Bullet Points: Desert Kickboxer
Why did I watch Desert Kickboxer?
Am I obsessed with movies with the the word Kickboxer in the title? Am I obsessed with movies that feature actors who have appeared in Superman related projects? Or maybe I am just obsessed with Judie Aronson? It certainly wasn’t because of some fantastic, attention grabbing cover art…
Perhaps my review of Desert Kickboxer will enlighten all of us as to why I chose to watch this movie…
- The Hawk Has Landed: Joe Highhawk (aka Hawk) is a big city cop who does some kickboxing on the side. During a match, Hawk (who I should mention was played by John Haymes Newton) loses his temper and in an act of rage delivers a beating to his opponent that is so severe that the man dies. Hawk then does what any other action hero who was in this scenario in the 1990’s would do, he walks away from the world of kickboxing. But Hawk takes it one step further and quits his job as a big city policeman and returns to his roots in the desert where his Navajo grandfather raised him. Hawk serves as a deputy to Sheriff Larry (played by Biff Manard of Zone Troopers fame) and lives in his grandfather’s old trailer in almost hermit like fashion. His memories of the night he killed a man in the ring haunt him throughout the film.
- Hottest Bean Counter Ever: While the whole Native American angle was a nice twist on what seemed to be a movie I’ve seen countless times, the real hook for me was the fact that Desert Kickboxer featured the lovely Judie Aronson. Aronson stole the heart of every male who has ever watched American Ninja and it was an absolute delight to see her back in the world of action entertainment. Aronson plays Claudia Valenti, an accountant who works for a wealthy horse breeder named Carl Schultz. Schultz has been good to Claudia and her simple minded brother Anthony but one day she realizes that there’s some book cooking going on and she knows she has to get out. So with some help of one of the horse trainers, Claudia and her brother Anthony escape… did I mention she transferred $20 million to a secret account before she left?
- He’s No Saint: We learn that Carl Schultz (played by Paul L. Smith of Gor fame) is actually the drug kingpin Santos. Santos had been trafficking drugs from Mexico through the desert for years. He is a very powerful man with many members of law enforcement in his pocket. Naturally any man you steal $20 million from is not going to be happy, but Santos is a dangerous man to make unhappy. Santos puts a $50,000 bounty on the Valentis and the hunt for them and the money is on.
- Hawk Swoops In: Fortunately for Claudia and Anthony they run into Hawk during the escape through the desert. He helps the siblings make it through the desert and protects them from Santos and his soldiers. Hawk even gets to hook up with Claudia, earning him amazing action hero credibility in the process. Unfortunately after their night to remember, things sour quickly for Hawk and Claudia. Hawk is left for dead in the desert and Claudia is abducted by Santos, he needs her alive as she is the only one with the code that can get his money back. This leads to…
- An Epic Montage: After he is left for dead in the desert, Hawk is more like a phoenix rising from the ashes in one of the more memorable action movie montages I’ve ever seen. This is where the Native American angle really pays off with the imagery and sound of the hawks flying above is quite powerful and again earns Hawk some major action hero credibility points. And just for the ladies, our hero appears shirtless for the entire montage.
- Designated Hitter: Movies like Desert Kickboxer need a big final fight for the hero and while Paul L. Smith played an excellent villain, his fat ass was not going to be able to go toe to toe with Hawk. But Santos conveniently has a kickboxer on his payroll named Bruno. Bruno was such a bad ass in the ring that he was banned from the sport of kickboxing. Bruno was played by Michael M. Foley who some of you may remember from movies like Intent to Kill and Pushed to the Limit. Foley served in the United States Army and is an accomplished martial artist in a variety of disciplines. He was the assistant fight choreographer on Desert Kickboxer and I believe he did a great job in a crucial role in the film.
Desert Kickboxer has all the right ingredients. A hero that is likable and looks the part. A damsel in distress of the highest caliber. A villain you want to see brought to justice and quality foes for our hero to fight. It is a simple recipe and Desert Kickboxer delivers.
I had actually watched Desert Kickboxer a while back, so this was my second viewing. And for whatever reason, I appreciated this film more the second time around. Some movies have to grow on you and I think Desert Kickboxer falls into that category.
Now for a few Bonus Bullet Points…
- 21st Century Film: Desert Kickboxer was produced by the 21st Centurty Film Corporation. This was the company that Menahem Golan ran after his days with Cannon were over. Other films produced by 21st Century included Death Wish V: The Face of Death, Bloodmatch and the Captain America movie that starred J.D. Salinger’s son.
- Look Up In The Sky: You may remember the star of Desert Kickboxer, John Haymes Newton, from his role as Clark Kent/Superboy on the syndicated Superboy TV series. Newton only appeared on the first season of the show thanks to some behind the scenes issues, including an embarrassing DUI arrest for the actor and the fact he demanded a 20% pay raise.
- Feature Film Debut: Desert Kickboxer was the first feature film directed by Isaac Florentine. Florentine went on to direct the awful Bridge of Dragons and several Scott Adkins films including, Ninja, Undisputed 2 and Ninja: Shadow of a Tear. Florentine was also at the helm for one of Adkins’ upcoming films, Close Range.
- Couldn’t Have Said It Better Myself: At one point early on in the film Carl Schultz (aka Santos) tells Claudia (Judie Aronson) that he wants to have a long and fruitful relationship with her. I believe he was speaking for all men at that moment.