Bullet Points: Steele Justice
When I think of Martin Kove, I think of one of the most prolific movie villains of my lifetime.
Kove is probably most known for playing karate school proprietor, Sensei John Kreese in The Karate Kid. To say Kreese is not a nice human being would be putting it lightly. In 1984, Kreese’s prized student Johnny fell in defeat to Daniel LaRusso in the finals of the All Valley Karate Tournament. Five years later, Kreese is still holding a grudge against Daniel and his teacher, Mr. Miyagi. Let it go Kreese! It was a tournament for teenagers, not the Olympics. Kove would also dick over John Rambo and Col. Trautman as helicopter pilot Ericson in Rambo: First Blood Part II. And we can’t forget Kove as the sinister Mr. Lee in Shootfighter: Fight to the Death. Lee makes Ericson and Kreese look like a bunch of goody two shoes. Lee was banned from the sport of shootfighting after literally ripping out an opponents throat. He then forms his own underground shootfighting circuit, where the combatants fight to the death.
But in 1987, Martin Kove would do the unthinkable and star as the protagonist in an action film. That film was Steele Justice!
- Vietnam Flashback: Martin Kove plays John Steele. The movie begins with a flashback to the jungles of Vietnam in 1975, where Steele and his fellow soldiers are working with their South Vietnamese allies led by General Bon Soong Kwan (Soon-Tek Oh). Things go south in a hurry when Steele discovers Kwan is looking to steal a fortune in CIA gold. The whole thing turns really ugly with Kwan ordering Steel and his best friend Minh be shot, then he leaves them for dead in the jungle. But the ever resilient Steele and Minh survive and Steele is able to return the favor, by throwing a knife into the chest of Kwan before our flashback is done. In a matter of minutes the movie established that John Steele and General Kwan want each other dead.
- Present Day California: With the backstory out of the way, we move forward to present day California. We learn that John Steele became a cop after his days in the military were over, but things didn’t exactly end well there and John is no longer on the force. Meanwhile, John’s BFF, Minh is now Detective Lee Van Minh, an integral part to the police department’s Asian Crime Task Force. General Kwan also survived the knife in the chest (he is resilient too) and made the move to California. To the general public Kwan is a philanthropic businessman but in actuality he is the head of the Vietnamese Mafia or as they are known on the streets, The Black Tigers. Kwan and his organization specialize in two things, intimidating the Vietnamese immigrants in California and trafficking drugs. When the police get a little too close to Kwan’s narcotics operation, he orders that his goons eliminate Lee Van Minh and his entire family to send a message not to screw with them… Lee Van Minh, his wife and even his mother are shot gangland style in their home and their bodies then dragged out onto the street for all to see. No one in the neighborhood is willing to come forward and confess to what they saw, there’s nothing the police can do to bring the cold blooded assassins or the man who ordered the hit to justice.
- Steele Unleashed: Captain Bennett (Ronny Cox) realizing his hands are tied and he has no concrete proof that Kwan was behind the death of his detective, does what any police captain in a 1980’s action movie would do, he calls a former employee trained by the United States government to be a killing machine, who didn’t like to play by the rules when he was a cop and gives him the green light to deliver some Steele justice to The Black Tigers. Now before you go and say Bennett recruited Steele, Bennett actually said it best when he said you don’t recruit John Steele, you UNLEASH him! I thought that line was so fantastic, I was not shocked that it was used as the tagline for the movie.
Steele Justice was an absolute pleasure to watch. It was everything an 80’s action movie should be… over the top fun! After watching I regret not checking this one out much sooner. I think I’ll always prefer my Martin Kove to be a villain, but Kove’s portrayal of John Steele proved he could play a believable hero, albeit one that doesn’t give two shits about law and order, but is really big on results.
The movie is not just action packed, it is also packed with familiar faces. Sela Ward (The Fugitive) fame plays John’s ex-wife Tracy… Bernie Casey (Street Knight) plays a detective who finds himself as an accomplice to John Steele… Sarah Douglas (Superman II) plays the district attorney… Peter Kwong (Big Trouble in Little China) plays General Kwan’s son… Shannon Tweed (Twisted Justice) plays Angela Spinelli, a well connected woman that Kwan wants to get in bed with in more ways than one, if you know what I mean… And Al Leong, George Cheung and James Lew all play members of The Black Tigers.
Normally I present Bonus Bullet Points at this point in a review, but I’m not just presenting these Steele Justice Bonus Bullet Points, I am unleashing them…
- If You Ever: …wanted to see Martin Kove drive a truck through a pool hall, then this is the movie for you.
- Nice Pet: John Steele has a pet snake named 3 Step. It got its name because if it bites you, you’ll only walk 3 steps before you die.
- Rubber Ducky: I don’t think I was the only one disturbed by the scene where Lee is hanging out with his old buddy John, while John is trying to take a bath.
- If You Ever: …wanted to see rats with grenades strapped to their backs, then this is the movie for you.
- Nice Dress: At one point in the film while entertaining his “friend” Angela Spinelli, Kwan appears to be wearing a dress.
- If You Ever: …wanted to see Martin Kove let a bunch of horses loose in a neighborhood, then this is the movie for you.
- Montage: Staying true to the 80’s Steele Justice had a pretty awesome montage to a pretty awesome song, “Fire with Fire” by Hot Pursuit. Don’t believe me? Check it out…