Loren Avedon

Virtual Combat (1995)

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Kickboxing legend Don “The Dragon” Wilson takes on the virtual world in this pretty interesting action film.

David Quarry and his partner John Gibson are grid runners, border cops who make sure that all is safe when it comes to the world of technology and virtual reality. Stationed in Las Vegas, Quarry spends his free time testing out a virtual combat game in which he is unable to defeat level ten. When a trio of thugs attempt to hack into the grid, Quarry and Gibson are able to stop the goons after their attempt proves unsuccessful.

Meanwhile, Dr. Cameron, one of the nation’s top scientists, has found a way to replicate virtual reality into actual reality. With the money provided by unscrupulous businessman Burroughs, Cameron replicates two women from a cybererotica program, Liana and Greta. However, in the mix of things, Dante, the level ten fighter from the virtual combat program, has also been unleashed and when Dr. Cameron refuses to let Dante unleash his friends from the virtual world, Dante kills the scientist and heads to Los Angeles to get the program necessary to get his friends out.

When Gibson is killed after getting in the way of Dante, Quarry must go to Los Angeles to find Dante, but also must deal with Burroughs’ goons, led by Parness. The only one who can help Quarry on his mission is Liana, who has a conscience upon her entry to reality.

Nearly a decade before Don “The Dragon” Wilson entered the world of virtual reality in X-Treme Fighter, he did a reversal of sorts with this sci-fi action tale in which he takes on virtual fighters in the real world. Directed by “jack-of-all trades” Andrew Stevens, Stevens does quite well as an action film director. William C. Martell’s script highlights the potential future of the cyber universe, with combat and cybererotica a mainstay in society, which is in some aspects, deemed mainstream in today’s world although it is more akin to the Internet rather than a virtual reality environment.

The film is definitely B-movie material and that is okay here. Of course as Las Vegas grid runner Quarry, Wilson plays the typical cop looking for revenge but finds something more to it. Yet it still works here. He personally wanted and got Canadian martial arts champion Michael Bernardo of the Shootfighter films and WMAC Masters, for the role of lead villain Dante. Bernardo has the physical presence for the role but it does sort of gets funny when instead of hearing Bernardo’s voice, we have Michael Dorn from Star Trek: The Next Generation as the “virtual voice of Dante”. It just doesn’t seem to match very well with Bernardo’s physicality and that’s a flaw in the film. Athena Massey does quite well for her first film role as cybererotica doll turned real life doll Liana, who of course, not only becomes Quarry’s love interest but shows she can kick some butt in one nicely shot sequence.

In charge of the fight scenes is none other than Art Camacho. As with all of the films he had done during this era, Camacho utilizes the cast’s martial arts skills quite well. Wilson has some decent fights in the opening credits of the film, where we see him in virtual reality and has some nice one against many fights throughout the film. Wilson even has not one, but two nice fight scenes against Loren Avedon, who lets his feet fly to great use against him as Burroughs’ right hand man Parness. In the short time he is in the film, Ken McLeod shows why he truly should have had another lead role after his performance in College Kickboxers and not be relegated to either supporting or villain roles. Michael Bernardo shows why he was a force to be reckoned with too action-wise despite the voice mismatch in the film. Bernardo truly has great martial arts skills and his finale with Wilson, even with the little bits of CGI thrown in there (after all, we are talking virtual reality bad guy), was well handled.

Virtual Combat is definitely B-movie material, but it is truly fun B-movie material. The action scenes featuring “The Dragon”, Ken McLeod, Michael Bernardo, and Loren Avedon are quite a delight to watch, but expect to laugh when hearing Michael Dorn voice Bernardo’s character in a truly poor kind of way. Worth a rental for action fanatics and B-movie lovers.

A-Pix Entertainment presents an Amritraj/Stevens Entertainment production. Director: Andrew Stevens. Producer: Ashok Amritraj. Writer: William C. Martell. Cinematography: David J. Miller. Editing: Tony Mark, Wayne Schmidt, and Mark Speer.

Cast: Don “The Dragon” Wilson, Athena Massey, Ron Barker, Michael Bernardo, Loren Avedon, Turhan Bey, Ken McLeod, Dawn Ann Billings, Carrie Mitchum, Rip Taylor, Stella Stevens, J.D. Rifkin, Nick Hill, Timothy Baker.

