Kickboxing in Color: The Racial Politics of Angel Town

I would like to wish Karl, Jade, and the entirety of the Fist of B-List interweb movie review site and all that she stands for a Happy 5th Anniversary. But rather than send over chocolates or gift certificates, I'm sending over some rambling thoughts about a film already covered on this here blog: The 1990 Kickboxer vs. Cholos actioner Angel Town, directed by Eric Karson and starring Olivier Gruner. If you haven't read Karl's review, I suggest you do that first, but hey if you wanna read my BS now instead, why not? It's a free country, do whatever you want.

(Unless you're reading this in a not-free country, which in that case -- ¡Viva La RevoluciĆ³n!)

When I first watched this film back during a youth filled with hope and optimism, I was pleased as the proverbial punch to see a movie with so many actors who looked more like me than the usual clean-cut All-American Non-Tans who occupy most of moviedom. Never mind that these actors were portraying evil Latino gang members terrorizing cowardly/helpless Latino innocents (aka The Good Ones) and that it takes the courage and strength of a new neighbor/kickboxing grad student from France -- FRANCE!!! -- to set things white, I mean right.

As you can see, I'm driving down a very familiar neighborhood containing streets with names like Chip On Your Shoulder Blvd., and I'm approaching my destination with a question: Just where is Angel Town coming from, racially speaking?

I mean, if you've seen the film, you might -- maybe -- pick up on what I've not only been getting at, but slamming over your head with during the last couple paragraphs. But if not, read on because somewhere in here will be examples of whatever my point is supposed to be, if I even have one. (Helpful Hint: I don't.)

The film opens with the title song performed by someone with the same last name as the director, but it ain't bad. The vocals have a bit of the Joe Strummer to it, and this dude is singing about what a scary mean place this Angel Town is. This is a place where one must stand his ground because there are "devils all around", but he ain't singing about those White Devils you usually hear the militants go on about -- he's talking about the shaded seraphs that occupy East Los Angeles, California.

We are then introduced to a couple of Black dudes walking down a vacant area and they're wearing bandanas and carry with them the swagger of the Backed Up, but hey I'm not going to straight out call them gang members because that would be profiling and I don't roll like that, bro. But let's just call them gang members.

So these gang members are then accosted by a group of white-ish/brown-ish dudes who I think are supposed to be from a rival gang but they look more like the cover of Rival Turf!, that old SNES Final Fight ripoff that sucked but had the minor saving grace of allowing you to change the names of all the characters, resulting in a game where you and your friend Johnny beat up guys named Jerry, Christian, and David, because screw those guys -- they were invited but didn't show up. Some birthday party, eh?

Anyway, yeah, this group of leather jacket wearers (one featuring a logo for The Clash) start beating up on the darker variables of this human equation and everything is sunshine and overly-loud sound effects until a couple more Black guys show up to punch up the opposition, but then a pick-up truck carrying what appears to be Latino gang members disguised as day laborers screeches into the proceedings and we now have ourselves a good old-fashioned donnybrook.

We have Latinos beating up on Blacks, until one of the Latinos -- the one who looks more like a tanned Anglo than a genuine Brown -- sneaks over to the pick-up truck, pulls out an UZI and proceeds to fire wildly into the crowd. This is the same guy who instigated the fight, so it made me wonder if this was some kind of metaphor from the filmmakers about how the White Man will infiltrate the Black and Hispanic communities and stir shit up among them, getting it to such a fever pitch that they eventually turn on each other, thus allowing Whitey to do his thing -- storming in with militarized weaponry to eliminate the problem with righteous justification in the name of all things Good and Lawful.

And it is at that point that we cut to a gentleman watching all of this from a safe distance in his lowrider. He is the titular Angel, and he smiles while watching the fisticuffs turn into a shoot-em-up. But why? Has he figured out Whitey's plan, and now the gears are turning in his head towards a plan to bring together Brown and Black in peace, and fight the real enemy?

Nope, he's the villain. Later on he shows up flaunting his very own UZI to terrorize the helpless. But because this film takes place in a universe where Chris Rock's routine about charging thousands of dollars for bullets is a reality, he very very very rarely fires it.

I was disappointed in his non-unifying/pro-UZI ownership actions, but then I thought again of everything I just wrote and determined that, No, the filmmakers weren't trying to make a point, they just wanted to get the audience's attention. 

