Tuesday, 30 March 2010

Ring of Fire 3: Lion's Strike (1995)

Grandpa's got a gun!

What's up with the subtitle to this film? There aren't any lions, nor any super-powerful secret martial arts moves that go by that name. I feel cheated. Maybe it's explained in the first two Ring of Fire films, which according to my extensive research (five minutes on imdb) are a legitimate series with continuity and everything. This is a welcome change from Don "The Dragon" Wilson's Bloodfist films, which are united only by their inclusion of blood and fists.

In these films, Wilson plays Dr. Johnny Wu, medical practitioner/kickboxing champ. This seems like an unlikely combination, but it mustn't be that rare because when the film opens he's sparring on the roof of the hospital with a fellow kickboxer/doctor (Timothy D. Baker from No Retreat, No Surrender). They are interrupted by a bunch of mafia goons trying to break out their geriatric Don before he's transferred back to jail, and as the Don escapes in a helicopter he witnesses Wu shooting his grandson in self defence. You'd expect the rest of the film to be about the Don seeking vengeance, right? Wrong motherfucker, because Wu hangs off the side of the building and blows up the helicopter with a few shots from his magic pistol. Actually this sequence has fuck all to do with the rest of the movie; it's just an average day in the life of Dr. Johnny Wu, Ass-Kicker MD.

Things are pretty stressful for our resident doctor/martial artist. Not only does he have to deal with the mafia shooting up the hospital staff and street punks tearing through the wards on their motorcycles, but he's also raising his son Bobby (played by Wilson's real-life son) alone, his wife having died in a car accident sometime after Ring of Fire 2. The hospital is critically understaffed as well, (especially after Dr. Wu hospitalises a bunch of unruly street thugs in the emergency room) so naturally his boss decides it's the perfect time for Wu to take a holiday with his son. He even lends Wu his sweet mountain cabin, so remotely situated that his brick-sized cell phone has no reception. Gee, I wonder if that will come back to bite him.

Meanwhile, an international co-operation of organised crime bosses are branching out into the lucrative field of smuggling stolen nuclear weapons. This "worldwide mafia" includes some other Italian mafia guys, the Russian mob, the Chinese triads, the Bogota drug cartel and the Yakuza. Once again the black man is excluded by The Man, but a couple of enterprising young African Americans decide to break into the mafia's offices themselves, stealing, among other things, a floppy disk containing 1.44 Mb of hard evidence implicating the crime bosses in their smuggling operation. Some mafia goons kill one thief and chase the other down in a big explosion-y car chase, but when Dr. Wu stumbles across them and intervenes the fucking idiots run away and leave the bag of loot behind. Naturally the bag is identical to Wu's doctorin' bag, so in a mix-up that makes no sense whatsoever, Wu heads off to the remote cabin with the diskette.

Up at the cabin Wu and Bobby are busy inspecting a caged wildcat when they run across Kelly Scarborough (Bobbie Phillips), Army Ranger turned Park Ranger with a penchant for tight-fitting ribbed turtlenecks. "Pretty nice cougar, huh?" says Bobby. It sure is. Actually, early in the film Wu mentions that Bobby is desperate for a new mom, and he's not kidding. When Wu teams up with her to deliver a beat down to some poachers Bobby gets so excited he pounds the shit out of their groceries. Impressed by her fighting skills, Wu invites her to their cabin for a super awkward date and when they kiss Bobby pumps his fists and shouts "Yes!" I think Wu needs to have a word with him about the realities of dating. It could get pretty traumatic if she doesn't stick around for Ring of Fire 4.

Anyway, after their date is over the bad guys manage to track them down and surround the cabin. There's a pretty weird continuity error when one of the goons collapses from a blow-dart in the neck before Wu even knows they are there, but the long and short of it is that Wu manages to sneak up and take them out while they are blowing the shit out of the cabin and their car. The remainder of the bad guys somehow manage to escape back to the city, gather reinforcements (including a Russian psychopath who hates being called "Boris") and fly back to the mountain long before Kelly and Wu can stash Bobby at a nearby farm and hoof it back to civilisation.

This kicks off a Hard Target style style cat-and-mouse game as the Russian/Italian mobsters chase them through the snow and shoot everything in sight. Wu and Kelly use the poachers' bear traps to their advantage, but things get pretty weird when the bad guys stumble into trip mines and net traps. Are trip mines standard poaching equipment or were Wu and Kelly able to rustle them up with whatever they had on hand? Anyway, the dastardly Russian ends up heading back to farm and kidnapping Bobby, arranging an exchange for the disk at some factory somewhere (when deciding the setting for their action movie climax the filmmakers flip a coin that says "abandoned warehouse" on one side and "factory" on the other).

Wu seeks the help of a cop, a friend from the earlier films from what I can gather, who refuses to inform the rest of the force, adding that most of the force is in the mafia's pocket and that "they said no cops!" Wow, fantastic. The two of them head to the factory for the final showdown and when the Russians make a last-minute power grab from the Italians, Wu is given enough time to snatch his son and have his sweaty, shirtless, somewhat anti-climatic fight with the evil Russian.

This is a pretty terrible movie by any metric you care to name, but for Direct-to-Video it's pretty action packed, even if the action doesn't always make sense or have anything to do with the plot. Actually, this is one of the most enjoyable Don "The Dragon" Wilson film I've ever seen. I also like the idea of a doctor who beats people up in his spare time, so maybe I'll track down the other Ring of Fire films. I have to mention the hand-painted art they used for the DVD menu, though. I mean, I know I picked this up in a 12-pack of dodgy action films so I'm lucky there's any menu at all, but... Jesus, just look at it. Who did that, Rob Liefeld? Is that supposed to be Don "The Dragon" Wilson? Nice font for the title too. Holy shit.


Direct to Video Connoisseur said...

Hey, I just came across your site while looking for a cover image to this film for my own review. I too had to snatch the grandpa firing an Uzi at Wilson image as I was watching it, because it was just too sweet. Great stuff.

Dave said...

It's definitely a highlight, especially since it has absolutely nothing to do with the rest of the movie.