Street Soldiers (USA, 1991)

Jun Chong leads a team of high school students in a street war in this martial arts action film whose notoriety is that it would be the only Hollywood film to feature Hwang Jung-Lee.

For a while, there are two factions that have been at war with each other. A street gang, the J.P.s, have always had a rivalry with the Tigers, a high school gang. However, when the J.P.s leader Priest was put in prison, the two factions opted for a truce. That is, until Spider, one of the J.P.s causes a drive by shooting that kills one of the Tigers. Spider declares himself the leader of the gang and they want war again. However, Priest is released and after confronting Spider, he gets his leadership back and brings his cellmate Tok, a mute who saved Priest’s life in prison, who is also freed.

Tigers leader Max has two friends, taekwondo student Charlie and his supervisor Troy. When Max’s girlfriend Marie brings her friend Julie to a party, the J.P.s crash the party as it has been revealed Julie is Priest’s ex-girifriend. Troy and Julie begin to see each other and with the kindness of his heart, Charlie takes Troy to see his uncle and taekwondo instructor, Master Han. As the rivalry between the factions heat up, Charlie is killed by Tok. Master Han, deciding enough is enough, decides to train Troy and the Tigers in taekwondo with one goal in mind: end the terror that J.P.s have brought to the city.

For the third film in his Action Brothers Prodctions’ filmography, Taekwondo grandmaster Jun Chong came up with the story, produces, stars, and choreographs this martial arts action film. The film’s central story of two factions at war with each other is meshed with a romance tale of a man and the ex-girlfriend of the bad guys’ leader. There are some over the top performances, but the saving graces are the appearance of a martial arts film legend and the decent fight sequences.

The main focus of the film is that on the rivalry between the J.P.s and the Tigers with Jonathan Gorman’s Max the good-natured leader of the Tigers and Jeff Rector’s Priest the over-the-top leader of the J.P.s. it is clear that Rector seems to have fun with his role as it allows him to go to a level he would convey most recently as Donald Trump in the satire Bad President. David Homb, who kind of resembles a cross between Peter Billingsley and Dan Hartman, turns out a pretty good performance as Troy, who goes from a pacifist supervisor to a fighter who is willing to go above and beyond for the sake of his love interest Julie, played by Katherine Armstrong.

The film’s big surprise comes in the form of the name Jason Hwang, who plays Priest’s number one Tok, a mute henchman who comes complete with a snake (which is obviously a pop-up fake looking one). However, the surprise will be that Jason Hwang is actually kung fu film legend and Taekwondo grandmaster Hwang Jung-Lee, the man who gave Jackie Chan a run for his money in Snake in the Eagle’s Shadow and Drunken Master. The superkicker adopted his son’s name to gain a more international flavor to the film. We get to see Hwang unleash his kicks on a number of occasions throughout the film, usually against co-star Joon B. Kim (as Max’s nerdy classmate Charlie) and his fight against Grandmaster Jun Chong is of the “you hit me, I hit you” riff, but for an American film, it’s not that bad at all.

The film also features some songs by the late Benny Mardones that fits the tone of the film to a tee. During a training scene between Chong and the Tigers, we are treated to “Close to the Flame” and the end credit song is “We’ve Got to Run”, which in some aspect makes sense considering the evolving romance between Troy and Julie a major subplot within the film’s core rivalry between the two factions.

Street Soldiers is a somewhat typical and yet underrated martial arts action film that will be known for being the only Hollywood film to have Hwang Jung-Lee in a major villain role. Despite Jeff Rector’s OTT performance, it is actually as if he enjoys it and the fight scenes for this era are not too shabby.

WFG RATING: B

Academy Entertainment presents an Action Brothers Productions film. Director: Lee Harry. Producer: Jun Chong. Writers: Lee Harry and Spencer Grandahl; story by Jun Chong. Cinematography: Dennis Peters. Editing: Lee Harry.

Cast: Jun Chong, Jeff Rector, Jonathan Gorman, Joon B. Kim, Hwang Jung-Lee, David Homb, Kathering Armstrong, Deborah Newkirk, Jude Gerard Prest, Joel Weiss, Fabian Carillo.

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