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No Retreat, No Surrender 3: Blood Brothers (1989)

noretreatnosurrender3.jpg Hong-kong-iconusa-icon

1989, Seasonal Film Corporation

Director:
Lucas Lowe
Producer:
Keith W. Strandberg
Writer:
Keith W. Strandberg
Cinematography:
John Huneck
Editing:
Allan Poon

Cast:
Loren Avedon (Will Alexander)
Keith Vitali (Casey Alexander)
Joseph Campanella (John Alexander)
Wanda Acuna (Maria)
Luke Askew (Jack Atteron)
Rion Hunter (Antonio “Franco” Franconi)
Mark Russo (Russo)
David Michael Sterling (Angel)

To complete his U.S.-Hong Kong crossover trilogy, launching Jean-Claude Van Damme in 1985 and Loren Avedon in 1987, producer Ng See-Yuen reunites with screenwriter Keith W. Strandberg and tae kwon do expert Loren Avedon in this tale that takes a page from Ng’s first film with Seasonal Film Corporation, The Secret Rivals. Only instead of North and South styles as the “rivals”, we have two brothers whose political views gets the best of them until the death of their father brings them together.

C.I.A. agent Casey Alexander has a reputation as being one of the most respected agents in the company. Martial arts instructor Will Alexander, Casey’s brother, doesn’t believe in the entire federal agent shtick and as a result, the two brothers have a serious falling out that starts out at a hunting trip and culminates at the 65th birthday party of their retired agent father John.

When John becomes the target of Colombian terrorist Antonio “Franco” Franconi, the result of a job in which Franco’s son was killed, John is brutally beaten and then ultimately killed by Franco. When the brothers discover their father, both Will and Casey plan to find Franco. However, they go about it in separate ways.

The brothers learn that Franco has set up base in Florida. On the one hand, Casey relies on the help of former flame Maria, who has ties to Franco’s organization. On the other, Will decides to infiltrate Franco’s gang by gathering his old karate buddies and setting up a fight at a local bar. A test of skills gets Will to join the gang. When Will’s first mission is to kill Casey, the brothers finally get over their differences and hatch a plan to stop Franco once and for all, especially when Franco hatches a new devious plan: to assassinate the President of the United States.

The first film in the series was a test of honor and the second involved the rigors of war. The third time is somewhat of a modern day take on the classic 1976 kung fu film The Secret Rivals. Instead of John Liu and Wang Tao playing the Northern Kick and Southern Fist, we have Loren Avedon as a martial arts instructor and Keith Vitali as a C.I.A. agent whose views stand very strong. The sibling rivalry of the brothers in the film play an intricate role throughout the course of the film. They may have their issues, but it takes the death of a loved one to ultimately bring them together and kick some major butt in the process.

Rion Hunter appears very menacing as Franco. Complete with white hair and accent, he seems to play the perfect bad guy for the film. He even has some martial arts skills himself as well as use darts as a weapon. Despite some doubling for the big fight sequence in the end, he plays it off very nicely. Franco’s number one henchman, played by Florida-based ninjitsu expert Mark Russo, Russo stands out as an incredible martial arts fighter, going toe-to-toe with Loren Avedon in the “test” fight scene.

This time around, the action choreographing duties are handed over to Tony Leung Siu-Hung, who is a 1970’s kung fu film star and the younger brother of 70’s kung fu superstar Bruce Leung Siu-Lung, who made a huge comeback in 2004’s Kung Fu Hustle, starring Stephen Chow. Compared to the first two films, Leung relied more on undercranking in some sequences. However, they do stand out and with very little double, Avedon and Vitali are able to show their trademark skills. Both actors have had their share of Hong Kong-style action, with Avedon working with Corey Yuen in No Retreat, No Surrender II: Raging Thunder, while Vitali had worked with Jackie Chan, Sammo Hung, and Yuen Biao in the 1984 hit film Wheels on Meals.

If you will notice in the film, Vitali’s character is wearing a cast for most of the movie. It was written in after an accident occurred. According to screenwriter Keith Strandberg, Loren Avedon and Keith were showing their martial arts skills for action choreographer Leung. When Avedon did a double back jump kick, Leung asked Vitali if he could do the same move. Vitali thought he could, but ended up breaking his wrist when he fell. This all happened the day before shooting began, so Strandberg wrote it in. The setup was perfect and as a result, Keith looks great in his fight scenes.

Both Avedon and Vitali would go on to work with Tony Leung Siu-Hung again. Leung would choreograph what many call Avedon’s best film, King of the Kickboxers (1990), while Vitali would work with Leung on Seasonal’s final two U.S. crossover films, Superfights (1995) and Bloodmoon (1997).

