Friday, May 17, 2019

Karate Rock

Karate Rock (aka Il ragazzo delle mani d'acciaio)
Fabrizio De Angelis

Just a year after Karate Kid III (1989) underwhelmed everyone, Italian director Fabrizio De Angelis released a movie that takes the same basic premise of the original Karate Kid (1984) stripped of  anything heartfelt or interesting and gave it into the world as Karate Rock. While the drama and the action completely fall flat, there some tremendously odd touches that occur during the course of the film that warrant at least a cursory viewing while you are folding laundry or waiting for the bus to finally show up.

Kevin Foster (Antonio Sabato Jr.) is a troublemaker and his dad, John (David Warbeck), is a cop who’s had enough of it. John dumps Kevin off on his friend (and martial arts master) Billy (Robert Chan). Kevin runs afoul of the local bully (and karate champion), Jeff (Andrew J. Parker) after winning a dance contest with Jeff’s recent ex-girlfriend, Kim (Natalie Hendrix). Kevin ignores the advances of his nerdy next door neighbor, Conny (Doran D. Field) while being challenged to car races and getting beat downs from Jeff. Kevin turns to Billy in hopes that he can teach him how to fight and defeat Jeff once and for all.

The only defense against atomic sit-ups.
You’ve seen the story of an outsider facing off against intolerant townies and their own lack of discipline a hundred times before, Karate Rock offers very little that is fresh or even engaging. The biggest flaw is that the martial arts, arguably the reason you’d ever pick this movie up, is weakly performed and filmed. To make matters worse, the entire journey of Kevin from dope to karate machine is crammed into the third act making it feel rushed. Perhaps this was a small favor on the part of the director seeing as the action is so bland.

Karate Rock does give us some goofy gems along the way: A side character who’s entire existence seems to be to eat ice cream cones and carry a dog around, two punks brought in by the cops for playing their trumpets late at night, and most notably, Kevin training while wearing a foam Jason Vorhees mask and smashing his face against a heavy bag repeatedly. None of this is enough to save the movie or even push it over into becoming enjoyably terrible.

"Who's king of the strip mall now, punk?"
If Karate Rock has one legitimately interesting it moment it comes at the very end; Kevin whups Jeff in a final karate battle (surprise), and not only defeats him but beats him badly and breaks his arm. Other movies might have their main character show some compassion for their foe or regret about the violence, Kevin mocks Jeff, practically spits on his prone body. Kevin becomes the bully. A smarter script could have build up to this moment and made it into a dark dramatic beat, but Karate Rock isn’t interested in anything more than getting from the finale to credits as quickly and cheaply as possible.

Out of 90 minutes, Karate Rock has about 20 seconds worth your direct attention, use your time wisely, I sure didn't.

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