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, April 21, 2011
China O'Brien II (1991)
This was a tough get. It's only available on VHS, and it's not always cheap. For a site like this though, China O'Brien II is a must, considering it's one of the roles Cynthia Rothrock is most associated with. Plus, Richard Norton, Keith Cooke, and a special appearance by DTVC favorite Billy Blanks doesn't hurt either.
China O'Brien II picks up about two years after part 1 leaves off. While China has cleaned up her small town, a big time drug dealer has escaped from prison, and the guy who sent him away just happens to be living in witness protection in her town, with his wife and her daughter, the former who happens to be China's friend, and the latter who happens to be dating Dakota (Keith Cooke). It's just the drug dealer's dumb luck that of all the small towns in all the world, the guy who ratted on him and made off with his $5 million dollars would choose the one that has Rothrock, Cooke, and Norton as its police force. Poor him.
This is what you came for. Good, solid, straight ahead, DTV late 80s/early 90s action. Rothrock is good, Norton is good, and Cooke is good, plus there's a small cameo at the end by Billy Blanks (more on that later). I say this a lot here, but they don't make movies like this anymore, and that's too bad. It starts off small and builds the action up, getting better each time, with well choreographed fights that look great, combined with the requisite gunshots and explosions. This might not be the best of the best, but this is exactly the kind of film that kept me coming back to my video store for more of the same.
As I mentioned above, China O'Brien might be the character Cynthia Rothrock is most known for, and here you can see why. They really do a great job of flipping the classic masculine hero paradigm, and make her a strong lead who never defers to another male-- even with an alpha dude like Richard Norton-- in fact, he defers to her. On top of that, she has some really great martial arts sequences, driving home just why she's cast as the action lead. This with part 1 make an excellent Rothrock double feature.
He's huge! Good ol' Richard Norton is back, reprising his role as Matt from the first go-'round. He and Rothrock are like the Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire of DTV action. He does a great job here of letting her take the lead, but coming in and kicking ass when he's needed too. Beyond the fighting, there's also the funeral scene where he rocks a Canadian tuxedo. How cool is that? Everyone else is in black-- even Keith Cooke, though it is his leather jacket-- and there's Norton, Canadian tuxedo, looking as if he's about to hit the bar to catch the Flames/Oilers game with some buds and some Rolling Rocks. Classic.
Keith Cooke is back again, though his Dakota character is given almost a Robin plot tract. Based on how sick his skills are, it felt kind of weird. He dates the step-daughter of the guy the drug dealer wants, and she's in high school. Keith Cooke, in his early thirties, playing someone young enough to pick up a high school chick? Was he that young in the first one? Then he's kidnapped by the drug dealer along with the wife and step-daughter and held for ransom to force the guy to bring the cash he stole. To me, none of that works. What worked was him being the quiet, mysterious loner who kicks tons of ass, especially when we see his sweet skill set. He's no Robin, more like the Martian Manhunter.
Yes, that handsome devil in the tangerine tank top is Billy Blanks. He's also wearing zebra print pants there. He has a small, uncredited part as the drug dealer's extra hired muscle called in for the final siege of the small town. He has only a few scenes, then one fight with Cooke that isn't quite as good as their fight in King of the Kickboxers. Considering the film only had like an 81-minute running time, an extra five to beef up that fight scene wouldn't have been so bad. My only complaint for an otherwise great flick.
To buy this on Amazon might cost you in the $10 to $15 range, which for me is a little expensive for a used VHS. Your better bet is to just keep your eye out in a bargain bin or a flea market or Goodwill, then, if you don't see it, maybe fork over that kind of cash. Unfortunately this isn't available on DVD.
For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0101579/