Rage: Ring of Fire 2
Our hero Don 'The Dragon' Wilson takes on the L.A. 'Underground' in this less than sensible beat-em-up.
It's been too long since we indulged theOneliner.com official mascot Don "The Dragon" Wilson with a review, so here we have the 1993 classic Rage: Ring of Fire 2, or as it's known stateside Ring of Fire 2: Blood and Steel. Both suitably 'hard' titles, I'm sure you agree, but can the onscreen action match the promise of such a legend as adorns the DVD sleeve? Come on! It's Don Wilson we're talking about here, of course it can! Can't it?...
Goodness only knows what action-packed mayhem must have transpired in the original Ring of Fire, but I can only hope it wasn't half a silly as this effort. The plot seems to have been lifted from one of the Double Dragon video games as far as I can tell, and revolves around the heinous underground gangs of Los Angeles where Wilson works as a doctor, of all things, by the name of Johnny Woo. Out picking an engagement ring with his missus-to-be Julie (Maria Ford), poor Johnny finds himself in the middle of a jewellery heist and does the only thing he can; kicks the shit out of several armed gang members. His girlfriend is shot in the shoulder, but refreshingly for this kind of fare doesn't just drop dead there and then. Instead she is taken to hospital where she is recovering nicely under the watchful eye of Johnny.
At this point we are introduced to Johnny's friends, a Village People-like bunch of misfits who seem to have picked their favourite fashion faux pas' of the 80's and transported them into the mid 90's with cringe-worthy results. Witness sweat bands, denim jackets, day glo exercise vests worn over black t-shirts, and the most inexcusable pair of tracksuit bottoms I think I've ever seen. Still, they all get along so well and are really friendly with Julie, so they're allowed the odd fashion apocalypse now and then.
Also paying a surprise visit are the nefarious gang Johnny belted senseless earlier, visiting one of their wounded in the same hospital and attempting to wheel him out, still in his bed, in broad daylight. Johnny bumps into them in the corridor and inadvertently finishes what he started when he accidentally shoots the already crippled thug in the head during the ensuing scuffle. Blow me down if the fresh corpse isn't the brother of gang leader Kalin (Ian Jacklin), whose status is implied by his decision to be the most overtly camp of all the movie's stars in terms of both dress sense and hair style. His revenge is had when, after busting loose from police custody (an act that involves an improbably explosive prison transport bus and an improbably explosive Cadillac) he kidnaps Julie and transports her to the nightmarish world that is the L.A. 'underground'.
The location of this living hell is divulged by one decidedly streetwise homie, who rather helpfully asserts that "you know that shit when they build new buildings on top of old ones? Well that shit still underneath is the Underground!". Cheers mate. Off sets Johnny to reclaim his girl with nary a thought for his own safety, nor the idea that taking his mates along might be handy. Instead, his Wham!-inspired cohorts follow of their own accord some time later, following the trail of groaning bodies left rolling around in agony on the floor by our old chum Don and generally not actually having to do much except look gay.
Now, if you thought the denizens of L.A. were out to lunch, you should check out the mentalists Wilson and director Munchkin would have us believe inhabit the sordid underground passageways. Woo systematically beats his way through some of the strangest excuses for 'gangs' this side of a particularly psychotic acid trip. Behold the "Garbage Fighters"; shambling kung fu dunces who disguise themselves as piles of litter by gluing random junk to their costumes and lying on the floor all day. Witness the "Shadow Warriors"; a particularly camp bunch of (presumably) interpretative dancers who wear skintight spandex costumes covered in luminous neon paint. Gasp at the hockey-mask wearing freaks who like to hide in the dark and scare people by shining torches up onto their faces and then attempt to beat them up. The list goes on.
On top of this, in a nod to cult classic The Warriors, Woo's progress is charted live on air by an underground DJ who insists on broadcasting messages to "Doctor Do-Good", somehow receiving pinpoint intelligence on Woo's whereabouts at any one given time despite the fact every corridor looks exactly the same as the next (thoughtfully, Munchkin sometimes turns the camera around and films from the other end of the singular set, allowing our right eye time to recover before the image of pipes becomes permanently seared into our retinas).
Anyhoo, on Woo trundles towards the 'ultimate' showdown with Kalin in a caged arena stolen straight from Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome, complete with destitute hookers hanging off the walls chanting vaguely daunting messages of bad will. In the meantime his mates have been duped by the seductive 'Bad Girls', who give them a bit of a pasting before the short Asian-looking dude in the vest and bad tracksuit bottoms falls for their decidedly mannish leader. It's all very bizarre and more than a little silly, so suffice to say the bad guys get their arses kicked, Woo rescues Julie and Asian guy keeps the She-Man.
This sort of thing can be vaguely entertaining for two possible reasons. Either A) the fights are pretty well choreographed and suitably brutal, or B) it's so stupid it's actually funny. Unfortunately for Rage, it falls into the more embarrassing second category, thus rendering it by default as nothing more than an entertaining 90 minute accompaniment to an evening's heavy drinking with the lads. Everyone involved except Asian Dude takes themselves far too seriously, especially Jacklin as Kalin who unfortunately falls into the 'madman' stereotype of cackling a lot and randomly squealing over the phone like Scorpio in Dirty Harry. If only a few more of them had played it for laughs this could have been pretty entertaining for at least a second viewing, but as it is the macho posturing and Munchkin's flatter-than-flat direction conspire to relegate this to 'Do Not Touch' status. Unfortunately our quest for the Great Don Wilson movie must continue. Watch this space...
Craig Disko has awarded this 1 out of 5 Disko Spandex Units.
Ian Jacklin (Kalin)
Maria Ford (Julie)