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.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Ring of Fire III: Lion Strike (1995)

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After Ring of Fire, which was a pretty rough customer, then the sequel, Ring of Fire II, which wasn't so bad, I was hoping the trend would hold, and part 3 here would be pretty sweet. I noticed Maria Ford was swapped out in favor of Bobbie Phillips, and a lot of the other familiar names from the first two were missing. Let's cross our fingers.

Ring of Fire III: Lion Strike picks up about five years after part 2 left off. Don "The Dragon" Wilson is back as Dr. Johnny Wu, raising his son alone after Ford died in a car accident sometime since we last left them (the old widower routine, classic 1960s sitcom move). Anyway, after what seems like his third or fourth fight against four or fives guys that day, he comes to the aid of Marcus Aurelius, who, unbeknownst to Wilson, has just stolen some shit from the mob, including a floppy containing info for selling Russian nukes to Third World Countries. Long story short, their bags get switched, Marx Bros. style, and after Wilson takes his son to the mountains, the mob goes up there after him. Some shooting, martial arts, and explosions ensue, and then Wilson, his son, and park ranger/ex-military Bobbie Phillips live happily ever after.

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See that old man wielding an Uzi in a helicopter? Yeah, he's shooting that at Wilson, and Wilson is about to fire back, while hanging from one hand off the edge of a building, and blow the helicopter up with some pistol bullets. And that's the first ten minutes! From there it's a series of fights, car chases, explosions, more fights, more explosions-- it just doesn't stop. This is vintage PM Entertainment, with cars flying through trailers, helicopters blowing up because they can, and Wilson finding fights everywhere he goes. I had one major issue with Wilson running away from the main baddie's hatchet man, but that came in the last 20 minutes, and I can't let it completely kill what was an otherwise kickass time.

This was some sweet Wilson. It's a simple formula: limit his dramatic acting and let his fighting to the talking. Funny, though, that so few films that cast him use that formula. Wilson had a part in writing this script, along with Art Camacho, so maybe that's why it was so action packed. He was like "people aren't renting this to see me recite Shakespeare, they want to see some roundhouses." Well, we got plenty of roundhouses, so we got what we came to see. At this point, we're about seven films away from having all of Wilson's up here. It may take a little longer than I thought, because I'm having trouble finding some, but we'll make it happen. By the way, this is the second film to feature Wilson taking down a helicopter with a hand gun, the other being Virtual Combat.

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I should probably make a list of the rules all action films should follow, like keep a high action/lull time quotient, or be careful when including politics-- you know, all the things I'm constantly saying ruin most potentially great action films. One of the big ones would be "never have the hero run away." The two exceptions would be "if he's being chased by the cops, and doesn't want to hurt innocent people who are just doing their jobs" or "if it's at the very beginning, and is followed by a heavy training montage led by a veteran character actor." This film broke that rule and neither exception was in sight, when Wilson and Phillips ran away from the main baddie's hatchet man. Here we have Wilson and Phillips, out in the woods, turning the tables on the people hunting them, picking them off left and right, and then all that energy dissipates as we watch them run after Wilson couldn't beat the guy in a fight. On some levels they made up for it with a good end fight between the two, but it was still a very bad look.

Michael Jai White has a small cameo in this as part of Marcus Aurelius's gang. He never gets to use his martial arts, and he looks a lot smaller. If you see his name on imdb linked with this, just know that it isn't the Blood and Bone Michael Jai White coming in to throw down with Wilson.

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Bobbie Phillips was part Wilson's love interest, and part his asskicking sidekick. It's pretty sweet, because, based on the way the film had started, when we see her character, a park ranger, looking in the back of a flatbed truck, finding poacher's contraband, we know when those asshole poachers get outside, they're in for an assbeating. Of course, Wilson puts down his groceries and helps her, but it's a pretty even split on how many they take out. One great Phillips film I've been meaning to get to is TC 2000, starring DTVC favorite Billy Blanks. Can't wait to make that happen. As an aside, you how people always say that being a meter maid or someone who tows cars from parking lots has to be the worst job, or rather, that the people holding them must be total douchebags? Well, what about poachers? I mean, it doesn't get any more shitheel than that, does it? I mean, if you're a poacher, do you really look yourself in the mirror in the morning? Do you really think "those rangers are assholes for not letting me put my bear traps out"? Poacher: biggest douchebag job ever-- in fact, douchebag doesn't even begin to describe it.

Netflix actually has this for rent (if you go to the Wilson page on Netflix, it's a sea of green from all the films they've relegated to the "Save" pile), and I believe Amazon sells it for $6.99 new. 7 bucks is a little steep, but if it's $7 without the shipping, meaning you can find it at a local store, I'd pull the trigger. This is vintage PM Entertainment-- bad action at its best.

For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0110358/

11 comments:

  1. Ah I was waiting to see a review of this. Don't think it has had an Aussie release like the first two (which can be picked up for $2 for both movies on one disc) so I've always know I will have to import. Sounds like if I get it cheap enough it's a good deal. And I am a bit of a PM Entertainment completest.

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  2. If you're a PM completist, then your price point might be a bit higher. I'd look for it as either Ring of Fire III, or as just Lion Strike. If you don't mind the VHS route, you may find it cheaper that way too. Seldom do I recommend a movie to the point of saying spend money on it, but this is great PM stuff, so I think you'll enjoy it.

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  3. Enjoyed your review! this definitely looks like a fun Dragon flick! This is on our netflix queue. We will bump it up!

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  4. Excellent review Matt, I'm looking forward to this one. I think it's going to be a few weeks before I return to Wilson's filmography but I'll have to do Ring of Fire 2 before I can get to Lion Strike. Looks like Amazon has it on VoD so I won't have to break the bank for it.

    Lion Strike does have an appearance from one of my all-time cinematic favorites: he of hilarious line delivery and broken leg, Timothy D. Baker. I can't imagine he improves over his tour-de-force performance in No Retreat No Surrender, but it's always great to see him on-screen. I think he's the sparring partner toward the beginning of the film but I've yet to watch it all the way through.

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  5. Thanks Karl. Yes, Baker is only there at the beginning, only be shot dead by the mob as they try to rush their grandfather out of the hospital. The sparring scene with Wilson right before that involves tons of plays on words that don't really make any sense. "If you're a doctor, I hope you make house calls, because you're going home!" Huh?

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  6. Hey Ty, I just noticed your comment, sorry I didn't respond earlier. (I was like, why does it say five comments when I only remember four?) Anyway, glad you dug the review, and if you've seen part 2, I think you might want to bump this up, because it is pretty sweet. I'll be curious to see what everyone else thinks about it on their blogs.

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  7. Part 2 is a "save" on netflix unfortunately. Will have to track it down eventually!

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  8. Yeah, I noticed that. I actually thought this one was too, and was surprised to find out I was wrong, and that they had it available. I'm not sure what the deal is with that though. It's a bigger deal with the Bloodfist series-- I mean, how do those movies end up out of print? I guess the 90s DTV action genre doesn't sell like it used to.

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  9. Hi! Do you mind if we use the old man with the uzi picture for our review? We will happily link you. What a hilarious image.

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    1. By all means man. Sorry I forgot to reply to this sooner!

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