Best of the Best: Without Warning (1998)

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Phillip Rhee stars and directs the final installment of his prolific action film franchise with Tommy Lee finding himself in his biggest fight yet.

Tommy Lee, a former U.S. Karate Team champion and school owner, lives in Los Angeles with his daughter Stephanie. He is now a hand-to-hand combat instructor for the police department. Things seem to go well for Tommy. Meanwhile, Russian mobsters Lukasz and Yuri Slava have been stealing a supply of paper used for currency and have been using counterfeit bills. However, when Mickey, a member of the mob, decides to turn herself in and has the evidence of the bills, she is hunted down and sees Tommy at the local store, where he places the evidence, a CD, in his pocket. Tommy fends off the hunters.

Tommy meets FBI agent Jarvis, who informs him of the involvement of the Slava brothers. However, Tommy finds himself now being hunted down by the Slavas, and to make matters worse, Jarvis reveals himself to be in cahoots with the mobsters. When Tommy is forced to kill Jarvis, Jarvis’ partner Gresko plans to take down Tommy while the Slavas decide to kidnap Stephanie in order for Tommy to return their evidence so they can escape. Will Tommy be able to clear his name and convince Gresko about the deal between Jarvis and the Slavas?

After three installments as martial arts champion Tommy Lee, Phillip Rhee returns for one more film as the character with this final installment marking only his second film as director. Rhee once again gets to prove his mettle both in front and behind the camera. While the original Best of the Best film brought more of a drama filled with martial arts, the second to this film took a routine action route. Rhee continues to show top form when it comes to his fight scenes, which once again were choreographed by his older brother Simon.

This time around, Rhee gets support in former Ghostbusters member Ernie Hudson, who plays FBI agent Gresko, who at first is convinced Tommy is a killer when his partner is dead. Hudson gets kicked around in one scene and thanks in part to Rhee’s direction, he is able to react well to Rhee’s kicks. The future Jigsaw himself, Tobin Bell, and German star Thure Riefenstein are menacing as the villainous Slava brothers with Bell being more of the mastermind with Riefenstein bringing more of a physical presence with his fighting skills.

Riefenstein isn’t the only one gets to strut his stuff against Rhee in the film. Garrett Warren, today a renowned stunt coordinator and fight choreographer, gets in on a few highlight action scenes as Russian mob member Viktor. One of the highlight action scenes involves Rhee singlehandedly taking on Warren and other mobsters in a gym with Rhee using both unarmed combat and a stick, and a fencing sword in his arsenal. This is one of the best American one vs. many weapon fights since the Gauntlet fight in the 1992 threequel Martial Law 3: Mission of Justice.

Best of the Best 4: Without Warning is a nice and proper send off for the role of Tommy Lee. It would also be Phillip Rhee’s final film for nearly two decades, until his comeback in 2015 with the family film Underdog Kids.

WFG RATING: B

Dimension Films presents a Movie Store production. Director: Phillip Rhee. Producers: Phillip Rhee and Peter E. Strauss. Writers: Phillip Rhee and Fred Vicarel. Cinematography: Michael D. Margulies. Editing: Bert Lovitt.

Cast: Phillip Rhee, Ernie Hudson, Tobin Bell, Thure Riefenstein, Jessica Collins, Chris Lemmon, Paul Gleason, Art LaFleur, Sven-Ole Thorsen, Jessica Huang, Garrett Warren, Jill Ritchie, Ilia Volok, David “Shark” Fralick, Monte Perlin.

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