Thursday, 27 May 2010

Best of the Best 4: Without Warning



BEST OF THE BEST 4: WITHOUT WARNING (1998)

Directed by: Phillip Rhee
Screenplay: Phillip Rhee & Fred Vicarel
Starring: Phillip Rhee, Tobin Bell & Ernie Hudson

Well the Best of the Best series managed to trundle on to a fourth installment and while this final entry is far from the cool tournament fight based fun of the first two outings, there is still enough low rent action fun to warrant at least one viewing. The original Best of the Best and its first sequel were, and still are, quality tournament fight films featuring martial artist Phillip Rhee and the always awesome Eric Roberts. Roberts jumped ship for Parts 3 and 4 with Rhee taking over the lead role along with writing and directing duties.



Here he abandons the tournament fight element and much like Part 3 goes for a straight up action film vibe. Still plenty of martial arts fights but this time we get all kinds of vehicle mayhem, explosions and a healthy dose of gunfire. Rhee is all around good egg Tommy Lee who happens to be a martial arts bad ass. He just wants to get along with everyone and raise his daughter the best he can. But due to some low budget action movie plot madness he gets mixed with Tobin (Jigsaw from the Saw flicks) Bell’s Russian bad dudes who want an incriminating disc Tommy has in his possession. Needless to say they kill a bunch of people Tommy knows, kidnap his daughter which leads to Tommy going off on a one man rampage, meaning there are regular bouts of over-the-top but entertaining action.

Cheesy action fluff this certainly is with hammy acting a go-go, absurd plot detours and some of the most annoying and ridiculously portrayed Russian heavies to be seen in a low rent action film. The film suffers from not having all of the original cast return and the whole thing is too much of a vanity project for star/producer/writer/director Rhee. He’s not that bad really but this entry is so ridiculous in many aspects, it even pushes what you can get away with in a ridiculous low budget action film. Tobin Bell certainly seems to be having fun but his character is never threatening and poor old Ernie (Ghostbusters) Hudson is obviously just there to pick up a pay cheque.



All plot goofiness and character absurdity aside (and one has to expect a lot of both in the 4th in a series of low budget action films), Best of the Best 4 is at least crammed with pretty cool action scenes. They range from the brutal and nicely choreographed to the absolutely bonkers. With a budget somewhat diminished since the first two entries, Rhee certainly aims high and goes for some pretty big spectacle. The opening truck raid/steal is certainly ambitious in scope but rendered rubbish by distinctly dodgy visual effects and another sequence involving a tanker, motorcycles and a helicopter is so improbable and over-the-top it just comes off as laugh out loud funny rather than thrilling. However, Rhee manages to even this out with some finely tuned displays of martial arts action and some thrilling scenes of firepower. Rhee choreographs his scenes with bite and punch and there is an inventive scene where he takes on a bunch of stick fighters, utilizing a fencing sword to thwart them off.

Nowhere near as good as Best of the Best 1 & 2 but still a lot of fun on its own barmy action terms, Best of the Best 4 entertains with its heavy dose of violently staged action and is overall your typical 1990s straight-to-video actioner. And if you are in the mood for that, then it will do.

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