January 8, 2014

Best of the Best Series: A Retrospective

Sometimes when a movie becomes a franchise things are bound to change.  Take Lethal Weapon, it went from gritty, to more humorous, but still stuck with the same formula of 2 buddy cops fighting crime.  Fast and Furious, went from a B film to a box office juggernaut adding cast members and changing to a crime drama that keeps continuing.  However, it always stayed with the back drop on the car chase scenes. 

Sometimes you get the series where the lead changes like in Kickboxer, which is covered as they explain the main guy is dead, and this new guy is his brother.  Then you have a series like Best of the Best that drops characters, and changes completely.  This film goes from Drama, to revenge, to revenge again, to espionage thriller.

Best of the Best is actually a very slow and dull film about a group of Tae Kwon Do fighters from the good old USA going to the Olympics to compete against the Korean team.  They’re lead by Coach James Earl Jones.  Not sure how he’s a Tae Kwon Do coach, other than he is a good actor who needed a check at this time.  Their head fighter is Eric Roberts, followed by Phillip Rhee, and rounded out by Chris Pen. 

Along the way drama ensues, Roberts leaves then comes back, and in the feel good ending after they get beat by the Koreans, in a sign of respect the Koreans line up and give them their gold medals.  The karate scenes are ok at best, and the film made money, as well as gained a cult reputation.  So it was inevitable that part 2 would be made.  What was the plot of part 2?  They train for the rematch at the next Olympics?  No, they fight to the death.

In part 2 Chris Penn gets involved in an underground arena of death, very popular in films around this time, run by the evil Wayne Newton.  Yes, Robert Goulete was unavailable.  He gets killed by their head fighter, a massive man named Barakus.  Eric Roberts’ son witnesses this and tells his dad and Phillip Rhee who swiftly go out for revenge.  They have to skip town as they’re being chased by Wayne Newton’s men and head back to Phillip Rhee’s mom’s house so they can train with his brother, Sonny Landham.

Eventually Wayne Newton’s goons track them down and kidnap Phillip Rhee and he is forced to fight Barakus to the death. While this is happening, Eric Roberts calls up the Korean team from Part One and they raid the arena taking out every security guard in their path.  It culminated in the battle with Rhee and Barakus.  I must say this is just a great film, leaps and bounds better than part one.  So where do we go from here?  Barakus’s cousins come for revenge?  No, Phillip Rhee goes on vacation.

In 3 he leaves Roberts behind to go visit his old buddy Shooter Mcgaven, who is now a sheriff in a town over run by white supremacists.  They don’t like Phillip Rhee, so he beats them up.  These guys are really organized and even have a compound with like 300 members.  Too bad none of them know Tae Kwon Do, as Rhee easily defeats all of them and cleans up the town.  Eric Roberts is never mentioned.  So I assume Rhee simply went on vacation and had bad luck.  So where do we go with part 4?  More evil racists?  Nope.

In Best of the Best 4 Rhee is now working as a martial arts instructor for the local police department.  No, not in the same town as part 3.  In this city the Russian mob is counterfeiting US currency.  One of them decides to turn over to the Feds and puts all the evidence on a CD to give to the local DA. 

Too bad she gets whacked beforehand; luckily she is able to slip this CD to, you guessed it, Phillip Rhee.  Wouldn’t you know it, there are crooked cops, so he has to go on the run, clear his name, and defeat the evil Russian mobsters who have kidnapped his daughter.  This one has some really good chase scenes, as well as fantastic martial arts action.  Sadly, he should have called Eric Roberts for help, but he didn’t.

Not only did this series switch gears, it flew off the track.  There is no continuity between 2-4.  None.  Only similarity is Rhee plays the same character.  Don’t get me wrong, they are fantastic sequels that are all leaps and bounds better than part one.

Let’s summarize:

Part 1: Drama about Olympic hopeful team. 

Part 2: Underground Arena of Death. 

Part 3: Cleaning up a town overrun by racists.

Part 4: Defeating the Russian Mob. 


Are they fun?  You bet.  Do they make sense individually? You bet! Should they be considered a series? Hell no!

About the Author

Cory G
Cory G
I have a deep love for cinema, and from time to time I enjoy sharing my views on different films and topics.



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