So I continued watching the film looking for examples of...something?...oh yeah, something racial because that's what I said I would write about, right? Oh! OK, I think I have something. This here is a film where maybe maybe MAYBE director Karson and writer S. Warren give us an honest portrayal of racial attitudes exhibited not only by the bad guys/secondary characters (the Black gang leader refers to the Latino gang as "grape pickers"), but even the hero is weak enough to make a questionable statement, if not straight up hate speech.

Por ejemplo, later in the film, our hero Jacques (Gruner) is in class and the professor asks him to point out something wrong with the equation on the chalkboard. Because Jacques is the hero of the film, and therefore an ass-kicker AND a smarty-pants, he answers correctly. The Arab student sitting right next to Jacques says in a non-whisper to another student "Leave it to the fucking frog!" Uh-uh bros, Jacques ain't having that. He grabs the dude's tie and pulls him in with "That's Mister Frog to you, raghead."

And then in the following scene -- OK wait let me set it up for you: There's this kid Martin Ordonez who lives in the neighborhood currently being terrorized by Angel and his gang. See, Angel killed Martin's father a few years ago for standing up to the Brown menace and now Angel wants Martin in his gang. Kinda weird, if you ask me. I mean, why does Angel want/need Martin in his gang so bad that he's now beating up/chasing the poor boy around town? This kid can't fight for shit and he's kind of a self-pity parade -- a real buzzkill, if you ask me. Such is the logic of your average Hispanic gang leader.

Anyway, yeah, so Jacques walks in on weak-ass Martin referring to his neighborhood as being occupied by "dumbass Chicanos". He decides to teach the boy a lesson by explaining to this know-nothing jerkwad that if he (and his late father) live in the same neighborhood then he (and his late father) too is a "dumbass Chicano". What I like about those two scenes is that Jacques is using racially negative language against the offending party. In the case of Martin calling his own people "dumbass Chicanos", I think Jacques was trying to set him straight when it comes to saying stupid things -- think before you speak, young man!

(The final tally for "dumbass Chicanos": THREE)

And while calling the Arab a "raghead" is pretty darn harsh, his point still stands in that words like "raghead" and "frog" hurt. Or at least I hope that's his point. I mean, maybe Jacques (and Karson and Warren) are of the messed-up mindset that Jacques' use of racist language is justified and that the dirty evil terrorist better keep his mouth shut here in 'Murica: The Greatest Country in the World and Don't You Forget It.

It's the last part that kinda bugs me, because maybe that's where Warren & Karson are coming from. Later in the film, Jacques breaks into Angel's house while he's asleep (Angel, not Jacques -- but hell, Jacques is so damn good I can buy him doing some badass sleepwalking type stuff) and puts a knife to his throat, threatening him to leave Martin and his mom alone or else Angel will be "riding with Pancho Villa".

That's a funny line and all, but I do wonder why he had to take it there. If you, the reader, think I'm being too sensitive about this, well maybe I am. But I have to find something to write about here, so give me a break, you butt-hurt bastard. What I'm saying is that let's change Angel to Anfernee and have Jacques say "Leave the Ordonez family alone, or you'll be joining Martin Luther King Jr. in the promised land!" and perhaps you'll see my point. Or you'll miss my point and only notice how clumsy my line would be for an actor to say. "Riding with Pancho Villa" does have a better flow to it, I'll admit.

That Villa line, though, here's the thing with that line -- and even the Frog line -- it kinda feels less like something Jacques would say and something writer S. Warren would say? Like, I don't know who this S. Warren is or why he or she chose to initial his or her first name, or whether these lines were even in his or her original script, but if I had to guess and then put money on the guess, well my bet would be on Warren being Not-A-Dark-Ethnic and maybe these kinds of moments come from the dude or dudette's soul. Which is not to say that only Not-A-Dark-Ethnics can feel a certain way -- certainly not, even those deep into the ranks of Other/Foreign can have political beliefs about their own that would even make Donald Trump clutch his pearls -- but in this case I'm being just as general and unfair as those I accuse of being general and unfair because it helps my argument.

