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‘Best of the Best 2’

By Richard Harrington
Washington Post Staff Writer
March 08, 1993


Robert Radler
Eric Roberts;
Phillip Rhee;
Christopher Penn;
Wayne Newton;
Ralph Moeller;
Meg Foster
Under 17 restricted

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The best martial arts movies are well-oiled stupid fun. "Best of the Best 2" fits the bill, not only because it's the sequel to a decent original but because it further lives up to its name by borrowing bits and pieces from other genre films. Among the purloined parts: the Coliseum, an underground fight palace where the only rule is "no referees, no rules"; a widowed karate champ, now retired into teaching and consumed with raising a son who desperately wants to be a chop off the old block; a killer hulk with an unfortunately Schwarzeneggerish accent, and slimy ringmaster Wayne Newton, apparently working hard to pay off his debts.

In the original film Alex Grady (Eric Roberts), Tommy Lee (Phillip Rhee) and Travis Brickley (Christopher Penn) overcame personal obstacles to lead the U.S. karate team to a world championship. Now they've opened a dojo in Las Vegas, which is also home to the Coliseum, a secret club situated beneath a disco. It's the site of single-elimination gladiator bouts ultimately leading to an encounter with the undefeated and decidedly bulky Brakus (Ralph Moeller,a former Mr. Universe best known for his modeling career overseas).

Travis gets talked into the Coliseum, where Brakus promptly breaks his neck after a thumbs down from the audience. This particular fight is barely believable since Penn looks more like an overweight wrestler trying to stave off a cholesterol attack (maybe the casting director wanted brother Sean Penn). Alex's son Walter (Edan Gross) sees the whole thing, and everything thereafter is as inevitable as it is predictable. Bad guys try to kill Alex, Walter and Tommy; the good guys hide out in the desert and train for revenge in the ring; they find a mentor in James (the imposing Sonny Landham), who, conveniently, is one of the few to have survived an encounter with Brakus; Tommy is kidnapped and forced into combat against Brakus, still quite mad about a small scratch Tommy made on his face in an earlier encounter ("You heff skarrd my perrfaction! Ferr thiss I will keeel you").

In terms of the fights (which are plentiful), Rhee is clearly the star, and the preliminaries leading up to his encounter with Brakus are both visceral and funny. As Brakus, Moeller is scarier than an IRS audit. If he can ever learn to talk, he'll be okay. Meg Foster is featured in one of the few small roles left for women in these films, and with those pale and limpid Stepford eyes, she may actually be scarier than Brakus. Somebody buy that lady some contact lenses, please!

"Best of the Best 2" is rated R and contains some standard shoot-'em-ups and bone-breakings.

© Copyright 1999 The Washington Post Company

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