Martial Outlaw

Director: Kurt Anderson                        
Jeff Wincott, Gary Hudson, Richard Jaeckel

SMACK! WHACK! BIFF! POW! CRUNCH! THUNK! SPLAT! Those, and many similar sounds can be heard in Martial Outlaw, a movie where the description "bone-crunching" is really apt. So we're not exactly into subtle material here, but so what? Martial Outlaw is a goofy, but a fun goofy movie where it's pleasurable to see glaring gaffes and very familiar clichés. And of course, it really gets the blood going seeing all the numerous scenes of jocks brutally kicking the crap out of each other. As well as punching, slapping, elbowing, and hitting with various instruments the crap out of each other. It's fun seeing people get hurt!

Jeff Wincott plays Kevin, a member of the Drug Enforcement Agency who has just made a breakthrough on his investigation of Russian mafia activity in California - he's just convinced a member of the gang to testify against his fellow members in exchange for immunity. It no doubt helped that a few minutes earlier, Kevin saved the poor guy's life after he was being threatened by two muggers near the opening, staging the first fight of the movie where Kevin leaps in and proceeds to beat the crap out the muggers. CRACK! THUD! BONK! Meanwhile, in Los Angeles, Jack, who is Kevin's brother and an L.A.P.D. cop, answers a hostage call in a China shop. Jack enters the shop to "negotiate" with the robbers - and guess who plays one of the robbers? That's right - Al Leong! (He's that balding goateed Asian guy who always appears in bit parts in movies of this kind.) No movie from Al Leong can be bad, so I knew the rest of the movie would be good. So what, in the next scene when Jack starts to attack and beat the crap out of the robbers, he finds a golf club (in an antique store?), and uses it to inflict additional crap removal? It just adds more TTTHWACK! CRUNCH! SPLAT! to the movie. Continuing his investigation, Kevin travels to L.A., staying with Jack, their father, and Jack's wife, who seems to still have a crush on Kevin. Jack offers his assistance to Kevin on his investigation, which Kevin accepts. However, Kevin doesn't know that Jack is secretly a dirty cop. Seeing a chance to make some serious cash, and in part to get back at his brother (who he's extremely jealous of), he decides to go to the chief Russian mobster to offer both information and protection.

The rest of the movie is fairly predictable (the investigation suffers severe setbacks, Jack becomes abusive to his wife, the brothers' father has a drinking problem knowing about Jack's secret life, Kevin finds out the truth, etc.), but I didn't care. The movie moves along at a fairly brisk pace, and the expected scenes are played with just enough seriousness by the actors so that these scenes don't either come across as badly handled or with awed respect. Production values are also good; though the film occasionally has a grainy look, the movie looks polished - not as much as a big-budget movie, but with enough to beat a typical TV police show. Wincott, as usual, acts and walks around like he has a long pole up his ass, though his seriously pumped-up body is unsurpassed in kicking crap. Hudson actually is one of the few martial artists I've seen that can both passably act and kick crap.

And then there are the fights. Though the fights don't measure up to the best fights from Hong Kong movies, they are definitely above average, well-directed and well-choreographed. And they have a feature that even many Hong Kong movie fights lack - bone crunching. These are some of the most long and brutal fights I've seen in any martial art movie. Two fight scenes - at a Russian restaurant, and in a gymnasium - really stand out. Both scenes have the protagonists and antagonists proceeding to beat the crap out of each other, and then continuing on...and on...and on...and on... and on...and on! The fight at the Russian restaurant went on for so long, I started to roll on the floor laughing at how absurd it was becoming. I think the director also sensed this, because then the fight becomes very silly, leading to a howling finale when the protagonists use moves such as landing ten punches on some guy's belly in less than two seconds. What's really funny is that until the end of the fight, everyone keeps getting up off the floor pretty quickly, as if nothing really happened. Same with the endless gymnasium fight, having highlights like someone picking up a small dumbbell with one hand and whacking it against several people's heads. The same person later picks up a 50lb barbell weight with both hands and also whacks it against a couple of heads.

Martial Outlaw is martial arts exploitation at its finest.

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See also: Back In Action, Body Armor, Mission Of Justice