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  American Shaolin The Chinese Way
Year: 1992
Director: Lucas Lowe
Stars: Reese Madigan, Trent Bushey, Daniel Dae Kim, Billy Chang, Cliff Lenderman, Henry O, Kim Chan, Alice Zhang Hung, Jean Louisa Kelly, D.D. Delaney, Sifu Jai, Michael Depesquale Jr, Toki Hill, Alan Pottinger, Andrew Shue, Donna Rogers, Mark Swetland
Genre: Comedy, Drama, Martial ArtsBuy from Amazon
Rating:  5 (from 1 vote)
Review: Trevor Gottitall (Trent Bushey) is a martial arts expert who is not backwards about coming forwards when it comes to his talents in the fighting arena. See today as he trains with the best combatants his manager can find, and he manages to beat them utterly, with his final opponent's trousers falling down when he is hit hard, which gives Trevor an idea for the coup de grace of his next championship bout. So it is that he is competing with the best America has to offer until he gets to the final where he's up against Drew Carson (Reese Madigan): he finishes him off decisively, then yanks his trousers down for the ultimate humiliation...

Wait a minute, waaaait a minute: Trevor Gottitall?! What kind of a name is that? But that was par for the course in this, what was supposed to be the fifth movie in the No Retreat, No Surrender series which as the last few had been, was nothing to do with what had gone before plotwise, no recurring characters whatsoever. Same Hong Kong production team, however, and to be fair there was a stronger connection between this and the tournament based dramatics of the first instalment, but we had a new hero to contend with here, played by one hit wonder Madigan, who like his predecessors enjoyed a small amount of cult adulation for his efforts in this series.

This was your basic martial arts training flick of which Hong Kong kung fu specialists were all too familiar, only here with supposed international appeal thanks to the American in the lead. The plot has it that Drew is so down about his defeat that his master is forced to admit he wasn't a Shaolin after all, which gives our hero an idea: take a trip to China and become a Shaolin monk himself, thereby learning everything there is to know about fighting, and return to get his own back on everyone who laughed at him (and there were a lot of people laughing at him). Easier said than done when he doesn't speak the language, but after a while he has made friends with local Ashena (Alice Zhang Hung) who suggests a plan of action.

This involves sitting outside the temple until they let him in, without apparently eating anything or taking a toilet break, though if he's not consuming any food maybe he doesn't need to. Anyway, once we've learned the lesson about applying yourself with obsessive self-discipline, Drew is made a pupil, though not everyone's convinced an Occidental has what it takes to make it in the Orient. And to be honest, the way he grumbles and rebels against authority as if he were in a martial arts Animal House or something suggests he's not really right for this way of life, so much so that even the high priest of the monks is moved to point this out. Making this even less palatable is the way Drew encourages Westernisation in his cohorts, which in effect means singalongs to Eddie Cochrane's Summertime Blues.

That's every bit as cringemaking as it sounds, by the way, but you were watching a mixture of genres, the kung fu flick and the American high school comedy, not that this was especially funny, or not intentionally at any rate. Before long the knucklehead is putting his hands in hot ashes and balancing atop poles in time-honoured fashion, so that he gets to have his cake and eat it, being the rebel and receiving the training which will see off any villains and with any luck keep his trousers up should he meet Mr Gottitall again. Do you think he will? Do you think there will be a grand showdown at the end between them? Hmm? Think that's a possiblity? In the meantime enjoy Corey Yuen's choreography (let's hope he didn't choreograph the dancing too) and recognise Daniel Dae Kim, future star of television's sci-fi sensation Lost, as an antagonist who warms to the lead's obnoxious charms. Essentially this was one of those Rocky IV-esque pandering "Americans can match the foreigners at their own game" efforts. Music by Richard Yuen.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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