The U.S. cut, released in 1991 by Imperial Entertainment, cuts only about three minutes from the original cut. The cuts including some dialogue between Will and his father on the phone as well as all footage of President George H.W. Bush, who is the prime target for arch-villain Franco.

In any picture, No Retreat, No Surrender 3: Blood Brothers is a step up from the previous two sequels. This occurs not only with the story that looks to be influenced from a classic kung fu film, but the action is kicked up a major notch. Martial arts film fans will not want to miss this film, and to think, you don’t even have to watch any of the first two as this is an in-name sequel.

WFG RATING: B+

DVD (Region 2)

No Retreat, No Surrender II: Raging Thunder (1987)

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1987, Seasonal Film Corporation

Director:
Corey Yuen
Producer:
Roy Horan
Writers:
Keith W. Strandberg
Roy Horan
Maria Elena Cellino
Cinematography:
Nicholas von Sternberg
Ma Kam-Cheung
Editing:
Allan Poon
Kevin Sewelson

Cast:
Loren Avedon (Scott Wylde)
Max Thayer (Mac Jarvis)
Cynthia Rothrock (Terry)
Matthias Hues (Yuri, the Russian)
Patra Wanthivanond (Sulin Nguyen)
Hwang Jung-Lee (Ty)
Nirut Sirichanya (Colonel Tol Nol)
Perm Hongsakul (Nguyen Young-Kim)
Roy Horan (American Consular)

With the success of the 1985 U.S.-Hong Kong crossover film that launched Jean-Claude Van Damme, both Van Damme and Kurt McKinney were to come back for a sequel. However, when both dropped their contracts to go on to bigger things. Ng See-Yuen as in a rut. That is until Ng, with the help of Roy Horan, casted two replacements, tae kwon do expert Loren Avedon and German powerhouse athlete Matthias Hues, for this sequel, which can be described as a martial arts-esque Rambo or Missing in Action.

Scott Wylde is an American martial artist who has arrived to Bangkok, Thailand to visit two people. One is his fiancee, Sulin Nguyen and the other is his former martial arts teacher and best friend Mac Jarvis. When Sulin is kidnapped by Vietnamese military refugees who are avenging a betrayal by Sulin’s father, Scott and Mac team up to rescue her in Cambodia. They find an unexpected ally in Terry, a helicopter pilot whose martial arts skills are top notch, yet she has a grudge against Mac, who is her ex-boyfriend.

The villains come in the form of the militaristic Yuri, a Soviet warlord who lets his fists do the talking. His number one man is Ty, a Vietnamese general whose martial arts prowess is excellent. In one short but memorable scene, a kidnapped Terry takes on Ty in order to get to Yuri. At first, Ty’s kicks gets the best of Terry, but then she unleashes her fury. Yuri grabs Terry by the neck and throws her.

Keith W. Strandberg, who wrote the original screenplay, was apparently upset by rewrites from Roy Horan and Maria Elena Cellino. Nevertheless, a highlight in the film in terms of plot is the love-hate relationship between Terry and Mac. During the course of the film, these two bicker like a married couple and the reason behind their problems. As Mac puts it, “She’s pissed because I won’t jump her bones” and Terry’s response, “He’s threatened because I used to break his.” The bickering brings at times a comic relief to the otherwise seriousness of the overall film.

In terms of the action, Corey Yuen once again comes up with some intricate martial arts fights that make the cast look great. Avedon, Rothrock, and Hwang showcase their amazing martial arts skills while Thayer is doubled. Matthias Hues had no martial arts training prior to the production of the film, but under the training of Corey Yuen and his team, Hues did actually very well. Hues would go on to star in many martial arts films afterwards, from Kickboxer 2: The Road Back (1990) to Fists of Iron (1995).

Some of the highlighted action sequences include Scott taking on three of the kidnappers in his hotel, Scott and Mac taking on more kidnappers at a local restaurant, and a mind blowing fight that pits Terry, Scott, and Mac against a group of rogue Buddhist monks. With the help of Mang Hoi, “Hollywood” Lam, and Lee King-Chu, the martial arts action is very well choreographed with virtually no undercranking as well as plenty of bullets flying and explosives. After all, this does have a military theme to the story.

As much as the return of McKinney and Van Damme would have upped the ante on this sequel, surprisingly, Loren Avedon and Matthias Hues make for some pretty good replacements and once again, Corey Yuen does an excellent job on this action-packed sequel.

