ｒｙａｎ :]’s review published on Letterboxd:
For the amount of implied deaths and paralysis victims this film bludgeons on screen, its actually very sweet at its core.
Kinda crazy that people feel the need to parody and mock a type of film like this so heavily when all it cares about is cool stunts and good guys winning. Sure, it makes the film less powerful and loses potential thematic weight by doing this, but it definitely allows for some confident action and genuine characters. Modern day satire of such films are so empty and in trying to "critique" things like characters and action, they end up making it less human by picking an extreme rather than developing small and cutesy quirks or relationships. In one of the longest flashbacks I've ever seen Dux's training and motive are established through an event that changed his life as a child, and that is enough to establish a sense of morality and purpose in him immediately. Add a goofy slob as a mutually respected fighter, and you've got enough for just about anyone to care about even while recognizing flaws in it. One scene between Dux and Janice about the purpose behind their respective careers that boils down to proving themselves in this world to people that are important to them. Yeah sure, its cheesy and cliche but at least there's something behind these fights even at the bare minimum. There's definitely a reason this film has a cult following. The action is equal parts hokey and satisfying, and the minimal characters were not really explored but still had personalities. Direction is given and directions are followed, with the final fight resulting in the loser submitting verbally to the winner. In my opinion, this is a much smarter and cooler way to end a film like this not only because the villain now can understand what they've done wrong, but actually conceptualize their defeat as something that was more of an ego trip rather than the constructive process improving oneself it can be. The villains do not try and reap cheap rewards until someone who tries, even if they are not the most realized person ever, eventually wins. Not only does this make the journey to winning much more fun, but also dates it in the very genre beautifully.
The Hong Kong city that this film was shot in was torn down shortly after shooting, and the synth-led and reverberatory drummed soundtrack was synth-pop on its last leg before its subsequent revival in the 2010s. The grainy aesthetic of Hong Kong streets during midday, the burnt plastic you can almost smell rising from the intruments, and the overly optimistic and nationalistic tone was PEAK 80s filmmaking. This is everything an 80s martial arts film can be, a genre that is usually related to this decade, operating at its best. Frankie Dux insisted that this was a true story to make his mark on Hollywood where he otherwise would not have, and it turns out that this true story was fake. There's something to be said about the film that balances silly goofs and intense action being INSISTED that it is a true story and perfectly duping 80s audiences turning out to be fake but it not affecting the material found in the film here, but I'm not sure what conclusions to draw about this. Intentions are what drive art, and there's a lot going on here both on and off screen that people seem to overlook relating to intentions. The best thing I can form into words has something to do with Newt's passion behind this project being on screen whether the story is true or not, and passion isn't something you can fake.
But then again, Jean-Claude Van Damme punches someone in the schmeat so this movie is probably completely devoid of any effort so let's make fun of it!
Flawed Genuine Effort > Lackadaisical Irony any day.