Lionsgate // 2007 // 91 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge David Johnson // May 23rd, 2008
One rule: win or die.
These guys beat on each other's faces. The end.
A powerful mob boss pits his two most dangerous henchmen against each other in a high stakes contest of mortal combat. Well, not them specifically, but they're on the hook for tracking down the best fighters that can be found sleazing around the streets and unleashing them on each other. The prize for the winner? The loser is forced to leave the city.
Though both of these guys are established criminals, one is worse than the other and he recruits a psycho killer to participate in the bloodsport. On the other side is a disgraced champion was once forced to throw a fight. But this time he's ready to crack some skulls.
TKO is another Bloodsport/Kickboxer/Lionheart knockoff (all of which, to be fair, are all knockoffs of each other), just less slow-motion triple kicks and a glaring lack of Forest Whitaker. Actually, I enjoyed all those other movies leagues more than I did this, a beat 'em up that lacks compelling enough fight choreography to make up for the typically inept plotting and acting found in these kinds of facebusters.
Not to say the fight scenes are bad. They aren't. They're just uninteresting. Director Declan Mulvey knows how to shoot the fisticuffs and thankfully avoids the trap of inserting distracting stylistic techniques that do little more than cloud the action. No, you'll get an eyeful when he turns his lens onto his actors and stunt doubles. The thing is the actual fights fail to register the visceral impact necessary to elevate TKO beyond the lower tier of hand-to-hand epics. The actors are okay, physically imposing and boasting a fine set of moves, but there's nothing here that will make you forget about Tony Jaa anytime soon.
There are a handful of fights that pop during the runtime, some shorter and less than impressive that others, capping by an extended throw-down between the two main fighters at the end. No surprise how any of this plays out. When our hero steps into the ring take out the Final Bad Guy, he's forced once more to throw the fight, which he does, until of course the supporting cast comes up huge and frees him of his responsibility and the dude drops the hammerlock on his foe. It all unspools precisely as you've seen in other movies and still, incidentally, falls prey to one major plot loophole inherent in these scenarios -- if a guy is going to throw a fight, why prolong the ass-kicking? Unless, of course, he's read the script and knows he'll be able to stop faking it and plant his boot in the d-bag's throat.
About the plot and acting -- the less said the better. The story is nigh non-existent, existing only to meekly tie fight scenes together. There are a few corrupt cops as bad guys, which explains how they spring the Big Bad from prison, but they're essentially just your typical dickheads. There's an incredibly lame adventures-in-babysitting plotline with that involves the boss's underage step-daughter and multiple trips to the local strip bar.
The 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen has its moments, but more than a few scenes are hit with grain and uneven color levels. The 5.1 Dolby Digital surround projects the crotch kicks fine. Extras? Nil.
A mediocre fighter in all regards. TKO indeed.
Throw in the towel.
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Scales of Justice
* 2.35:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
Running Time: 91 Minutes
Release Year: 2007
MPAA Rating: Rated R