The U.S. cut, released in 1989 by Shapiro Glickenhaus Entertainment, cuts approximately seven minutes, including the opening montage of Vietnamese refugees being executed, a scene with a pimp trying to get Scott to pay for a hooker, and the love scene between Scott and Sulin.

If you can find it and you’re in the mood for both martial arts action and some powerful military warfare, then check out No Retreat, No Surrender II: Raging Thunder.

WFG RATING: B

DVD (Region 2)

REVIEW: Fighting Spirit (1992)

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1992, Silver Screen International/Cine Excel Entertainment

Director:
John Lloyd
Producer:
K.Y. Lim
Writer:
Rod Davis
Cinematography:
Vic Adams
Editing:
Rene Tucker

Cast:
Loren Avedon (David Carster)
Sean Donahue (Billy Edwards)
Greg Douglass (Tony)
Michelle Locke (Judith Edwards)
Ned Hourani (Russell)
Jerry Beyer (Murphy)
Santi Jordana (Joyce)

Loren Avedon stars in this martial arts action thriller with an interesting twist. Some markets have released this as an in-name sequel to The King of the Kickboxers, but it is even not even close to being related.

Judith Edwards is a young woman who has been assaulted to the point where the shock of the attack has rendered her blind. Her brother Billy, a troublemaking fighter, has learns that Judith will need surgery to regain her vision. When Billy has nowhere to turn to, a local crime boss Russell makes Billy an offer he can’t refuse. Billy engages in illegal street fights to help get money for his sister’s surgery. Despite reservations from his best friend David, Billy continues to fight until he has had enough one day.

When Billy tells Russell he wants out, Russell finds Billy too much of an asset. When Billy learns that it was Russell and his number one man, Tony, who masterminded his sister’s attack, he is killed for discovering the truth. Becoming a ghost, Billy turns to David to help him seek revenge and help Judith. David begins learning from Murphy, Billy’s trainer who despite his ties to Russell, is not truly siding with the crime boss and sees David as his chance for redemption. Once he has mastered the skills and has the guidance from both “Billy” and Murphy, David is ready to avenge his friends once and for all.

After his departure from Seasonal Films, Loren Avedon continued to prove himself a name in the 1990’s B-movie circuit of martial arts action films. For this film, Avedon went to the Philippines to shoot this action film that brings a bit of the supernatural, but more of a guidance rather than something bordering on the absolutely atrocious. Avedon doesn’t get to strut his skills until the second half of the film with the first half going to stuntman/actor Sean Donahue as Avedon’s best friend, who finds himself in one fight after another as he attempts to help his sister out after a terrible assault.

Ned Hourani, who has appeared in many Filipino-shot martial arts during this era, takes on the role of lead crime boss Russell but in an interesting twist of the story, the main villain of the film is not so much Russell, but it is actually Tony, played with some overacting at times by Greg Douglass. Michelle Locke spends most of the film laying up in a hospital bed and doesn’t have to rely much on her acting skills while Santi Jordana vamps it up as a potential love interest for David, who starts out somewhat a shy boy but gains the confidence once he has that “spirit” invoked in him.

Hong Kong kung fu star Chiang Tao and Chin Ping-Po served as the film’s action directors. They allow the cast to use their martial arts skills to good effect, even if some cast members aren’t as technical as others. The choreographers adapt well to the cast, utilizing whatever they can. Donahue, Avedon, and Hourani are the best of the core cast with some stuntmen showcasing their talents as well. Others use more of a street style that may be used but are not technical like the others. However, one thing that has to be mentioned is the film’s soundtrack, in which the fight scenes tend to have a 1970’s TV theme funky score that for a 90’s film proves to be more laughable. However, that should not take away the fight scenes themselves.

Fighting Spirit is not that bad of a B or C-movie, but the soundtrack can be ridiculous at times and the appearance of a ghost may prove to be unintentionally laughable. However, the fight scenes are not too bad and are fun to watch, especially with Loren Avedon and Sean Donahue using their skills to good use.

WFG RATING: C+

VHS

REVIEW: The King of the Kickboxers (1990)

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1990, Seasonal Film Corporation

Director:
Lucas Lowe
Producers:
Ng See-Yuen
Keith W. Strandberg
Boonlert Setthamongkol
Writer:
Keith W. Strandberg
Cinematography:
Viking Chiu
Editing:
Allan Poon
Marco Mak

Cast:
Loren Avedon (Jake Donahue)
Richard Jaeckel (Captain O’Day)
Don Stroud (Anderson)
Billy Blanks (Khan)
Keith Cooke (Prang)
Sherrie Rose (Molly)
William Long Jr. (The Boss)
John Kay (The Director)
David Michael Sterling (McKinney)
Jerry Trimble (Drug Dealer)
Bruce Fontaine (Dan Handel)
Michael DePasquale Jr. (Sean Donahue)

After two sequels to No Retreat, No Surrender, Loren Avedon once again struts his stuff in his breakout film featuring some of his best action scenes to date.

