Saturday, 25 February 2017

Retro Review: Best Of The Best 2 (1993)

Best of the Best 2
1993
Cast: Eric Roberts, Phillip Rhee, Chris Penn, Ralph Moeller
Genre: Martial Arts
U.S Box Office Gross: over $6 million 

Plot: Karate champions Alex and Tommy enter the world of underground fighting when their friend is killed in an illegal arena called The Colosseum. Here, there are no rules, and Tommy and Alex are viciously attacked when they attempt to seek justice. Running for their lives, the two men seek refuge in the desert where they train in the ancient Native American tradition for a final battle - one for honour, revenge and survival 




'Worthy Follow-up Sequel In This David/Goliath Showdown'

I almost passed up on this sequel, literately, after reading so many negative reviews on it from professional movie critics in particular, but after viewing the first film before Christmas of last year, I enjoyed so much that I wanted to delve into the follow-up, Best of the Best 2. And to my surprise and happiness, I'm so glad that I did. Best of the Best 2 is and was also the last film in the series to be given a theatrical release - before the series went down the direct-to-video pathway. 

Alex (Eric Roberts -minus the 80s mullet/ponytail from the first Best of the Best) and Tommy (Phillip Rhee) have opened up a new karate school of their own. Alex's son, Walter is a little older and has matured into a budding martial artist, even though he didn't pass the final exam. When their friend, the somewhat arrogant SOB and reformed racist, Travis has his necked snapped by his opponent, by the name of Brakus, and as a result, he dies. When Walter sees this happening, he goes and informs his dad and Tommy and the pairing confront the manager, who denies the whole thing, and a fight breaks out. 

Entertainment-wise, this is such a leaps and bounds from 1989's Best of the Best and as it goes even further with the action and martial arts sequences. Whereas the first film was more of a sports-like drama with that competitive edge, this film is more along the lines of the usual straight up action martial arts film, and they really upped the ante with the action and even larger-than-life villains. 

The competition is played out in a similar vein to the gameshow format of The Running Man with its Gladiator-style coliseum. Best of the Best 2 is virtually a martial arts version of 1987 Arnie sci-fi flick and its atmosphere harks back to video games such as Streets of Rage, Final Fight, Streetfighter II and Double Dragon.

What I really liked about this film was that although the competitive fighting tournament aspect was still here, they took it to a much different direction that, I for one, had not had foreseen and though it becomes a general martial arts action film, Best of the Best 2 also becomes a highly watchable one to boot also.  

What I didn't like though was the scene with Tommy's brother, James who drunkenly challenges Tommy to a fight - and yet as he is getting his ass whooped, he's spitting blood and vomiting everywhere in sight. By that point, I was thinking that it was getting too dumb and that it wasn't that funny to me, anyway. 

The melodrama that was in the prequel is in this film as well, and it is well done and too overdone. The story itself is average and isn't really that big of a deal for me when it comes to martial arts films in general; as I tend to watch them for the fights, although the acting performances in the Best of the Best movies tend to be good, but for the third and fourth offerings. The one difference in this film is that Alex and Tommy are fighting to avenge their best friend, Travis, who dies, rather than about winning the competition. The fights are slightly longer, are a lot more brutal and bloody, given this is no holds barred and there are no rules and there is always chance of getting killed. The martial arts fight scenes themselves are good, but not as good as in the first film; I feel the quality isn't as great here as it was in the prequel, yet they still do their job. Though Phillip Rhee's kicks are still as deadly, swift-moving and as hard-hitting as ever. Here, he is a lot more agile, flexible, as well as stronger and his range is a lot wider. Eric Roberts gets a lot of flak for his performances and whilst his character Alex, is not as much as in the forefront as he was in Best of the Best, I thought he did well. 

Ralf Moeller has such a physically menacing presence to him and when he fights, he is a total tough cookie to beat. He's like a combination of Arnold Schwarzenegger and Dolph Lundgren into one. 

Best of the Best 2 is a sequel I enjoyed just as much as the first film; even if it is formulaic and predictable, and is one of the fewer examples where lesser known sequels are as good as the original film. There is a lot more going on this film, besides the fights themselves; the story is more palpable and arguably there are more types of violent action scenes here than before; that and a lot of it is far more enjoyable to watch. 

Another good thing about it is it's one of those action films where you think it is going to slow down after an action scene takes place and it takes a while for the next scene to build up; well, that is not like that with Best of the Best 2





Final Verdict:

Way back in 1993, these types of martial arts films were going out of favour with the general movie-going public, as well as action film fans as they were replaced by more slicker offerings that contain more quality action scenes. 


Best of the Best 2 is less campy than the first film, but at the same time, though it can get ridiculous in places, it still retains that high entertainment factor. It has conviction, lots of action, emotion, some humour, some fights, explosions and is thoroughly watchable. I had a blast with this one. 


Though it can't compare with the likes of Bruce Lee, Jackie Chan and Jet Li's offerings, nor is it up there with say Hard Target, the Best of the Best 1 & 2 films still contains some really good fight sequences. 

It may lack the heart of the first movie, but it makes up for it in abundance in every other department. Best of the Best 2 is a David vs Goliath martial arts showdown that can certainly withstand multiple viewings. If you are a fan of martial arts action films, then you might want to take a look at this film and its predecessor. 



*score last updated: 28 April, 2017*

Overall: 









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