Fearless Tiger (1991)

Must he really?
Must he really?

“A betrayal that couldn’t be forgiven.”

Directed by Ron Hulme
Starring  Jalal Merhi, Bolo Yeung, Monika Schnarre, Jamie Farr, Lazar Rockwood

Lyle (Merhi), a nice Lebanese-Canadian thirty-year-old grad student, falls into depression when his brother is murdered by drug dealers (or dies of an overdose; I wasn’t clear.) He drops his job at the family firm and postpones his wedding, angering his father (Farr) and fiancee (Schnarre), and goes to Hong Kong to study martial arts and earn the red sash of a master of arty martialness.

Studying with wise teach Do Man and occasionally with a mysterious mentor who does kung fu on a mountain (Yeung), Lyle enters a tournament and almost by chance runs into the drug dealer who killed his brother and is being investigated by his friend and fellow martial artist… Um… Cop guy. (Yeah; I can’t remember his character name and didn’t know the actor, so…)

Drug gang the Black Pearls murder the commissioner and Cop Guy’s stuffy, by-the-book captain, so Lyle, Cop Guy and a couple of mates break into their secret hideout in a temple and nick a Buddha statue. Ha! Then Lyle goes back to Canada, gets the elbow from his fiancee, but hooks up with her again after the Black Pearls kidnap her.

Lovers are reunited, the wicked catch fire and our story ends happily.

I mean, the story ends, happily.

What’s wrong with it?

They really aren't.
They really aren’t. Or isn’t, if you must. On the other hand, this film wasn’t released until after Merhi’s next opus, Tiger Claws co-starring Cynthia Rothrock.

Remember how much I extolled the rampant eightiesness of Buckaroo Banzai? Well, if that film contained a distillation of all that was good about the decade, this is where the crap ended up.

Merhi is a terrible actor, and at best a so-so martial artist. No-one else is significantly better, except perhaps Bolo Yeung, who is barely in it. Monika Schnarre is better in Lost in Time.

Actually, all the martial arts is a bit dull, and I wonder if they made the cardinal error of just getting martial artists to do martial arts and filming it, instead of getting any showmanship involved.

Lyle is also a deeply unlikable character. Okay, so his father and fiancee could have been more sympathetic when he was in the grip of obvious post-traumatic depression, but it was the 80s and men weren’t expected to have feelings. But then he comes back after a year and is all ‘hi honey! Are we on again?’ And this largely because the girl he hit on in Hong Kong sold him out for the Black Pearls for a kicking. Also, he really doesn’t get the whole ‘patience and humility’ thing, whining about having to paint walls when he first arrives at the martial arts school even when the purpose is spelled out to him.

What’s right with it?

Oh, Jamie Farr is okay in the two scenes he’s in.

How bad is it really?

It very much hasn't.
It very much hasn’t.

Oh my, this is a stinker. It’s not even just dull, I actively wanted Lyle to get punched in the face more.

Best bit (if such there is)?

In the final chase scene, Lyle and Ashley (his fiancee, who does have a name) jump on the back of a garbage truck, where Lyle has to fight the gang heavy. It’s not good, but it is unique.

What’s up with…?

What will make my martial arts look good? I know; I'll stand near Bolo Yeung!
What will make my martial arts look good? I know; I’ll stand near Bolo Yeung!
  • This film had an 18 certificate? Did I miss something?
  • The gang’s slapdash executions? Finding someone is stealing from them they accost him on a boat and push him into six feet of water, a few yards from shore.
  • Lyle’s 1337 coding skills? Given an hour to bring the disc, Lyle somehow finds the time to replace the drug formulae with an animation of a dude flashing a moonie. That wasn’t easy in 1991.

Ratings

Production values – Cheap 80s made-for-video stock means that the DVD transfer looks like a pre-movie travelogue. That’s just age, but it’s also mumbly, poorly framed and the martial arts is kinda dull. 17
Dialogue and performances – Even giving the benefit of the doubt and assuming no-one’s performance is best represented by the poor-quality transfer, the actors are bad, and their lines no more than they deserve. 15
Plot and execution – Lyle literally stumbles on the drugs plot again in Hong Kong, after he’s been blown off by the waitress and happens to see a ‘monk’ whom he saw talking to a dealer in Canada. 14

No-one else in Hong Kong could have spotted that this man was not a Buddhist monk.
No-one else in Hong Kong could have spotted that this man was not a Buddhist monk.

Randomness – Martial arts, aged students, treacherous waitresses, martial artists who happen to have run across this gang in the ‘Nam and trouser-dropping sprites. 13
Waste of potential – Man, I just don’t know. There is not a lot to work with here, so I guess they do okay with a bad recipe. 4

Overall 63%

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