And what is that argument, sir? Hell if I know. OK, wait. Maybe calling an Arab a "raghead" or using Mexican revolutionary historical figures in a threat against a Brown tickled Warren pink. Maybe writing that stuff was less about a fitting line for the character to say and more about an angry middle-class Anglo guy/gal who drives to work everyday listening to Rush Limbaugh while trying his/her best to write a screenplay about a French kickboxer who rents a room in East L.A. and stands up to the Latino gang who won't stop messing with the boy and mother who live in the house. Maybe even in the most impersonal for-hire screenplay gigs, a writer can still leave traces of his/her personality one way or another. Maybe said traces pop up in the dialogue. Maybe I just smoke too much herb.

Haha, "maybe".



My B-Grade Martial Arts Journey

I sit in my room, take a good look around at my selection of B-Grade Martial Arts films, and I wonder, "What the hell got me to this point?" What was it that inspired me to now rummage through bargain bins and closing-down video store sales to find that next B-Grade gem? My journey, or as some may say my 'descent into crap cinema', actually started with a film which is not craptacular in any sense of the word: Enter the Dragon. My mother is a massive Bruce Lee fan, and I distinctly remember her taping it for me on VHS when I was five. Even for a young kid I did like action violence, especially in the cartoons I watched -- I think at the time I thought of myself to be a bit of a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles connoisseur. Enter the Dragon was a big stretch from the Ninja Turtles, but I remember just how mesmerized I was with Bruce Lee from that very first moment I saw him kick the crap out of Bob Wall.

Enter the Dragon gave me that taste for Martial Arts, but where did the cheese start to seep into the form of greasy pony tails, fire-up montage songs and one-liners? I tell you where it started: Bloodsport. This was a film we taped multiple times off the TV and rented on VHS, and the more I watched it, the more it became a second skin.  Bloodsport then lead to my favourite Van Damme film of all time, Kickboxer which, as a kid under the age of 10, started to develop my bloody taste for violence and awesome soundtracks. From then on, video store trips became more frequent, with my older brother with us renting films such as Best of the Best 1-4, No Retreat No Surrender, American Kickboxer, American Ninja 1-4, Black Belt Jones, and Wrong Bet (aka Lionheart). This is the tiniest fraction of what we rented on a regular basis.

In the 1980s and even more so in the 90s you could rent just about everything, no matter how B-Grade and low budget the film was. So, finding a film with Lorenzo Lamas wearing a bandanna and shirtless on the front cover wasn't like trying to find a needle in a haystack, like it is now. I just lived for every Friday after school because that was when we rented movies, and with each week that passed, my love for bad synthesised music and brutal choreography grew.

I know that this genre of film gets a lot of crap, and to those people who don't understand just how creative this genre is, I say go play in front of incoming traffic. Yeah, you can shut your brain off to this stuff, especially if you have seen these kinds of films a lot and just need it for a comforting sound in the background -- hey, that's what I do sometimes. But to be honest, in the majority of these films there are a lot of redeeming qualities. And viewers of the genre should also remember the majority of these 'actors' aren't actually actors at all -- they are Martial Artists who managed to get lucky and be in a feature film. Or they could have made it themselves because let's face it -- who didn't want to be the next Jean-Claude Van Damme? And since these guys are physically fit and very experienced in a specific martial art that they have trained in, you have to give them some respect. In a way, you could say they are method actors in their own right.

I love B-Grade Martial Arts, not just for the choreography, but I really enjoy it for the predictable storyline. Revenge is always on the mind, as well showcasing your best Karate moves and not to mention fitting in a little time for a cheap romance -- the leading lady is usually a reporter or a sweet girl from the wrong side of the tracks who fell in with the wrong crowd. This predictability is what makes these films. As a viewer you want an easy-to-follow plot, with some memorable characters and good quality fight choreography. Oh! -- and a killer soundtrack.

