Directed By: Richard Park
Written By: Simon Blake Hong, Jaime Mendoza
Produced By: Jun Chong
Cast: Jun Chong, Phillip Rhee, James Lew, Rosanna King, Bill Wallace
MPAA Rating: R
Runtime: 85 minutes
Review Date: November 5, 2010
When it comes to a low-budget martial arts film, I’m willing to overlook just about any problem with the script, acting, and overall lack of filmmaking craft as long as the fight scenes are exciting and well-choreographed. Unfortunately, L.A. Streetfighters has worse than usual problems when it comes to the factors I’m usually willing to turn a blind eye to. On top of that, the fight scenes range from awkward to competent to only occasionally exciting.
Tony (Phillip Rhee, better known from the Best of the Best films) is the new kid at a Los Angeles area high school. Threatened by Chan (James Lew), the leader of a multi ethnic gang of snarling thugs, Tony falls in with another gang led by Young (Jun Chong). Young and his gang love to fight, but never go after the defenseless like Chan’s gang. When the owner of a personal security firm sees Young beat Chan senseless, he hires the gang to work security at clubs and private parties.
This barebones plot is just an excuse for Young, Tony, and crew to engage in several fight scenes with different aggressors. These scenes should be the reason to watch the film, but more often than not, the stuntmen that are brought in to get kicked around by Chong and Rhee are not very skilled at martial arts. This is probably attributable to the low budget, as is the pedestrian direction by Richard Park (an alias for veteran Korean action film director Woo-sang Park) that is unable to cover up the obvious inexperience of the stuntmen portraying hapless victims. Two fight scenes between Young and Chan, one between Tony and Chan, and one between Young and a thuggish assassin (Bill Wallace) have moments of impressive choreography, but they are the exceptions to the very sloppy rule.
The only other entertainment value to be drawn from the film comes in the form of camp value. The actors are all far too old to be playing high school students (Chong was reportedly 40 years old at the time of production), lending a surreal feel to the film. At the same time, the attempts to add depth to the characters are ridiculously laughable: Young has an alcoholic mother who comes home with different men all the time; Tony falls in love with Lily (Rosanna King), Chan’s sister; a member of Young’s gang who had approximately two lines through the first forty minutes of the film is suddenly given a soliloquy about how he used to be homeless. Along with the terrible dubbing (characters say entire lines of dialogue without opening their mouths), there is comedic value to be found in the melodramatic moments.
But a film can only cruise by on unintentional laughs and camp value for so long. Lacking even the most basic of interesting stories and, more importantly, consistently good fight scenes, L.A. Streetfighters fails to entertain for more than a few minutes at a time.
Matt Wedge is a writer and film critic currently doing time in the suburbs of Connecticut.