In 1981, Sean Donahue was in Thailand winning the championship belt. Sean brings his little brother Jake and when they are en route to the hotel, they are stopped by a group led by Khan, who told Sean he was supposed to have thrown the fight. However, when Sean takes on Khan’s thugs, he comes face to face with Khan after disposing of the goons. Khan kills Sean using a deadly three kick combination and knocks Jake out.

Ten years later, Jake has become a NYC cop who is known for his loose cannon ways. After a mission involving the bust of a drug dealer, Jake learns Interpol wants to use Jake to help them bust a snuff film ring. At first Jake refuses, but learns the star of the illegal films is Khan. Determined, Jake returns to Thailand and attempts to lure the filmmakers but to no avail. Jake soon learns that his skills are not good enough to face Khan but someone is capable to help him. Jake meets Prang, the only one who ever came close to beating Khan but the loss has turned him into a hermit. Despite objections at first, Prang takes Jake in and helps him master the skills necessary to combat Khan. Jake also falls for Molly, an aspiring model who had nearly become Khan’s latest conquest. With a fight set up, Jake is ready to convince the filmmakers he is ready and as a result, stop the snuff film ring and avenge his brother.

Since making his lead debut in No Retreat, No Surrender II: Raging Thunder, Loren Avedon had become the golden boy of Hong Kong’s Seasonal Films when it came to their U.S. crossovers. After No Retreat, No Surrender 3: Blood Brothers, Avedon got to finally break out of the “sequelitis” and have his own starring vehicle that showcases his talents. Despite some over-the-top moments in terms of acting, which are not completely his fault, Avedon’s martial arts skills and at times comic wit are the highlight of this film as a man who finds himself having to relive the past to face the man who killed his brother years ago, the same man responsible for starring in a series of snuff films, prompting him to team up with Interpol to stop the ring.

Some may see this film as a ripoff of Kickboxer and in some ways that is understandable. However, this is definitely a film of its own accord and has a great mentor-student relationship between Avedon’s Jake as the student and wushu champion turned action actor Keith Cooke as Prang, the only one who nearly defeated our villain Khan, played by the very talented martial artist and founder of “Tae-Bo” himself, Billy Blanks. According to scripter and producer Keith W. Strandberg, Khan is half-American and half-Thai whose hatred for Americans comes from the abandonment of his father. While that is not seen on screen, it justifies Blanks’ casting in the role and Blanks also lets his phenomenal kicking skills do the talking for him. The character would also inspire the character of “Dee Jay” in the Street Fighter video game universe.

Cooke himself shows off some phenomenal kicking in a very pivotal scene when Avedon attempts to rescue him from some local goons. All before the training begins, which is half serious and half-comic relief with some great verbal attacking and counterattacking from Avedon and Cooke. As for Sherrie Rose’s Molly, she starts off as a damsel in distress, then has more confidence once she has her relationship with Jake, then back to damsel in distress when she is kidnapped for the final showdown.

The action scenes are the crux of the film and they are brilliantly choreographed by Tony Leung Siu-Hung with Prang’s kicking fight scene choreographed by Corey Yuen. Leung makes good use of Avedon’s skills and Blanks’ skills. Leung also makes good use of another kickboxer turned actor, Jerry Trimble, whose brief role as a drug dealer allows him to fight against Avedon, with the help of Vincent Lyn and Steve Tartalia as his henchmen. Once Jake masters his skills, he really lets loose some nice kicking skills and the finale between Avedon and Blanks add a touch of weaponry but ultimately set in a bamboo-made dome with some booby traps at the bottom, this is truly one fight that stands the tests of time as one of the best fight scenes in American martial arts movies today.

The King of the Kickboxers is truly Loren Avedon’s best film of his career. The film gets to show both a serious and at times comedic (both intentionally and unintentionally) side of his acting plus he has the martial arts skills to boot, with excellent support from Billy Blanks as the villain and Keith Cooke as his sometimes wise-talking but agile fighting mentor. A must see for any martial arts film fan.

WFG RATING: A

DVD