If you take these kinds of films seriously, then you won't enjoy the ride. So here's a few tips to make sure you get what you want from this genre:
  • Leave your high standards for film at the door
  • If you are watching them with friends, make sure they have a similar stance on these films
  • Don't look too much into the plot, as you may be disappointed if you do
  • Learn to laugh at the bad acting - My life has become so much richer because of this
  • Understand that it's perfectly fine to switch your brain off for 90 minutes and not take what you are watching so seriously.
  • Embrace these films for what they are
Films have come and gone, and I have seen thousands of these kinds of films, but here is a top 15 list of B-Grade films which made me stick at researching this genre and enjoying the absolute shit out of it for the last 23 years.
  1. King of the Kickboxers
  2. To the Death
  3. Kickboxer II: The Road Back
  4. American Ninja 4
  5. No Retreat No Surrender
  6. Best of the Best II
  7. American Kickboxer
  8. Samurai Cop
  9. Bloodfist
  10. Undefeatable
  11. The Last Dragon
  12. Blood and Bone
  13. Showdown in Little Tokyo
  14. Bloodmoon
  15. Undisputed II


10 Chopsocky Training Montages to Make You Feel the Burn

The training montage is one of the building blocks of almost any martial arts film (East or West) where the protagonist(s) must physically and mentally prepare for fierce competition. As the genre developed and the trope proliferated, the training methods became more elaborate and visually interesting. Trainers became firmer in their methods. Stan Bush sound-alike tracks skyrocketed in volume. As you read along, be sure to hit the YouTube playlist below for the ten leanest and meanest chopsocky training montages to make you grunt and grimace your way to high spirits and improved flexibility. Shirts optional.

Blood Hands (1990)
Sean Donahue as Steve Callahan
What this montage lacks in appropriate lighting or film stock, it makes up for with … well, logs, I guess. But the other unique touch that sticks out is Sean’s sadistic girlfriend acting as his trainer despite no kickboxing knowledge whatsoever, and she’s far from the passive dolt her blank stare in the beginning of the clip would lead you to believe. She beats the shit out of Sean with a wood plank while he’s doing crunches and screams like a banshee while he’s trying to do push-ups. Put a ring on it!

Honor and Glory (1993)
Donna Jason as Joyce Pride
This is basically a hammock meditation sandwich with a Tai Chi practice filling -- and that’s not a bad thing. Jason, who did two of Godfrey Ho’s Stateside films and nothing else, chills in a hammock tied across her front porch while balancing a bo staff in the opening shot. What happens if UPS needs to deliver a package? Tough shit homie, leave it on the lawn. The scene ends in the same place with a slight wrinkle: Jason answers a ringing telephone USING THE BO STAFF. Martial arts: the quicker picker upper (of telephone receivers).

Showdown (1993)
Kenn Scott as Ken Marx
This one is a fat slab of Gruyere: montage fromage. You’ll recall that Billy Blanks plays a kindly karate-cop-turned-high-school-janitor and between his basketball hurling and random thumbs-up, he’s at Tae-Bo levels of motivation here. This has the worst music in the bunch by far, but it’s the best montage featuring Ben Stiller’s future wife who looks like Marcia Brady, and Jenny McCarthy’s future ex-husband who looks like a cocaine-thin Anthony Michael Hall.

Fighting Spirit (1992)
Loren Avedon as David Carster
What happens when you pair taekwondo legend Loren Avedon and Filipino exploitation supporting actor Jerry Beyer? If you answered “stretching and sparring backed by fuzzy wah-wah guitar and a disco beat” you win a lifetime supply of confused stares from chopsocky fans. The montage itself is nothing special but I admire the epic troll-job of taking a standard training scene and pairing it with funky library music instead of the customary “inspirational” rock track.

Sakura Killers (1987)
George Nicholas as Dennis; Mike Kelly as Sonny
No list of training montages is complete without at least one entry from the ninja film subgenre. This one has George Nicholas and Mike Kelly throwing shurikens, punching bundles of straw, cutting bamboo, climbing trees, and running endlessly through mountain ranges and what appears to be the Gobi Desert. Did I mention the scene ends with the ninjas and their master disappearing in a cloud of smoke? Because ninjas, I guess.

No Retreat, No Surrender (1986)
Kurt McKinney as Jason Stillwell
There’s some tremendous irony in the fact that a film featuring Jean Claude Van Damme -- a star who took the training blueprint from the Rocky franchise and revolutionized it for the martial arts set -- has great training scenes where he doesn’t even appear! You know the training is intense when your upside-down suspended ab-crunches and one-finger push-ups empty out the public park. Maybe it was the short-shorts and the uh .... thrusting that sent everyone running? Don’t judge, readers -- come talk to me when you’ve vanquished a Soviet kickboxer who broke your dad’s leg and single-handedly destroyed Seattle karate.

