Bullet Points: Ring of Fire II: Blood and Steel
Sequels. Hollywood loves them. A sequel, while not guaranteed to do near the box office of the original it is based on, will statistically still fare better than most new releases. And Hollywood is a business and as as business they will go where the money is every time.
For the movie going public sequels are somewhat divisive. Some see sequels as the easy road, Hollywood laziness, a quick cash grab and nothing more than a rehash of the original film it is based on. Others can’t get enough of their favorite film franchises (Hollywood loves these fans) and will continue to support the movies sequel after sequel no matter how ridiculous or redundant they become.
Look no further than The Fast and The Furious. That film franchise has come a long way since the 2001 original and chances are when the franchise hits double digits Dominic Toretto and his team may be racing spaceships. But some films don’t wait 15 years to take things in a completely different direction.
Released less than two years after Ring of Fire, Ring of Fire II: Blood and Steel takes the Dr. Johnny Woo character to a whole new world.
- Johnny Loves Julie: Previously in Ring of Fire, we saw the budding romance between Johnny Woo (Don “The Dragon” Wilson) and Julie (Maria Ford). It was kind of like Romeo & Juliet and West Side Story except it had a much happier ending as both of Ring of Fire’s star crossed lovers survive. When the movie opens Johnny and Julie are at a jewelry store picking up that all important ring and discussing their plans for a honeymoon in Hawaii. Things go sour in a hurry when a bunch of armed thugs show up looking to rob the place. One of the employees of the store is shot, the bad guys try to steal Julie’s ring and Johnny gets into his first of many fights in this movie badly injuring his foe. After all the jewelry store chaos is said and done, Julie (who got hit with a stray bullet) and the thug that Johnny beat up are taken to the hospital.
- Visiting Hours: Johnny and some of the other characters from the original film, Chuck (Vince Murdocco), Kwong (Eric Lee), Li (Ron Yuan) and Julie’s brother Brad (Dale Jacoby) all come to visit Julie in the hospital. Unfortunately they aren’t the only ones taking advantage of the hospital’s visiting hours. The thugs from the jewelry store show up to check on their fallen comrade that crossed paths with Johnny. They are led by a man named Kalin (Ian Jacklin of Death Match fame) and we learn the fallen comrade is actually Kalin’s brother. Kalin’s brother is pronounced dead at the hospital and Kalin is pissed. So now with all these combustible elements under one roof it is really no surprise when a skirmish breaks out. After all the hospital chaos is said and done, Kalin is arrested and Kalin’s second in command, Predator (Evan Lurie) kidnaps Julie. Predator isn’t done there, he makes sure that Kalin’s incarceration does not last long after he runs the prison bus that is transporting Kalin off the road, thus freeing his boss and allowing them to return to their underground kingdom.
- Digital Underground: Once Kalin returns to his kingdom known as The Underground, he gives Johnny a call with an offer… Johnny brings him $250,000 in cash and he can have Julie back. If not, Kalin will start dismembering Julie. Johnny now has no choice but to go to The Underground to save the love of his life. He takes off and tells Li to gather the rest of the guys and get down there as soon as they can. The Underground is a “city” made up of tunnels, sewers and subbasements located directly below Los Angeles. The Underground even has its own radio station with a homosexual host that has the major hots for Dr. Johnny. With his friends still not there when Johnny gets to the entrance of The Underground, it looks like he’ll have to go it alone until he meets a somewhat friendly face named Ernest (Sy Richardson of Kinjite: Forbidden Subjects fame). Ernest is a disabled vet and no friend to Kalin and his crew, he agrees to be Johnny’s guide as he makes his way through the treacherous underground city filled with gangs looking to collect on a bounty that has been put out on Johnny’s head by Kalin.
- Cage Fight for Freedom: True to his word, Ernest leads Johnny to Kalin’s throne room where Kalin sits high above and watches cage fights all day. This leads to a Johnny vs. Predator match in the cage with Johnny coming out on top. But before we can see the Johnny vs. Kalin fight we’ve been dreaming about for the past hour or so, Ernest shows up with guns blazing and for at least the third time in the movie total pandemonium breaks out. Johnny is able to rescue Julie and Ernest escorts the couple and their friends to an exit. On one hand I was happy the good guys got out of that horrible place and Johnny and Julie were reunited, but on the other hand I felt like I was ripped off from seeing Johnny vs. Kalin. But have no fear… Ring of Fire II: Blood and Steel comes through in the end.
Nobody can accuse Ring of Fire II: Blood and Steel of resting on the laurels of the original. The sequel took Johnny Woo to a place none of us could have predicted. And I am happy to say the movie was as entertaining as it was unpredictable. Another sequel followed in 1994 titled Lion Strike and after watching Ring of Fire II I can only imagine what the folks at PM Entertainment cooked up for the third installment.
As you might imagine, I have cooked up some Bonus Bullet Points to close out this review…
- Where Are They Now?: Ian Jacklin was one of the many kickboxing champions turned actors in the 1990’s. Jacklin’s first major role was as Martine in 1992’s Kickboxer 3: The Art of War. But as the 1990’s came to an end, so did Jacklin’s work in front of the camera. Jacklin is now a documentary filmmaker. You can keep up with Jacklin’s work by visiting the Arch Angel Studios website.
- PM Recyclying: The car chase scene in the first act of Ring of Fire II was recycled by PM Entertainment later that year when they included it in their August 1993 release To Be the Best starring Michael Worth, Martin Kove and Brittney Powell.
- AKA: Ring of Fire II: Blood and Steel was released as Rage: Ring of Fire II in the UK and Bloodfist Fighter 4 in Germany.
- Who Were Those Masked Men?: The two hockey mask wearing thugs that our heroes encounter in the underground world were played by Art Camacho (Fists of Iron) and Ken McLeod (College Kickboxers).
- Familiar Face: Fans of PM Entertainment will instantly recognize Michael DeLano as Detective Lopez. DeLano was in several PM Entertainment movies including Deadly Bet with Jeff Wincott, Maximum Force with Sam J. Jones and Zero Tolerance with Robert Patrick.