekwondo head gear while training. The two girls who pine for Kevin are the vampish Kim, played by Natalie J. Hendrix, and Conny, played by Dorian D. Field. Field would later get notoriety as the girlfriend of replacement Ron Williams in Karate Warrior 3 to Karate Warrior 6. Timothy Smith, who plays Mortimer here, would get to play the nerdy best friend of the hero in Karate Warrior 3.

Karate Rock is another “fabulous” attempt to capitalize on martial arts films from Fabrizio de Angelis as well as launch another new star. Thankfully, lead star Antonio Sabato Jr. has gracefully moved on like his fellow “warrior” Kim Rossi Stuart.

WFG RATING: C-

A Fulvia Film Productions. Director: Fabrizio de Angelis (as Larry Ludman). Producer: Fabrizio de Angelis. Writer: Olga Pehar. Cinematography: Federico Del Zoppo (as Frederick Hall). Editing: Adriano Tagliavia (as Adrian Cut)

Cast: Antonio Sabato Jr., Natalie Hendrix, Dorian D. Field, Andrew J. Parker, Robert Chan, David Warbeck, Timothy Smith, John Palmer.

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