Superfights (1995)
Brandon Gaines as Jack Cody
A lot of these montages place an emphasis on old-school simplicity: exercises in rustic settings, primitive equipment (e.g. wood, pulleys), and older grizzled trainers. Superfights takes it in the other direction. Your typical wooden dummy is replaced by plastic tubes that illuminate on contact. The heavy bag is replaced by a column of light that runs floor to ceiling. Even the choice of trainer -- Angel, played by the undersung Kelly Gallant -- is a progressive improvement on the formula. Oh, and the protagonist is popping colorful pills containing a combination of mind-control drugs and steroids. Why, again, is this scene so much different than the others? Oh, right -- this training montage is on drugs.

Trained to Kill (1989)
Frank Zagarino as Matt Cooper; Glen Eaton as Sam
How do you enhance a training montage that features vengeful half-brothers doing standard exercises like sunset beach jogging, push-ups, tandem leg-throws, and jump-rope? You combine slowmo, close-up grimaces, and cutaways to Frank Zagarino making out with Lisa Aliff and you get the hell out of the way. Whatever this montage lacks in novelty, it delivers in style, strangely literal lyrics in its New Order-esque rock track, and impassioned speeches about finding your “center” in the “jungle” from Ron “Superfly” O’Neal.

Breathing Fire (1991)
Jonathan Ke Quan as Charlie Moore; Eddie Saavedra as Tony Moore
I had no recollection that this montage was so good and I *really* wanted to put this at numero uno, if only for its wildly thorough approach -- this one has everything. Punching through phone books nailed into trees. Master pummeling students’ shins and forearms with sticks. Crushing watermelons beyond eatability. Sunset beach running. Blindfolded sparring between multicultural brothers. We should all be watching Breathing Fire right now instead of reading (or writing) Internet listicles.

King of the Kickboxers (1990)

Loren Avedon as Jake Donahue
As far as Western chopsocky films go, this might the end-all, be-all of training montages. Drunken master? Check. Trainee striking and also being struck by flying logs? YUP. Overly elaborate pulley system designed to improve groinal dexterity? OH YEAH. Much credit goes to Avedon, who was willing to hand himself over to some wacky training methods that look alternately torturous and character-building. What really sets this scene apart is the pretext (demonstration of the villain’s signature attacks) at the beginning of the film that makes the climactic call-back (Jake using his training to counter-attack) both logical in the narrative and rewarding for the viewer. Concise but effective.

What would you add? What have I missed?


4 Items You Must Have In Your Wardrobe to Survive an American Martial Arts Movie

Ever found yourself in a situation where your brother is mercilessly crippled by a vicious Taiwanese mad man during a kickboxing match? Or maybe your brother was murdered by a kickboxing expert as a part of an underground martial arts-inspired snuff film ring? Maybe you’re simply just stuck battling a cyborg army in the near future? Whatever the case may be, before you seek out that quirky elderly martial arts master in the hopes that he’ll train you to defeat your foes, it’s extremely important to be dressed for the part. You are, after all, in an American Martial Arts movie.

Here are a few items to set you on the right path:

Something VERY American

This is the perfect way to start off your ensemble, as it’s easily the most versatile fashion choices one can make. Whether it be a jacket, a gi, a pair of Zubaz, a headband, an iron-on patch, or any combination of the above, wearing something with an American flag design is a MUST if you want to survive an American Martial Arts film. This is especially true if your film has “American” in the title.

Denim Denim DENIM!

From pairing up jeans with snake skin boots to – and this is more for the ladies – a pair of cut offs complemented by a black leather belt and construction boots, denim works in an endless number of ways. 

For men wearing a pair of jeans, shirts are optional. However, for those who want to play coy, a white tee works well. Just be sure it’s cotton, as cotton is easy to pull/tear off in the moments leading up to that battle with Matthias Hues. Or whoever. Further complimenting the white tee and jeans look, try a brown bomber jacket, as there really is no other outfit quite as trusty. Unless, however, you opt to go the full-Canadian tuxedo route, which is certainly advisable, especially when rockin’ a pair of snake skins.

A Tank Top/Zubaz Combo

Tank tops and Zubaz are like pb&j: you can’t have one without the other. And quite frankly, you’ll need both to get passed that VR Cyber-kickboxer who just found his way into the real world and is looking to wreak havok. 

