Is this the best of the Best of the Best series? Here’s our best guess…
Without question, the 80s and 90s were the glory days of martial arts action cinema. It is not only what brought in the audiences on the big screen, it is what we flocked to the video stores for as well. Back before the CGI filled comic book movies, the martial arts expert was the superhero. One of the most criminally underrated movie series from that time has got to be Best of the Best.
I have fond memories of the first two entries in the series growing up, with the last couple eluding me until now. I finally tracked down the 3rd one (Best of the Best 3: No Turning Back) and that is what is in the UAMC spotlight today.
Best of the Best 3: No Turning Back (1995)
Eric Roberts and Phillip Rhee made a great duo in the previous entries, but in this one we see Rhee take the reigns. Although I’m a big Roberts fan and missed seeing him, boy does Rhee ever step up and deliver.
The film is about this small southern town that is being overrun by a growing hate group of white supremacists. The opening is a little dragged out and not so easy to watch, as we see the group take the town’s reverend hostage, taunting him and killing him with a baseball bat. As hard as that is to watch, it made what eventually happens to them all the more satisfying.
Rhee comes to town to visit his sister played by Anzu Lawson (American Yakuza) and her husband, who is also the town’s sheriff, played by none other than Shooter McGavin himself, Christopher McDonald (Happy Gilmore). This was a different kind of role than I know him for and he played it well, even getting in on the action.
The beautiful Gina Gershon (Red Heat) plays a school teacher in the middle of it all, giving a well acted performance. She first meets Rhee at a fair, where he got forced into playing a clown. She throws a baseball and dunks him in the water tank. He inevitably ends up getting involved and standing up for the town. Rhee and Gershon have pretty good chemistry, but it is not all the way explored. No sex scenes, sorry guys and gals.
Who knew I ever needed to see a clown take down a bunch of thugs, but what a fight scene! One of many great fights throughout. “Homie D. kick your ass clown!” They didn’t try and reinvent the wheel when it came to the story, but it was well executed.
Phillip Rhee Goes All Out for BotB3
Rhee, also serving as the director, is a 7th degree black belt in taekwondo as well as holding belts in other martial arts, really shines when it comes to the action. No surprise there. All the fights were well choreographed and exciting, which leads me to the finale.
What an explosive finale. My friend and fellow action movie connoisseur John M. Gerva put it best when telling me about it, the finale is action bliss. Taking place at this compound where there is a small army of the white supremacist goons. Made up of everything you could hope for – shootouts, explosions (one that sees a door flying off its hinges and wipes a guy out) and some amazing stunt work involving motorcycles. There is one scene where 3 guys on bikes are coming right at Rhee and he somehow does a flying combo of kicks and takes ‘em out. In another scene, he is on a bike himself and plays chicken with a guy in a car.
Some of the Best Fights and Action of the Series!
The climactic fight is very epic and memorable, between Rhee and the over the top, hammy Mark Rolston (Lethal Weapon 2/Shawshank Redemption/Aliens). It goes from the rooftops to inside, where they his ‘army’ sees him getting his ass handed to him. They also added a layer to the movie where this one younger guy who got involved in the supremacist group, who finally comes around and gets some sort of redemption.
Also noteworthy in the cast was Dee Wallace (E.T.) as a workaholic mom and Michael Bailey Smith (The Hills Have Eyes/A Nightmare On Elm Street 5) on bad guy duties. The only real tie in with the previous films in the series is when Rhee mentions the one time he killed a man, who killed his friend (Best of the Best 2).
Phillip Rhee is someone who should have been a household name from that time, but real action and DTV (direct to video) fans know. Best of the Best 3: No Turning Back is certainly a gem and one with a good message as Rhee states at the end, “Hate is not the answer”.