"Don't let her cutesy stuff fool you—that individual carries around one major chunk of angry on that black belt."
Renowned karate experts Cynthia Rothrock and Richard Norton ("Zamir" in the unforgettable Gymkata) team up to crack some skulls in this early-'90s street-fighting flick. With many a fist a-flyin' and (sort of) female empowerment radiatin' the only question remains…Rage and Honor: an action-packed martial-arts bonanza, or just another mild entry into the Beat 'em Up Hall of Who Cares?
Facts of the Case
Kris Fairfield (Rothrock) leads a simple life as a self-defense trainer and inner-city high school teacher. That is of course when she's not opening cans of whoop-ass by the 12-pack! Note our first encounter with Fairfield as she tries to get some money from the ATM, when, lo! a gaggle of Generic Punks seek to ruin her day. Fairfield has other ideas, unleashing her brand of street justice with feet and fists. Parallel to this, we meet Preston Michaels (Norton), an Australian cop on some kind of international officer exchange program (this point is never really made clear) as he beats the cheesecake out of a couple of dapper thugs slapping around a woman. Thus, the filmmakers have clued us in on the major premise of the movie: here we have two folks who like to fight and can do it well!
The two warriors' paths intersect when Michaels sniffs out a network of crooked officers working for the mysterious—but nefarious—"Drago" (with a name like that, one's career choice is pretty much set in stone as "criminal kingpin" or "thug working for an international terrorist syndicate"). Drago is played by Brian Thompson, a member of the exclusive club of Guys Who Have Been in Every Movie Ever Made. Trust me, you'll recognize him.
Michaels finds himself set up, so he turns to Fairfield, and the two embark on a butt-kicking romp from goon to goon, until their exploits lead them to the inevitable confrontation with Drago.
First, let it be noted that though Rothrock gets top billing and sole display on the DVD cover, Norton is by far the karate centerpiece here. So while it's cool to see a tough-as-nails woman effectively throttle the criminal element, Rothrock gets the short end of the sai for on-screen brawl-time.
That out of the way, Rage and Honor isn't the saddest excuse for an action movie. The plot is as ordinary as they come, the acting sucks really, really hard, plausibility is non-existent, and the music is super-annoying. The action, while fairly unimpressive on its own rights, however is bountiful. Nary a moment goes by when someone isn't on the business end of a beat-down.
Norton—who has done plenty of time in assembly-line actioners—and Rothrock are both competent fighters, and managed to hold my interest throughout. Rothrock is a terrible actor, and while Norton is no Academy favorite either, he at least benefited from the choicer sound bites and one-liners.
Drago and his endless supply of fist-fodder are your typical villains. Of course, he should have known he stood no chance against Michaels and Fairfield when witnessing the duo's remarkable resilience to attack. Michaels, for instance, seems to have an immunity to bullets: he takes a slug straight to the gut but has enough energy to slap around a cop who opens fire in a hospital (!), and later gets shot in the quad, the only effect being a slight limp in his gait. Fairfield can fall fifty feet from a rooftop and land on a dumpster and survive. If I were Drago, I'd just surrender and set up a job interview with Cobra Commander.
Columbia TriStar provides a meat-and-potatoes approach to this DVD; well, more like tiny-piece-of-beef-jerky-and-an-old-french-fry approach. Aside from some movie trailers, the disc is a wasteland.
Picture is full-frame and sound comes in Dolby Digital stereo, accentuating the punching and kicking sound effects dynamically. Not sure if this is a good thing…
For a small enough price, Rage and Honor may provide a tidy amount of entertainment value. Filmmakers went with the "quantity over quality" tactic for the action, which, of course offers a dilemma: yes, it keeps the movie moving with few slow, talky parts, but the fact that the fight scenes themselves aren't very unique could still lull viewers into a fisticuff-fueled-funk.
The court thanks Mr. Norton and Mrs. Rothrock for their relentless, though repetitive, bashing and bruising and orders them to lay the smackdown on Columbia TriStar for putting out a too-lean disc.
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