American Streetfighter (1992)

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Before making it big as one of the biggest action stars of 1990’s B-movies, British-born kickboxer Gary Daniels stars in this very low-budgeted action film about a former underground fighter who goes to great lengths to get his younger brother out of the game before it’s too late.

Jake Tanner was an underground fight champion who also ran little errands for the promoter, Ogawa. When Jake and Ogawa’s son Ito are set to blow up a small restaurant, the two find themselves at battle with some local thugs. Despite the fighting skills of Jake and Ito, as they try to make their escape, Ito is gunned down by the thugs. Desperate to escape, Jake leaves L.A. for Hong Kong and doesn’t return for ten years.

Now a successful businessman, Jake is living comfortably in Hong Kong and away from the brutal realities of Los Angeles. However, a frantic call from his mother reveals that Jake’s past is about to catch up with him. Jake’s younger brother Randy has followed in his brother’s footsteps and is now a member of Ogawa’s organization as an underground fighter. Determined to get his brother out of the game, Jake heads back to Los Angeles and learns that Randy is not only a top fighter, but he has a relationship with Ogawa’s daughter.

As Jake confronts Ogawa, he soon learns that Randy is nothing more than a pawn to Ogawa’s plan. Ogawa has never forgiven Jake for Ito’s death. Ogawa plans to use Randy until he is no longer needed. With the help of his martial arts teacher Nick and his ex-girlfriend Rose, Jake is determined to stop Ogawa once and for all, and hopefully save his brother in the proces.

After making two films in the Philippines and a small yet very good role in the Don Wilson-starrer Ring of Fire (1991), British martial arts ace Gary Daniels stars in this definitive B-movie directed by Steve Austin (No, not the WWE legend “Stone Cold” Steve Austin). Definitely made on a miniscule budget, the story is pretty standard as Daniels must get his little brother out of the same racket he was in. The film opens with Daniels, sporting the long curly locks, and Roger Yuan getting ready to blow up a small restaurant only to be stopped by the owners, who look like typical stuntmen waiting to get knocked out.

Yuan only appears in the opening scene, but is able to show off some nice kicking skills like Daniels. However, the film is mainly a kickboxing fest as the fights, choreographed by four stars of the film, use the American-kickboxing style of fight choreography. While it’s not bad on a B-movie level, the action seems to be the only asset of the entire film. As much as one would like to Daniels act, the film as a whole storytelling wise, is typical and at times, the acting just seems a little bad. In all honesty, it is not all Daniels’ fault.

The veteran martial arts cast includes another kickboxing champion, Ian “The Jackal” Jacklin, as Daniels’ little brother turned top fighter Randy. Jacklin is perhaps best known for his role as the kickboxing challenger who takes on Sasha Mitchell in Kickboxer 3: The Art of War (1992). Jacklin definitely is a good martial artist, but acting wise, he could improve a little bit. However, with his later roles in the martial arts films Ring of Fire II: Blood and Steel (1992) and Death Match (1995), he definitely has the range to play both a hero and villain and improved somewhat in the acting department.

The true villain is well played by Hollywood stunt veteran Gerald Okamura. His character, Ogawa, is perhaps a real mastermind, something one doesn’t see much in these B-movies. It seems as if at first, he is enjying Randy as a fighter in his organization much like he had Jake in the past. However, when his true nature is revealed, it kind of brings a really good twist to the otherwise mishmashed plot.

Daniels and Jacklin made good use of the martial arts cast in terms of the fight choreography. It seemed as if the only reason to see this film is to see the fight choreography. While it may not exactly be the great undercranking kickboxing of Hong Kong action cinema, for an American B-movie, they actually did a pretty decent job compared to other American B-movies, where at times the camera angles are so bad that the guy never gets hit and he has to pretend he gets hit.

In any event, while it may not be the greatest American martial arts film made, American Streetfighter has its moments, and for die-hard Gary Daniels fans, it may be worth a rental to see some of his earlier work in films.

WFG RATING: B-

A Cine Excel Entertainment/Silver Screen International film. Director: Steve Austin. Producer: David Huey. Writers: Dom Magwili; story by David Huey and Steve Austin. Cinematography: Helge Gerull. Editing: Steve Austin.

Cast: Gary Daniels, Ian Jacklin, Gerald Okamura, Tracy Dali, Kent Ducanon, Dennis Reese, Lorraine Yong, Roger Yuan, Andrew Cooper, Shaun T. Benjamin.

 

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