Bullet Points: Ring of Steel
In the mid-1990’s, a young Robert Chapin looked around the action movie landscape and realized there were far too many films about underground shootfighting and not nearly enough films about underground swordfighting and Ring of Steel was born…
- The Premise: Champion fencer Alex Freyer (Robert Chapin) accidentally kills an opponent in a freak fencing accident. Freyer is soon shunned by the fencing community and watches swashbuckling movies with the lights off in his living room. But then one night while going on a beer run, Alex has an encounter with a mysterious Man in Black (Joe Don Baker of Walking Tall fame). The MIB invites Alex to an exclusive club he runs that holds swordfighting exhibitions called the Ring of Steel (DING!) Alex and his new girlfriend Elena Carter (Darlene Vogel of Angel 4: Undercover fame) check out the club and it isn’t long before Alex is pulled into the world of underground swordfighting.
- Romance Timeline: I mentioned Alex’s girlfriend Elena and I wanted to share the timeline of events in their relationship. Elena is also a fencer, Alex meets her for the first time moments before he accidentally kills his opponent and ends his fencing career, they have a brief conversation where Alex gives her a helpful hint in regards to her fighting form. She shows up at this place one night after Alex is ostracized and by the 18 minute mark of the film the two of them are getting it on.
- Jack Champion: The reigning club champion is a guy named Jack. Per the rules of underground fighting movies established by Bloodsport, we know that the final fight in the film will pit Alex against Jack. One teaser that doesn’t ever pan out however is the potential for a major cat fight between Elena and the club manager of Ring of Steel/Jack’s main squeeze Tanya (Carol Alt of Thunder in Paradise fame).
- The Man in Black: Joe Don Baker does a great job of adding some legitimacy to a movie filled with less experienced actors, as a matter of fact Ring of Steel was Robert Chapin’s first acting role ever. Baker also steals the show in his role as the master manipulator. He manipulates his fighters and is always one step ahead of the police, who have the suspicions regarding the Ring of Steel and rightfully so. But does the Man in Black get his comeuppance in the end?)
Ring of Steel feels a lot like so many other movies from the 1990’s, but at the same time the swordfighting aspect makes it feel like something completely different.
For this being Chapin’s acting debut, he held up his end of the deal. He did not have a blow away performance by any means, but you won’t find yourself yelling at the TV asking who let him be the star of the film (not that I’ve ever done that). In fact, I think Chapin was more of an actor than some guys in the action movie world who have a lot more acting credits in their filmography.
I now would like to do my best Man in Black impersonation and invite you to an exclusive club filled with bonus Ring of Steel Bullet Points…
- That 70’s Show: Everyone knows that Kurtwood Smith, one of the stars of That 70’s Show, has action movie roots in Robocop and Rambo III. But when I think of Don Stark, who played Bob Pinciotti on That 70’s Show, I don’t think action movies despite the fact he has several action movies to his credit including Ring of Steel, where he plays one of the cops looking into the Ring of Steel. Stark was also in Bloodfist V: Human Target with Don “The Dragon” Wilson and Switchblade Sisters.
- Fight of the Night: In my opinion the best fight the entire movie is the exhibition put on by Alex and his friend in the Ring of Steel named Brian (Jim Pirri). This fight really shows off Chapin’s swordfighting skills.
- Know Your Role: A man as important as the Man in Black is going to need a bodyguard and who better for that job than the one and the only Gene LeBell. While he is simply credited as the MiB Bodyguard, the Man in Black refers to him as Gene at one point in the film.
- Renaissance Man: Robert Chapin is a true Hollywood renaissance man. He wrote and starred in Ring of Steel. He was the stunt coordinator in Tattooed Teenage Alien Fighters from Beverly Hills. He has even done work in the visual effects field, where he is often referred to as Dr. Bob, in movies like Armageddon, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and X-Men: The Last Stand.