Blackbelt is a perfect example of what ‘production value’ means to an action flick. With about $30 million in backing, this one would be indistinguishable from the myriad low-minded adventures of Sly, Arnie and all their lesser cohorts.Way down on the ‘action star food chain’ (below even Dolph Lundgren) you’ll find Don “The Dragon” Wilson, a world-renowned kickboxing champion who somehow considers himself a movie star. It’s not that Wilson can’t center a poorly choreographed fight sequence (he can); it’s that every time the bush-browed athlete is asked to emote words the result is more comical than intimidating.
Borrowing (stealing) a page from Costner’s The Bodyguard, Blackbelt sees “The Dragon” play protector to a stunningly spoiled lady rock star. The sparse plot involves superstar Shanna and what happens when she wants to sever ties with her current representation. Since the gal’s on the cusp of mega-stardom, her nefarious handlers logically want to wrap her up with a lifetime contract. When Shanna refuses, her evil manager figures that a dead starlet will sell more albums than one being shopped on another label. To this end, he aims to have her killed.
Fortunately, we have the Dragon on hand to protect the whining lass. The henchmen periodically pop in, stand around in convenient circles and wait to get kick in the balls. (This flick holds the record for ‘most bad guys standing in a circle waiting to get kicked’.) Once all the henchmen are gone, it’s time for the big showdowns. Oh and I forgot to mention the homicidal lunatic kickboxer who kills girls because he’s haunted by the ghost of his dead mother. He figures into the face-kicking equation before it’s all over.
My problem with movies like Blackbelt is that there’s never enough real action to justify the rental. If I’m in the market for some silly chop-socky action, please tell me why I’m forced to sit through tired plot exposition, insipid exchanges of trite dialogue and a stunningly superfluous love affair subplot. The Dragon’s supposed to be a world-famous kickboxer, so just get with the kickboxing already.These suppositions of narrative cohesion embarrass us all.