Reviewed by

Christopher Armstead

Who doesn’t like a good, kung fu style action flick?  I know I do.  If I have two movies in my hand, one being, say, ‘Casablanca’ and the other being some action based kung fu style fighting movie I’ve never seen, then the kung fu movie will win out every single time.  Ultimately, I will probably leave my seat upset, depressed, disappointed and angry at the horror that I’ve just witnessed, but I had to give it a try.  Of course by now I know that if some kind of Kung Fu flick doesn’t originate from somewhere in China without Yuen Woo Pings named attached to it somehow, there's a chance it's going to be complete garbage.  I mean how many ‘Gymkata’s’, Michael Dudikoff flicks, Don ‘The Dragon’ Wilson flicks or Chuck Norris disasters does one have to see to finally figure out that this is a genre we simply do not excel at over here on the west side of the Pacific?  But still we try and still I watch.  Today’s hope for a decent American fighting film is director David Worth’s ‘Honor’.  Hey, it stars Russell Wong who has made more than one appearance in a decent fight film, former WWF superstar Roddy Piper, and a couple of cats named Gracie who UFC fans know are the first family of mixed martial arts combat are in this film too, so how bad can ‘Honor’ be?  Very bad, as it would turn out.

Wong portrays a never do well named Ray who is just out of the clink after years of being locked away as a teen for killing a gang member and the police officer son of  Police Officer L.T. Tyrell (Piper).  This killing was apparently accidental, but prison didn’t do such a good job of rehabbing Ray who spits in the face of Tyrell when he offers his hand in help.  There’s a crime empire to run and Ray’s the one to run it.  So I’m guessing the code on the street in this mythical version of LA is that if I’m the boss and you kick my ass then you’re the new boss.  Ray kicks some dudes ass, then everybody starts clapping and they crown him the new boss.  As bosses tend the do in

these situations, Ray and his crew start extorting ‘protection’ dollars from the local businesses and are just being overall bad citizens.  This isn’t lost on the mysterious and overly brooding Gabriel (Jason Barry).  A gulf war vet and adopted son of L.T. Tyrell, he follows Ray and his goons as they do their dirty work, and is none to happy about it.  He and Ray were homies back in the day, with Ray going down the bad path and receiving his ed from prison and Gabe getting his knowledge from the gubment war machine.  Ray wants Gabriel to be down, but Gabe is like ‘hell to the no’ so Ray proceeds to beat up everybody Gabriel knows until he joins up.  Together they can rule the streets you see.  Ray only answers to the streets you see.  Well there has to come some kind of impasse where these two fierce warriors must face each other and of course, then it is on.

So what exactly makes ‘Honor’ such a poor film?  The problems start from frame one, and it’s a two fold issue there.  The film begins with a fight scene interspersed between the credits.  I can see where the filmmakers would think, being that this is a fight movie, that starting the movie with a fight scene is a good idea, and the two fighters were probably the best fighters in the movie on top of that.  However, the scene was poorly shot and edited and it kept cutting away from the fight scene to run some credits or some other montage, plus it made the opening credit sequence well over five minutes long.  So we are watching a chopped up fight scene for over five minutes and the movie hasn’t even started yet, since this particular fight scene had absolutely no bearing on the rest of the movie in any way, shape or form. 

You also know you’re going to have some trouble with a movie when Rowdy Roddy Piper is the best actor in your production.  By far.  I mean I like Russell Wong, particularly in that whole ‘Vanishing Son’ series from the 90’s, but he’s about as believable as a hardened street thug as the other dude in the movie, Jason Barry, is as an Iraq war vet.  Russell seemed a little too long in the tooth for starters for the whole ruthless street thug bit, and the whole gray slacks and silk shirt get up didn’t help matters either.  No matter how close you shave his head.  Now watch Russell in ‘Romeo must Die’ as a sophisticated, duplicitous, smooth villain sporting a double lined silk Mandarin collar suit and now you’ve got the role that dude was born to play.   But where Russell Wong was simply miscast, Jason Barry shouldn’t have been cast at all.  In this film all he does for its relatively short running time is brood and brood some more.  He gives his character no depth, history or meaning.  He obviously has no fighting skills since his stuntman seemed to be a good fifty pounds heavier than Mr. Barry, plus he and Wong seemed to be about fifteen years apart in age, which seriously throws into question their being running partners back in the day.

The crown jewel of the film which should have been the fight scenes were poorly staged overall and weren’t shot with enough skill to generate any kind of real excitement.  It looked as if the filmmakers had some good fighters to work with, including Jason Barry’s stunt double, but I’m going to go ahead and assume that shooting a decent fight scene is a highly developed skill that not just anyone can do.

Not a lot to recommend here as the pacing was suspect, that acting was poor, the fight scenes were subpar and the overall quality of the filmmaking was fairly low.  But sadly if I was holding a copy of ‘Honor 2:  Ray’s Revenge!’ I would watch that over, say, ‘Citizen Kane’ in a heartbeat.  Sad.

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