Movie Kumite: Only the Strong vs. The Principal
The Movie Kumite has hosted superhero showdowns, ninja battles, a clash of the vigilantes and even a skydiving streetfight, but this time around we have educators going head to head in our cinematic slugfest.
While our opposing movies have similar themes, their respective heroes couldn’t be more different. As Rick Latimer, James Belushi does a fantastic job as the every man who is forced to dig down deep and find the courage needed to take a stand.
Latimer’s transformation from zero to hero in The Principal was inspiring, but he is no competition for Only the Strong’s Louis Stevens (Mark Dacascos). First off, Stevens was ex-Special Forces, second he made the choice to return home and try to help the most troubled of kids in his old high school (he was not assigned to the post like Latimer), third he knows capoeira! Can you see Jim Belushi trying to do capoeira?!?! He’d look like he was trying to do one of his brother’s old Blues Brothers dance routines.
Only the Strong comes out strong and gets the first point.
ONLY THE STRONG – 1 THE PRINCIPAL – 0
The main villain in The Principal is for all intents and purposes a guy who could never graduate high school named Victor Duncan (Michael Wright). Duncan is nothing but a bully who intimidates the students of the school because he’s a grown ass man and they are still teenagers. It makes sense that the villain in The Principal would not be some highly skilled terrorist or a mad man bent on world domination, because the villain had to be someone that Belushi’s Rick Latimer could feasibly defeat.
Paco Christian Prieto plays Silverio, one of the big crime bosses in Miami. His turf isn’t just a high school but an entire neighborhood in Miami. He is highly skilled in the martial arts and has an army of men who will do his bidding no questions asked. When it comes to villains Silverio is the real deal and not some wanna be like Duncan.
ONLY THE STRONG – 2 THE PRINCIPAL – 0
Like any workplace there are politics involved in both The Principal and Only the Strong. There are faculty members in both movies that are not exactly thrilled that they are now colleagues with Rick Latimer and Louis Stevens. But fortunately for both men, they are not completely without allies at their new places of employment.
Stevens’ favorite teacher in high school, Mr. Kerrigan (played by the late great Geoffrey Lewis) was the mastermind behind inviting Louis Stevens back to teach capoeira to the school’s worst of the worst. Mr. Kerrigan believed in his idea, he believed in Louis and he was willing to help however he could to make the capoeira program a success. You really can’t get much better than Mr. Kerrigan. In fact, I can think of only one man who I’d rank higher and that man is… Jake Phillips.
Louis Gossett Jr. plays the role of Jake Phillips, the head of security at Brandel High. He realizes quickly that Rick Latimer is exactly the guy Brandel High needs and he quickly comes to his aid, backing him up every step of the way and enforcing Latimer’s “No More” policy.
Getting LGJ to play Jake Phillips was a brilliant piece of casting. The role of Jake Phillips is exactly the type of role that LGJ was born to play. If you don’t believe me go watch Toy Soldiers or Iron Eagle.
ONLY THE STRONG – 2 THE PRINCIPAL – 1
Every hero worth his salt ends up with a love interest at some point and Rick Latimer and Louis Stevens are no exceptions.
This is another area where in the action entertainment sense, The Principal has Only the Strong beat. The Principal has Rae Dawn Chong! Yes, Commando’s Rae Dawn Chong. Crying Freeman’s Rae Dawn Chong. Mask of Death’s Rae Dawn Chong. RDC is no stranger to the action world and was another example of brilliant casting.
On the opposite side there is Stacey Travis who plays current teacher and Louis’ former high school sweetheart Dianna. Aside from Only the Strong the only thing that jumps out at me about Travis’ career is that she was the broad who cooked Jerry Seinfeld some mutton that he didn’t want to eat.
ONLY THE STRONG – 2 THE PRINCIPAL – 2
To me The Principal’s soundtrack is a one hit wonder and that one hit being Strafe’s classic “Set it Off”.
But Only the Strong features a soundtrack with music that doesn’t just get stuck in your head, it is music that is absolutely intoxicating! Try watching the movie and not having that capoeira chant in your head… it can’t be done.
ONLY THE STRONG – 3 THE PRINCIPAL – 2
With Only the Strong back in the lead it is time to turn to two of the most respected movie related web sites on the world wide web, IMDb and Rotten Tomatoes, to determine who will win this edition of the Movie Kumite.
The Principal has an IMDb rating of 6.2, but Only the Strong has a rating of 6.7, not quite a letter grade higher but higher none the less.
Only the Strong has a 78% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes. The Principal only managed to get a 51% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
Only the Strong started strong and finished strong winning our first ever Back to School Brawl!
FINAL SCORE: ONLY THE STRONG – 5 THE PRINCIPAL – 2