Bullet Points: Ring of Fire
Who doesn’t love a good old fashioned crosstown rivalry?
Whether it is two high school football teams, two professional sports teams or even two kickboxing clubs like in the 1991 film, Ring of Fire starring Don “The Dragon” Wilson.
- Just Like Romeo & Juliet: Don “The Dragon” Wilson plays Johnny Woo, a doctor doing his internship at a local hospital. While Johnny possesses great fighting skills, he does not join up with his cousin Terry Woo’s kickboxing club. Instead of fighting with Terry’s rivals, Johnny ends up falling in love with one of them… no Johnny doesn’t fall in love with another male kickboxer (not that there’s anything wrong with that) but he does fall for Julie (Maria Ford), who is the sister of Brad, the guy who captains the other kickboxing club in town. She’s also engaged to one of Brad’s teammates, Chuck. This adds to the tension that already existed between the two clubs. I should also point out that Johnny Woo’s kickboxing club is comprised of kickboxers of Asian descent, while Brad’s kickboxing club is a bunch of white guys. And it is the race issue that all the problems between the two sides stem from.
- It Is Better To Be Pissed Off: Terry’s team includes a lovable drunk named Kwong. Kwong is on Venice Beach trying to impress some ladies by doing pull ups and telling him that he trained Bruce Lee. While he’s doing pull ups, some of Brad’s boys, including Gary Daniels in one of his early movie roles, pants Kwong, embarrassing him in front of the very ladies he was trying to impress. Later, Kwong catches up with the guys and pisses on them from a rooftop… following the old saying, it is better to be pissed off than pissed on… Bud (Gary Daniels) and his fellow surfer kickboxing dudes beat the bejeezus out of Kwong, hospitalizing the lush.
- This Means War: Terry Woo (Steven Vincent Leigh) tracks down Bud for what he did to Kwong and while Bud and his buds hospitalized Kwong, they only end up roughing up Bud giving him a pair of black eyes but totally going against the rule that if they put one of yours in the hospital, you put one of theirs in the morgue. So things are even right? WRONG! Brad, Chuck and company go downtown to China Town and a rumble breaks outs, until the cops show up.
- The War to Settle the Score: At this point drastic measures must be taken to put an end to this rivalry once and for all. So Terry and Brad agree to fight, but there are some unique stipulations. First, they will dip their taped fists into broken glass just like they do in Thailand, second they will not compete in your standard everyday kickboxing ring, they will compete in a RING OF FIRE! (DING!) Brad really kills it in this fight… actually, he really kills Terry Woo. So instead of settling the score, things just escalate even more. Naturally, neither side wants the police to be involved, instead Johnny Woo finally puts his fighting skills for something other than exercise and he fights the brother of the woman he loves in the movie’s final showdown.
If you are fan of Don “The Dragon” Wilson, I’d recommend this movie for you. Also if you are a fan of stereotypes, I’d recommend the movie for you too. You’ve got ditzy blonde Julie mistaking Dr. Johnny Woo for a waiter at the Chinese restaurant… Then there’s the Chinese girl who Johnny’s aunt wants to hook him up with that comes over to help the aunt do laundry #AncientChineseSecret… The white people can’t dance stereotype is also covered during the masquerade ball scene… And there’s even a little bit of bad Asian driving in this one. It is veritable cornucopia of stereotypes in Ring of Fire!
And in stereotypical fashion, I will now finish this review with a few bonus Bullet Points…
- Familiar Faces: Fans of martial arts movies will certainly recognize some of the supporting cast from other martial arts movies. There’s the aforementioned Gary Daniels who played Bud. Daniels has had a long career in the action genre with movies like Heatseeker, Forced to Fight and Hawk’s Vengeance to his credit. Brad is played by Dale Jacoby, who I recognized from No Retreat, No Surrender. I also recognized Chuck, who was played by Vince Murdocco from Kickboxer 2: The Road Back. And Steven Vincent Leigh, who plays Terry Woo, also has a number of action movies to his credit including Death Match and Deadly Bet.
- JCVD Would Be Proud: Gary Daniels does perform some splits that would make Van Damme himself proud.
- If You Ever: Wanted to see Don “The Dragon” Wilson mistakenly hit on a senior citizen then this is the movie for you!
- Montage Check: While there is sadly not a training montage in this film, we do get a “first date montage” featuring our lovebirds, Johnny and Julie.
- Favorite Quotes: “Hog Wash!” and “More Hog Wash!” said by Julie’s grandma.
- Age Is Just A Number: Don “The Dragon” Wilson’s character is 32 years old in the movie, but he was actually 37 at the time. This is called the Beverly Hills 90210 effect.