The Ultimate Fight (1998)

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Martial arts wunderkind Ernie Reyes Jr. makes his directorial debut on this action film that is not completely bad, but has a few technical flaws here and there.

The film revolves around some sort of gang war between one run by Hitler and one led by Jesse. Hitler is the leader of the Crazy Dragons gang, a team of martial arts experts who run drugs for a local crime boss known as the Godfather. Jesse’s group is actually led by his father, who wishes to end the drug running and put an end to Hitler’s crime wave.

The central character, however, seems to be a mysterious Filipino fighter named Pinoy. Coming to the States on a sort of spiritual quest, he finds himself helping Jesse one night after he is outnumbered. Impressed with his escrima and fighting skills, Jesse brings Pinoy to meet his father. With Hitler seeking revenge for Jesse and Pinoy busting his latest runs, the duo, along with Jesse’s father, now find themselves targeted by Hitler and his number one henchman, Kimo. Now the trio must use their martial arts skills to end the crime wave once and for all.

For many years, the Reyes family has made a major impact in the film world, having worked with the likes of Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jet Li, and even, Jim Henson at one point. However, when it came the time for them to attempt to make their own film (originally titled The Process), they get an A for effort, but not quite in terms of execution.

Making his directorial debut, Ernie Reyes Jr. tends to bring a somewhat over the top performance as Jesse, a young gangster (if you can call him that) who follows a righteous path thanks in part to his training and his father’s guidance. He overdoes the street talk quite a bit but once he starts unleashing his fight skills, it brings a sense of redemption to the role. However, the award for the most ridiculous performance comes in the form of villain Hitler, played by Corin Nemec. Nemec, best known for the 90’s series Parker Lewis Can’t Lose, really overdoses his screaming and in a shocking twist, femininity in the role of Hitler…and yes, the Crazy Dragons do the infamous Nazi salute.

The focus of the film seems to be more on Pinoy, played by Filipino martial artist Shishir Inocalla. Inocalla, who played Michaelangelo’s fight double in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III (1992), pulls off some impressive fighting skills and for some reason, he does well as a true “fish out of water” as he tries to find his destiny. He seems to have a blank expression and while it may seem ridiculous at times, it works here only because of the character he brings to life.

The Reyes were also responsible for the fight sequences. Most of the fighting cast consists of members of the famous West Coast Demo Team. While the Reyes excel in their trademark tae kwon do, Shishir Inocalla pulls off some impressive arnis and escrima. The main fighting nemesis is played by former Ultimate Fighting Championship contender Kimo Leopoldo. The climax is a series of fight sequences which culminate in a showdown between Reyes Jr. and Leopoldo, with Inocalla coming in towards the end of the sequence. However, some fight scenes are marred by bad editing, with kicks shown completely unconnected and thus, looks bad.

The Ultimate Fight is a decent effort by the Reyes family, but could have totally been better had it not been for over the top performances and the bad editing in some fight scenes.

WFG RATING: C+

A Westar Production in association with Pinoy Productions. Director: Ernie Reyes Jr. Producer: Keith McNamara. Writers: Ernie Reyes Jr. and Mana Tupou. Cinematography: Pat Williams. Editing: Kenn Kashima.

Cast: Ernie Reyes Jr., Corin Nemec, Ernie Reyes Sr., Shishir Inocalla, Kimo Leopoldo, Dennis Brown, Julie K. Smith, Ann Estrada, Melissa Barker-Sauer, Daniella Evangelista, Justin Warfield.

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