The Direct to Video Connoisseur

I'm a huge fan of action, horror, sci-fi, and comedy, especially of the Direct to Video variety. In this blog I review some of my favorites and not so favorites, and encourage people to comment and add to the discussion. If you click on an image, it will take you to that post's image page, which includes many more pics from the film and other goodies I couldn't fit in the actual review. For announcements and updates, don't forget to Follow us on Twitter and Like our Facebook page. If you're the director, producer, distributor, etc. of a low-budget feature length film and you'd like to send me a copy to review, you can contact me at dtvconnoisseur[at]yahoo.com. I'd love to check out what you got.

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Friday, December 10, 2010

Ring of Fire II: Blood and Steel (1993)

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When last we left off on the Ring of Fire series, part 1 ended with our hero, Don "The Dragon" Wilson, getting the girl, Maria Ford, and defeating her brother in a fight. I wasn't sure what to expect from a sequel, and to be honest, I didn't understand why there even was a sequel. I mean, part one wasn't screaming out for a follow up, was it? Was anyone saying "man, what happened to Vince Murdocco's character after the story ended?" or "does Ron Yuan continue to wear V-necks that go down to his bellybutton?" All these questions and more are answered here, in Ring of Fire II: Blood and Steel.

Ring of Fire II takes place sometime after part 1 ended. We join our lovely couple in a jewelry store, picking out Maria Ford's engagement ring. But this is Wilson we're talking about, and "trouble seems to find him", and before you know it, a group of armed robbers bust in and shoot one of the clerks. They make a mistake in confronting Wilson, and he kicks a dude's ass. I'm not sure if it's that dude (who is also shot to death by the cops... I think), or the one who's blown up in a chase after, but one of them is Ian Jacklin's brother, and he ends up in the hospital, as does Ford when she's hit by a stray bullet in the robbery. Anyway, in an attempt to get their gang member back, they run into Wilson again, the brother dies in his hospital bed, and to get revenge, the kidnap Ford. Now Wilson has to brave the dangerous netherworldly Underground to find Jacklin, Evan Lurie, and the rest of the gang, so he can get Ford back.

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I'm going to switch things up a bit here. Usually I start with what I liked, and then do what I didn't like. I think if I reverse it here, I can leave you with the impression that overall I had fun with this one. Anyway, here's what I didn't like. First and foremost, Maria Ford was totally wasted. In the opening scene she looks hot in her new red hair, and that's the last you see of her that hot. Whoever came up with the idea that "hey, let's get a hottie like Maria Ford, shoot her in the arm, have her look like crap after that, then have her kidnapped in that condition. Let's get tons of white make-up and have her look as pale as possible, and then barely put her on-screen."? Really dumb idea. Second, who decided it would be better to have Ian Jacklin as the number one baddie ahead of Evan Lurie? Seriously, you had both guys screen test, and that's the way you went? Another dumb idea. Finally, somehow in between parts 1 and 2, Ford's brother, who killed Wilson's brother in cold blood, is now friends with Wilson and his gang? And Murdocco too? We're supposed to buy total racist meatheads (and in the brother's case, a murderer) as good guys now? Wow, great idea.

Okay, so now that that's out of the way, let me get into the good. This was a lot of fun. It had an Alice in Wonderland feel to it, combined with a video game-style story, as Wilson moved from level to level, fighting tougher and tougher baddies. The music was great, the fights were solid, plus you had some amazing explosions. It is prevented from being perfect by the three main complaints I had above, but all in all it worked in that PM Entertainment kind of way. It had all the 1990 Bronx Warriors moments, from the guys on rollerblades, to the guys in silly outfits, all roaming underground for Wilson to contend with in some nice looking fights. The one-on-one showdown between Lurie and Wilson delivered, and the Jacklin one wasn't bad either, but not on that Lurie/Wilson level. Overall, this is good, just not as good as it could have been.

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This was perfect Wilson though. Great fights, really nice guy forced to get tough with the bad guys who took his woman, and most importantly, hilariously acted dramatic scenes. This made up for the lack of Wilson fighting in part 1, and made up for it in a big way, giving us perhaps one of his best ever martial arts performances-- probably right behind Operation Cobra and Bloodfist IV. We're only ten films away now from getting all of Don's films up here at the DTVC, plus, this post marks his 20th tag, meaning when we're finally done reviewing his DTV movies, he'll have 30 total. Not a bad deal.

See how hot Maria Ford looks there? That's it for her after that. She still looks cute in the hospital bed, but when she's kidnapped, first she's shown with pale white skin, and then we barely see her for most of the rest of the film, until she's rescued by Wilson. Come on man, this is Maria Ford here. Why even cast her if this is what you're going to do? Here's what I would have done: first, she doesn't get shot at the jewelry store; when she's kidnapped, she's kidnapped at home; second, the baddies make her dress in the leather outfits the other women are wearing, maybe even really make-up her face too; finally, when she's forced to watch the fighting and is being menaced by the baddies, show it close up, don't give us these wide shots obscured by poor lighting and smoke. This is a DTV PM Entertainment movie starring Maria Ford, and as consumers, we expect her to be Maria Ford, and we expect to see Maria Ford. Otherwise, you're wasting our time.

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DTVC favorite Evan Lurie plays the baddie's number two guy. I didn't realize this until midway through the movie, when Ian Jacklin is sitting on a throne, giving Lurie orders. I just naturally assumed Lurie would be the leader, right? Especially over Jacklin. Lurie is much better spoken, comes off as much more intelligent, and has more leadership potential, right? It takes a really sophisticated baddie, like John Sears from 90210 (see Martial Law II), to supplant Lurie as a head baddie. It looks like we have four DTV movies and a TV movie, and then that's it for Lurie, we'll have done all of his films. I don't know, it's a bittersweet thought. Of all the people we cover in all these posts, I think Lurie is the one I'd like to meet the most, the one I'd be the most starstruck in front of, the one I'd be most likely to buy a beer for. He's just that great.

Okay, so maybe that last paragraph let you in on why I was so upset that Jacklin was given head baddie status over Lurie, but the Ford complaint is a legitimate one, so if you're looking for her in this go somewhere else. As far as Wilson goes, this is some of his best. It's kind of Alice in Wonderland meets bad action, and on that score, it can be a lot of fun. Netflix doesn't have it, but you can get it used on DVD or VHS. How much you're willing to pay is up to you, but I'd say not too much.

PS
Ron Yuan does rock the V-neck that goes down to his bellybutton again.

For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0107962/

4 comments:

  1. Available on a two-movies-one-disc deal with the original movie here in Australia for two bucks. I've got it but haven't watched it yet, for some reason I decided to check out Inferno/Operation Cobra as my first Don Wilson movie (which was great).

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  2. Oh yeah, good choice there. I think you'll like part 2 better than part 1, but you have to watch part 1 first to understand better what's happening in part 2. Part 2 alone is worth $2, so you didn't lose anything by getting 1 and 2 together for that price.

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  3. How much screentime does Dale Jacoby get in this one? I love his special brand of douchey asshattery, and he has one of the best pompadors in 90s DTV martial arts film. I'm not sure if he's a jerk in real life, but I'm totally stumped on any film roles he had where he didn't play a total dickwad.

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  4. He's not an asshole in this one, as I mentioned in the review, somehow, after killing Wilson's brother in part 1, he's now friends with Wilson and his gang in this one because Wilson is marrying his sister. There is a decent amount of him, though, so you might have enough to get your fix. He has a featured fight with a big dude that I think you'll dig.

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