American Shaolin: King of the Kickboxers II (1991)

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Released 23-Feb-2004

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Martial Arts Trailer-Seasonal Film Corp trailers
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 1991
Running Time 101:19
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Lucas Lowe
Studio
Distributor
Seasonal Film Corp
Beyond Home Entertainment
Starring Reese Madigan
Trent Bushey
Daniel Dae Kim
Billy Chang
Cliff Lenderman
Kim Chan
Alice Zhang Hung
Joseph Chan
Case Amaray-Opaque
RPI $12.95 Music Richard Yuen


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Full Screen, not known whether Pan & Scan or Full Frame English Dolby Digital 2.0 (448Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.29:1
16x9 Enhancement No
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio Unknown Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles None Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement Yes, Marlboro sign at tournament (91:23)
Action In or After Credits No

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Plot Synopsis

    American Shaolin: King of the Kickboxers II is included in a two disc box set that indicates the films included are The King of the Kickboxers I & II. However, the DVD cover indicates the title is American Shaolin: King of the Kickboxers II while the credit sequence on the DVD itself is American Shaolin. Clearly, the intention was to align American Shaolin with the King of the Kickboxers which was released the year before. However, while both films have revenge plots where the hero undertakes a training regime that allows him to challenge his enemy, American Shaolin bears no resemblance to the earlier film in cast or tone. The only connection is that it is one of a number of martial arts films from Seasonal Films Producer Ng See Yuen, probably best known for the Jean-Claude van Damme vehicle No Retreat No Surrender. Just to confuse things further, American Shaolin: King of the Kickboxers II is also known as No Retreat No Surrender 5.

     In a martial arts tournament Drew Carson (Reese Madigan) is totally humiliated by the vile bully Trevor Gottitall (Trent Bushey) - the pun on the name probably tells you all you need to know about the tone of American Shaolin! Shattered by his defeat, Drew decides to go to the famous Shaolin Temple in China to train. Initially rejected by the monks, Drew is befriended by local girl Ashena (Alice Zhang Hung) and perseveres until he is finally accepted into the temple with an intake of other novices. At first these novices are antagonistic, especially Gao (Daniel Dae Kim), but Drew's rebellious spirit wins them over. Indeed, Drew teaches the novices more than Shaolin teaches him, including the words to Summertime Blues, how to dance and how to play football (American football, of course).

     Drew's attitude and conduct is totally at odds with the discipline and obedience required at Shaolin (for a contrast see The 36th Chamber of Shaolin (1978)) but he is allowed to get away with it by Abbott San De (Zhang Zhi Yen). But eventually Drew goes too far when he entices a number of the novices to go to a dance at the girl's school attended by Ashena where a fight breaks out. As a result, Drew is expelled from Shaolin but when his entire class of novices intercedes on his behalf San De relents and Drew seems finally to understand that the training he wanted comes at a price to individual freedoms.

     Now at peace, Drew completes the training and becomes a monk. Drew and Gao are taken by San De to an international martial arts tournament in Shanghai. One of the foreign competitors is Trevor Gottitall who recognises Drew and goads him with his previous humiliation. In front of San De and Ashena Drew has to decide whether to fight and risk his new found peace of mind.

     American Shaolin is actually quite a fun film if you can get over the smug, annoyingly superior character of Drew. I suppose a film made in English for an American audience could be expected to preach the superiority of things American over Chinese but Drew would not last 5 minutes in any martial arts training school! What saves the film is its sense of fun and some good action sequences. Much of American Shaolin has a good comedic tone whether it is the training sequences or cultural misunderstandings and it is sometimes quite amusing. The fight sequences are well handled and seem more akin to Hong Kong kung fu films that favour wide continuous takes so that one can see the moves and kicks. Indeed, the martial arts choreographer is Corey Yuen, a Hong Kong stalwart whose credits include working with Tsui Hark (Zu: Warriors from the Magic Mountain (1983), Jet Li (Lethal Weapon 4 (1998) and The One (2001) and most recently as Action Director for John Woo's magnificent Red Cliff (2008). His involvement does lift the action sequences to a higher level than one might otherwise have expected.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    American Shaolin is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.27:1 and is not 16x9 enhanced. I have not been able to find the original aspect ratio but mostly the film looks OK and does not seem obviously cropped. It is not a great print. There are frequent artefacts and scratch marks throughout the film, one mark that remains on the middle right hand side for most of the film, dirt marks and heavy grain in some scenes. Sharpness is poor and any pan loses most of the detail; an example is the pan across the judges' name cards at 88:17-21. Blacks are OK but shadow detail is indifferent. The entire sequence where Drew tells his teacher of his decision to go to Shaolin (6:24-8:43) has a very yellow look. I don't know if this was intentional or original - but it does look strange and is totally different to anything else in the film.

There are no subtitles although there are some burnt in translations of Chinese dialogue.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    The only audio option is English Dolby Digital 2.0. It is a passable track but has some problems. The dialogue is clear, lip synchronisation good and the music and some sounds occur in the surrounds. However, there is noticeable hiss during most quiet moments and some crackles and pops occur. The subwoofer is not used.

The music is neither intrusive nor memorable.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

Trailers

No Retreat No Surrender (3:18), No Retreat No Surrender - Raging Thunder (2:39), No Retreat No Surrender - Blood Brothers (3:20), King of the Kickboxers (2:59), King of the Kickboxers - American Shaolin (3:23). It should be noted that the two additional No Retreat No Surrender films have nothing to do with the original film and in fact the No Retreat No Surrender prefix does not appear in the trailer for either title. Likewise, the trailer for American Shaolin makes no reference to King of the Kickboxers. All trailers are 4x3 in varied condition with some dirt and grain.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    The Region 1 of American Shaolin: King of the Kickboxers II seems similar to our release but at a substantially greater cost. There is no reason to go past the Region 4.

Summary

    American Shaolin is a fun film with a light tone and surprisingly good action sequences presented on a DVD with poor video, passable audio and limited extras. American Shaolin is included in a 2 disc box set with The King of the Kickboxers.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Ray Nyland (the bio is the thing)
Wednesday, January 20, 2010
Review Equipment
DVDSony BDP-S350, using HDMI output
DisplayLG 42inch Hi-Def LCD. This display device has not been calibrated. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.
Audio DecoderNAD T737. This audio decoder/receiver has not been calibrated.
AmplificationNAD T737
SpeakersStudio Acoustics 5.1

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