The great thing about this combo is that it works for any body type. If you’re a bit sloppy, you can go for the loose fitting tank paired with a pair of Zubaz, which serves as a great way to hide that dad bod you got going below deck. On the other hand, if you’re fit as a fiddle and rock a bod worthy of worship, you can go with a tight tank. The Zubaz remain the same, however, as they look good on all body types.

On an important side note, to complete this look, go for a nice white sneaker, preferably a high-top. Alternatively, a wrestling shoe will work, especially if you’re the meat and potatoes type of martial arts fighter.

Something “Asian”

Trained in the skills of Ninjitsu? At some point, you’re going to have to show your legitimacy by busting out the ninja uniform to show the roots of your training. That, or so no one can tell it's not you when you break into the ninja compound and "suddenly" have the acrobatic skills of Mary Lou Retton.

Have a special ancient amulet passed on to you by your Sensei? Well, you’re gonna need it, especially because you’ll have to stare at it intensely before firmly grasping it with one hand as you head out to exact revenge on your misguided step-brother who took it upon himself to murder your sensei-turned-father-figure. It also looks fantastic paired up with the jeans, white t-shirt and bomber jacket outfit you’re likely wearing by this point. Just be sure to wear it OVER the shirt.

These and other such items are perfect for showing your connection to the martial arts as well as demonstrating that your true warrior spirit transcends the fact that you’re a Caucasian.



10 Chopsocky Villains to Watch Right Now

As we look back on five years of amazing, ridiculous, and hilarious chopsocky film, it seemed prudent to take stock of the exceptional performances from the overlooked side of equation: the villains. Any action aficionado worth his or her salt knows that a hero is only as good as the villain opposing them, and the best martial arts b-movies tend to have memorable villain performances. Because listicles are appropriately journalistic and not divisive click-bait, here are ten villains to watch: actors who definitely got the memo, characters who fed the fires of conflict, and performers who kicked their way through our thoracic cavities and into our hearts.

10. Warbeck, Expect No Mercy
“In a role that was nearly offered to Gary Daniels, Wolf Larson is really entertaining as Warbeck. My general rule of thumb for martial arts b-movie villains is that they need to be presented as physical threats to the heroes, and their bad behavior needs to encompass more than just drug-dealing or being an old, rich, white guy. Not only does Warbeck get a climactic fight scene with one of the protagonists and provide a hammy YouTube-worthy rant, but his giant face is hung throughout the halls of the Academy campus as visual confirmation of his dickish megalomania.”

9. Craig Tanner, College Kickboxers
“While the mentor and lead characters are indeed likable, I found the film’s most memorable character to be Craig Tanner, who cements his spot in the pantheon of weirdly great American martial-arts villains. Despite a serious lack of fighting skills, Cohen owns the screen and proves that you don’t need to be a dumb skinhead to be a racist prick. His long, flowing mullet is among the most intense we’ve ever seen on film and were it not for his incredible overacting, it would easily be his best trait. While the White Tigers logo on his coat flaunts his gang affiliation, his fingerless leather gloves and leather pants with dangling chains scream ‘I just robbed the wardrobe rack on the set of Deadbeat at Dawn.’ Pairing such a unique look with an unforgettable performance is a huge factor for why this film ultimately works.”

8. Silverio, Only the Strong
“Few chopsocky villains have taken so much interest in accelerating urban decay in his city as the treacherous Silverio. A cross between Vega from Street Fighter II and pro wrestling’s Razor Ramon (even down to the colorful vests), he’s a despicable gang leader and capoeira badass without any redeemable qualities. Prieto didn’t do much after this other than a role in Street Law (we’ll cover it), but he’s terrific here. The character of Silverio is pretty much exactly what you want in a good b-movie chopsocky villain: he says ridiculous things, acts like a prick all the time, and dresses like a total asshole. Great hair, too!”

7. Yuri, No Retreat No Surrender 2
“The Soviet camp where Sulin is held captive is run by a brutal general named Yuri, played by Matthias Hues. In a display of cruelty, he challenges an injured prisoner to a fight and dangles the promise of freedom as incentive. After inflicting punishment in the form of internal bleeding, Yuri lets him limp towards the exit for about ten feet before shooting him in the leg and ass. He then throws him into a pit full of crocodiles. While laughing hysterically. Following this comical turn of events, he turns to Sulin and assures her that he won’t harm her. Hmmm.”

