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Sunday, 6 August 2017

Retro Review: Best of The Best 3: No Turning Back (1995)

Best of the Best 3: No Turning Back
Cast: Phillip Rhee, Christopher McDonald, Gina Gershon, Mark Rolston, Peter Simmons
Genre: Martial Arts Action

Plot: A martial arts instructor comes to the defence of a school teacher, who has taken a stand against a local White supremacist organisation

'Best Of The Best 3 Is Even Less'

Racism rears its ugly head, and in Best of the Best, this is in more ways than one. Some people like to judge - & hate, purely on the basis of the colour of the other person's skin and in Best of the Best 3, the film seeks to drive home this message, loud & clear. The problem is that by doing so, in B-movie style, its level of potency and astonishment that it wants to propel to the audience, doesn't come through. 

The third outing in the Best of the Best franchise sees a shift towards being an action thriller and less so as a sports tournament competition, as it was initially intended. The series has had a different installment: the first in well- known names in B-cinema in Eric Roberts, Chris Penn and James L. Jones, the second film was smaller but with Phillip Rhee replacing Eric's Alex Grady as the film's main character, and here, with Best of the Best 3, Rhee carries on the mantle of the main protagonist hero, as well as taking over the directing reigns. 

In this film, Rhee as Tommy returns to his hometown of Liberty to pay a visit to his sister, with his sister married to a local sheriff and Tommy's brother-in-law, Jack Banning (no, not that Jack Banning of the film, Hook), only to discover a hotbed of racism and murder orchestrated by members of a group reminiscent of the Westboro Baptist Church. Disgusted Tommy then has to protect his community from the White supremacists, who shout lines such as 'White Power' & of whom murdered the father of a young Black kid, Luther. As well as this, Tommy also falls for the teacher, Margo. 

In many respects, this is about the Asian (American) dude beating up the White racists and it functions as a straight up traditional action movie. Even though the story still has Tommy as Native American for some odd reason. The acting across the board is not bad and like the previous movies, this is not an out- and- out martial arts flick, as it is a very story and narrative-driven. But the story in this one lacked grit, tension and plus, it wasn't as believable as I wanted it to be. If anything, it is so simple and straightforward and yet Best of the Best 3 requires little to no emotional attachment to the characters and their situations. As a B-movie, even by throwing in the racism subplot, this never becomes too extreme or threatening enough beyond the racial slurs being used. If this had been a Hollywood big-budget flick, then the subject matter of racism would be treated far more seriously and the racism itself would be far nastier. The script is definitely questionable and the performances are of B-movie level. Phillip Rhee is not leading man material, however - he just doesn't light up the screen; & yet, as much as you can say what you want about Eric Roberts, his character, Alex was charismatic and appealing. Same cannot be said for Rhee as Tommy and he gave a far more wooden performance than in the previous two instalments of the Best of the Best series. 

Still, it was nice to see an Asian-American as a lead protagonist and main character and whilst he is another kung-fu kicking hero, he is not buffoonish. 

Best of the Best 3 is very basic and ordinary in its setup and thus, doesn't live up to the standards that the previous 2 movies have set and but aside from the strong social and political message, the villains are portrayed in a manner that I couldn't take them seriously enough and they are instantly throw away and unmemorable and the low- budget martial arts fight scenes and shootouts, whilst nowhere as great as in say Hard Target, are average on the whole, but fairly standard for a B-movie. There is more shooting going on than martial arts and the martial arts scenes are tame. It makes Hard Target look like Casablanca by comparison. 

Final Verdict:

A martial arts B-movie that requires very little thought and being a B-movie, I suppose this is okay. However, I just couldn't and didn't connect with the main characters as much as I wanted to. The action was not bad, but the rest of the film wasn't that spectacular. Given as I enjoyed Best of the Best 1 and 2, I had high hopes that this one would be as good. 

Yet minus Eric Roberts and martial arts action that didn't live up to its billing, if I wasn't judging and comparing this film solely to the previous movies, then I'd say I'd be satisfied. But as it goes, Best of the Best 3 is not the best of the rest of this franchise. 

By tackling a serious subject matter in racism without making much of a ripple effect, this is also its movie's own Achilles heel.


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