Director: Godfrey Ho
Writer: Herb Borkland
Cast: Cynthia Rothrock, Donna Jason, John Miller, Chuck Jeffreys, Robin Shou, Gerald Klein, Leo Rocca, Richard Yuen, Yip Yim Hing
The rich, white man might be the most overused villain archetype in the history of action movies. I won’t bore anyone with a laundry list of past examples, but trust me that it’s as redundant and uncomfortably long as a gag on Family Guy. For 1993’s Honor and Glory, Godfrey Ho assembled a cast of principals with which he’d double-dip later in the year for his American masterpiece, Undefeatable. As you’ll recall from our coverage of that film, Cynthia Rothrock was teamed with an unreasonably sweaty John Miller, but Honor and Glory finds them on opposite sides of the law. For my money, the result of this villain casting has become the stick by which all other rich white man villain roles should be measured.
Not everyone shares our enthusiasm for rich, white, male villains, though. Hotshot television reporter Joyce Pride (Jason) has staked her career on digging up sleaze and truth, and she’s just turned her sights on local bank executive Jason Slade (Miller). His shady business practices and alleged physical intimidation of investigators and regulators have made him a very controversial topic in the news media.
He’s a martial arts practitioner and a raging dickhead, but Slade still feels the need to employ an army of bodyguards headed by Jake Armstrong (Jeffreys) a well-dressed kung fu and boxing expert. Jake is constantly attached at his boss’s hip to assure that pesky, scandal-seeking reporters and photographers are put in their place. You know, the place where people in the news media get beat up for asking questions and cameras are smashed on sight (China, and occasionally, the Michelle Bachmann campaign trail). Jake has never really pondered the implications of Slade’s business activities but a recent flurry of media inquiries and assassination attempts has him rethinking the ethical value of his gig.
What’s a maligned financial figure to do when regulators are knocking at the door, assassins are around every corner, and a driven reporter is sitting on video testimony detailing the fraud you committed to the tune of $1 billion? First, you clear your calendar and cancel your prayer breakfast with ex-President Ronald Reagan. Then blow off some steam by angrily practice kung fu weapon forms on your back patio. But you want to stay productive, so you acquire a stolen activator to a nuclear weapon from an Arab businessman in a deal arranged by a white street pimp named Silk (Klein). Makes sense, right?
The latter point has drawn the attention of federal agencies, and Joyce’s FBI agent sister, Tracy (Rothrock) has come back from an assignment in Hong Kong to sniff out the stolen and extremely volatile goods. For most, black-market nuclear espionage would be enough on your plate but Tracy also uses her time at home to play peacemaker between her younger sister and their semi-retired workaholic covert agent father. Joyce resents her Pops for sending her to live with her mother while Tracy resided with her father following their parents’ separation. In itself, it’s not such a terrible thing unless you conclude that the living situation led her to pursue a career in a dying journalism industry, while Tracy probably got to learn about cool shit like waterboarding and handgun recoil management.
The film juggles its loose ends all the way to the finish line (no easy task) and while you won’t be left scratching your head, you might be left palming your face. This is a Godfrey Ho movie, after all. Things come to a head in a warehouse of all places, and you might be equally surprised to find that the climax is comprised of three different climactic fights intercut together! Ho breaks out all the stops: cardboard boxes, confounding cargo nets, and Jason Slade in a tracksuit drinking a Heineken while also handling a pair of Chinese meditation balls.
Understandably, Cynthia Rothrock gets top billing but this is more of an ensemble piece with emphases on the Joyce Pride and Jason Slade character arcs. As the chippy news reporter, Donna Jason does an admirable job and both her acting and fighting skills are more than competent. Also along for the ride as visiting Interpol agent Dragon Lee is Robin Shou but his scattered inclusion feels like he might have just been killing time before a red-eye flight. Ho juggles the characters as best he can, but it often takes away from the best elements of his movie: the action, and the villain.
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.” Seriously, who writes this stuff? Oh right, “Herb Borkland.” Definitely a real person. No matter the creative source, Miller hits the role out of the park and it’s a welcomed change from his unbearably wholesome performance in Undefeatable.
Is it possible to discuss a movie featuring Chuck Jeffreys without mentioning his similarities in cadence and line delivery to Eddie Murphy? Well, shit -- I kind of just undermined myself so I guess not. With the Murphy factor turned down to a tawdry 4, Jeffreys is engaging as usual, and despite not getting a properly climactic fight, he still brings terrific athleticism to his action scenes. Director Godfrey Ho even hints at some martial artist romance between the Jake and Joyce characters in a scene where they lock chopsticks while battling over a lunch of green beans. HOT.
Similarly to Undefeatable, the fight choreography is above-average for an American martial arts film. Nothing here is as goofy and unhinged as that film’s sweaty basement fight climax, but the action moves at a good clip and everyone gets an opportunity to show their skills. For an obvious low-budget film, Ho makes decent use of different fighting locations and talent, but I’d be remiss if I failed to mention that the climax in Honor and Glory is a bit too abrupt and way too clean. I blame my inflated expectations on the protracted eye-trauma carnage of Undeatable, but I would guess that Slade’s comeuppance is fitting when you consider that most white-collar crimes are forgiven after nothing more than hefty fines and early retirement.
While it doesn’t reach the same levels of camp and absurdity that audiences saw in Undefeatable, Honor and Glory makes a damn fine companion piece. You get a bit less Rothrock (bad), but a lot more Chuck Jeffreys (good) and villainous John Miller (incredible). It’s a bit of a shame that Godfrey Ho is better known for his cut-and-paste ninja shenanigans than (somewhat) original films like this, because he had the capacity to create an enjoyable action romp. Give it a watch, or risk having your “testicles peeled like grapes.”
Stuck in Save purgatory on Netflix, but pick your format poison (VHS or DVD) on Amazon and EBay.
5.5 / 7