The best way to describe Best Of The Best in one title is “The Karate Adults” instead of “The Karate Kid”. In this movie a team is put together from several martial artists to compete with Korea for the world championship title. But before they can do that, these fighters must overcome their differences and become a team, well according to the trailer at least. In the end there’s just one rotten apple in the basket and not to spoil anything but it shouldn’t be much of surprise: just before the tournament he has a change of heart.
It kind of tells you all about what kind of movie The Best Of The Best is. A simple adult version of The Karate Kid in which Eric Roberts is presented as the star of the show. Fun thing is, he isn’t actually. The team consists of 5 people, two of them are filler, there’s the rotten apple played by Chris Penn and no less than two protagonists; Tommy Lee (Phillip Rhee) and Eric Grady (Eric Roberts). Now with Eric Roberts’ face on the cover and posters, him in the opening scene teaching his kid to ride a bike you expect to movie to be about him. And until the team is selected the movie is from his point of view. Then Tommy Lee is introduced and as the only one of the team other than Grady he gets a bit of back story. It seems that the ultimate bad guy and world champion of the Korean team Dae Han Park killed his brother in a tournament fight when he was just a kid. So while the movie has been concentrating on Grady, it’s Lee who has the ultimate final showdown in the tournament. Logically the movie should have revolved around him from the beginning and thus he should have been featured on the promotional material at least as much as Eric Roberts. My guess is an Asian man speaks to a smaller demographic than a white mean looking Eric Roberts.
The movie mostly concentrates on their training before the tournament. They’re trained by James Earl Jones who’s dark deep voice finds his way through every subwoofer with ease. During this period there’s the obligatory bar fight, a mental breakdown here and there, motivational speeches and of course the obligatory training montage put to an 80s rock tune. As you can see there’s not a lot of originality here.
Grady has an old shoulder injury. As he himself states it’s a piece of plastic hold together by pins. At one point during the tournament the Korean trainer says to his student to go for the shoulder. It instantly reminded me of “sweep the leg” from The Karate Kid.
This is a by the numbers martial arts movie that was done better by other movies. There are elements here of The Karate Kid, Rocky IV and several other movies released in the 80s. Other than the ending most of it is predictable from beginning to the end. The only original aspect here are the two protagonists instead of one.
If they remade it today they could set it in North Korea and there could be an emotional speech like in Rocky IV. That would be cool.