REVIEW: High Kicks (1993)

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This film, made in the wake of the home video circuit, could be either an informercial for the predecessor of Tae Bo, an elongated Taster’s Choice commercial, or a women’s self-defense video. Actually, it turns out it somewhat melds all three.

Sandy Thomas is the owner of the High Kicks aerobics studio. A sign for a part-time employee brings in newcomer Sam Monroe, a sailor who has just come to town and is looking to find work. When Sandy hires him, he is overjoyed. However, for Sandy, things are about to spiral downwards when a gang of tough guys led by T.C. attempt to rob Sandy. When she refuses, she is assaulted by the goons.

When Sam discovers what has happened, he decides to help Sandy. He reveals to Sandy that he is not just a sailor, but a practitioner of martial arts. Alongside two of his friends, Jonas and Maurice, Sam begins to train Sandy in martial arts while helping her find each member of the gang that raped her and teaching them a lesson. In the midst of things, Sandy and Sam soon discover a way to combine Sandy’s aerobics and Sam’s martial arts, making it a hit at the studio. However, when the toughs plan to go round two with Sandy, will she finally have enough courage to stand up to the goons once and for all?

Written, produced, and directed by Ruta K. Aras, this would be the filmmaker’s only film and is truly a shot-on-video effort as in the 1990’s, everyone who knew martial arts were making films to capitalize on the home video market, in which the genre was one of its most successful at the time. However, the lesson here is just because one knows martial arts, doesn’t mean they will always make great films.

The film definitely will not win in the acting department. Virtually everyone in the film are first-timers and they range from a monotonous tone to at times, a bit of overacting. Tara Lee-Anne Roth makes a pretty convincing performance when thinking about the attack but in other scenes, it is as if she is pretty much told, “oh just react this way”. Dennis Swarthout, who actually made the U.S. Martial Arts Hall of Fame in 2007, also doesn’t have the greatest acting skills and has a look that combines surfer with the lead character of Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag. However, one has to give him credit because he sure can fight. However, one can’t help but laugh at their romantic scenes as it looks like one is watching a montage like commercial for Taster’s Choice coffee. Once Sandy and Sam meld the karate with aerobics, it soon turns into an informercial like ad for Karobics (as it is called in the end credits).

There are four martial arts choreographers in the film, which may sound a bit farfetched considering the fight scenes are more of a simplistic “wait to get hit” kind of riff. Swarthout, Kevin Knotts, Jonas Johannes Kuehne, and Dennis Reese were the choreographers and in a nod to Jean-Claude Van Damme, during a sparring scene, Knotts does a split and hits Kuehne in the groin a la Bloodsport. Roth gets in on some action and is doubled by martial arts champion and actress Michele “Mouse” Krasnoo, who also has a small role as one of the girls doing aerobics. One won’t spoil it, but the finale is predictable and done actually pretty decent. Otherwise, this would have been truly horrific in every way.

High Kicks is more for the hardcore martial arts film fan who feels as if they have to see a bad movie on occasion for laughs. Because that is what this is, despite a good final scene making it for the commercial-like quality of the film. Worth renting for laughs on a Satuday night with the guys, or have the gang at Mystery Science Theater 3000 bring this!

WFG RATING: D

A Crystal Amber Productions film. Director: Ruta K. Aras. Producer: Ruta K. Aras. Writer: Ruta K. Aras. Cinematography: Lida Hadas. Editing: Curt La Furney.

Cast: Tara Lee-Anne Roth, Dennis Swarthout, Sandy Kay, Kevin Knotts, Anastasia Alexander, Jonas Kuehne, Louis Lombardi, Frank Medrano, Harry Yi, Raphael B. Said.

Courtesy of Bad Movie Night

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