6. Loc Syn, Trained to Kill
“It’s impossible to discuss this film without highlighting Loc Syn, played by former Floridian kickboxing champion and Andy Sidaris favorite, Harold Diamond. A former military man by the name of Andrew Wilson, he went insane during his service, fell under the tutelage of Duran, and started calling himself Loc Syn for no reason other than it sounded cool and provided a 50% savings in syllables over his birth name. According to George, Syn’s mind ‘went south’ and he started killing for the pure fun of it. He’ll fill both hands with wakizashis while grinning madly, but would rather rip out your larynx barehanded or clench a shark tooth in his front teeth and slash your throat up close. To his credit, Loc Syn refuses to let his sociopathic tendencies dictate his sartorial choices. He wears an array of threads -- fedoras, steel-tipped cowboy boots, dark shades, and tank tops with designer blazers -- in letting his fashionable freak flag fly. That he has virtually no lines in the movie makes him all the more intimidating; he’s seated between diabetes and high-blood pressure at the table of silent killers.”

5. The Killer, Bloodmoon
“The nameless homicidal martial artist, played by Darren Shahlavi, is a practitioner of several fighting styles and as it turns out, many hobbies. Among other activities, we see him strolling through a park snapping photos and later, admiring the talent at the local nudie bar. But there’s one pastime that’s giving the NYPD absolute fits. Like, other than the murdering. It’s his robust set of advanced computer skills. He sends cryptic, taunting emails to the station. He livestreams a murder and sends them a link to watch. I would guess he’s pretty good at Quake too.”

4. Jason Slade, Honor and Glory
“John Miller really only had two big film roles in an otherwise brief career, but he should be thanking his lucky stars for the silver platter handed to him in Honor and Glory. He’s equipped with some of the best lines ever written for a martial arts villain. After Silk expresses his displeasure at Slade’s inclusion of an outside expert for their nuclear trigger deal, Slade coolly replies: ‘Do you know an atomic trigger from a Bulgarian dildo? Because I don't.’ Pressed both internally and externally to step down from his post during his company’s scandal, he repeatedly screams: ‘only death can retire Jason Slade!’ If you thought Warbeck from Expect No Mercy had the market cornered on megalomaniacal monologues in martial arts b-movies, think again. Slade reminds a second-guessing business associate that: ‘I have arrived at the top of the world. No man has control of more money. No man can fight me and live. No woman can share my bed and not be mine for life. I am like a god! I piss on you, from a great height.’ ”

3. Jacques Denard, American Kickboxer 1
“Despite his status as new champion, Denard doesn’t have a desire to be the best so much as he wants to be better than Quinn. He goes out of his way to antagonize him and his arrogant sense of entitlement is on full display throughout the film. He turns up to formal soirees in tank tops and ill-fitting pants, wears dark sunglasses during a court testimony, threatens kids seeking autographs, and even headbutts an innocent locker door. While all of this sufficiently characterizes Denard’s dickishness, Morris so thoroughly embraces the character’s traits that we can’t help but be entranced. Much of an audience’s hatred for a villain is set in motion by a single event but Denard is such a complete and utter asshole in everything he says and does that you legitimately want to see him beaten to death.”

2. Khan, King of the Kickboxers
“Why was she fleeing in the first place? Because an evil snuff film production company forced her into a hotel room rendezvous with Khan, their biggest star. Rather than subject herself to poorly acted martial artist sex, she smashed through a bathroom window and fled. This was apparently not an anomaly. It's widely-known that Khan has had a long streak of bad luck closing the deal. Even with sex slaves.”

1. Stingray, Undefeatable
“Stingray has mommy issues on steroids with a crystal meth chaser. The few flashbacks to his childhood allude to abandonment and while I’m not a psychiatrist, I’d guess this would lead to relationship trouble later in life. In the case of Stingray, I’m not sure how it led to a propensity for rape, murder, and eye-gouging, but hey -- different strokes, different folks. Don Niam really makes the Stingray character his own: he has a gloriously puffy mullet, plays scenes completely over the top, and is a decent enough martial artist to hold his own during fights.”

Who are your favorite villains, readers?

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...