Bullet Points: Balance of Power aka Hidden Tiger
When I’m deciding what to watch and review for the site, I often try to think of action stars I may not have covered yet… one such star was “Mr. Tae Bo” himself Billy Blanks.
So I fired up the Roku search feature and came across a Billy Blanks movie on Amazon Prime, Balance of Power aka Hidden Tiger.
Balance of Power is a real action movie mash up. There are elements of Only the Strong, Bloodsport and the first two Kickboxer movies all jammed into one direct to video flick.
- Background: Billy Blanks plays Niko, a martial arts instructor who runs a dojo out of a rundown warehouse. The dojo helps kids in this lower income neighborhood stay out of trouble. Unfortunately there is a strong crime element in this area and they all work for one man, Hastishita (Dennis Akiyama).
- Dr. Evil Playbook: In typical bad guy fashion, despite his drug business and other nefarious cash revenue streams exceeding projections, Hastishita is more concerned with the Death Matches he runs for his rich clientele. Again if action movies have taught us anything it is the wealthy and powerful like to watch fights to the death. But back to the movie… Hastishita is experiencing depth issues on his Death Match talent roster since they’ve literally killed all the competition. Hastishita instructs his right hand man Slater (Adrian Hough) to go to the man who trained their current #1 bad ass, Shinji Takamura (James Lew).
- Uh-oh Better Get Mako: The man who trained Takamura was Todo Matsumoto (played by the legendary Mako). Despite Matsumoto wanting out of the Death Match game since it was know all about profit and no longer about honor, Slater convinces him to find another fighter and train him as a challenger for Takamura. Slater does this by threatening to harm Matsumoto’s grand daughter Jasmine.
- Obvious Spoiler Alert: If at this point in my review you have not figured out that the guy that Matsumoto selects to train is Billy Blanks’ character Niko, then you have never seen an action move in your life. I had not seen a quality training montage in quite a while, but I got plenty of those in Balance of Power. But Matsumoto does not only have to train Niko physically, the biggest challenge is the mental aspect of fighting, especially since Niko lets his emotions get the better of him at times, which is understandable since it was Hastishita’s men who gun downed one of Niko’s students.
As I stated earlier, Balance of Power takes a lot of elements from other action movies, but at least they took good elements from those films. While there is a little twist at the end of the film, there’s really no huge surprises here. You know what you are walking into with Balance of Power and it delivers. It is kind of like going to a fast food place, you know it isn’t going to be the greatest meal you’ve ever eaten, but it will get the job done.
And with fast food on the mind, allow me to super size my Balance of Power Bullet Points…
- James Lew: The movie quickly establishes James Lew’s character Takamura as a real bad ass both in the Death Matches and on the streets. Lew was one of the highlights of this movie for me. And it was good to see him in a movie that was far better than L.A. Streetfighters!
- Jasmine: There are two things that can derail an action movie, a pointless love story or the inclusion of kids… while there’s no love story in Balance of Power, the character of Jasmine does her best to be an annoying character and succeeds every step of the way.
- Tae Bo Knows: As an actor Billy Blanks is not that good. His delivery of a line is often more brutal than his delivery of a punch or kick. But I’d like to believe that even Billy knows his limitations as an actor, however he was smart enough to use his visibility as an action star to create a cardio-boxing fitness program known as Tae Bo. Tae Bo became quite popular in the 1990’s with over 1.5 million copies of the videos sold. This venture was a sound business decision by Mr. Blanks and one I’m sure his bank account benefited from. I may need to do some Tae Bo later since I can’t stop thinking about fast food.