You’ve lived your whole life on the side of law and justice. In your world, there’s right and there’s wrong. And it’s your job, no, it’s your God-given duty to bring evildoers to justice. But what would it take to make you throw away all your beliefs, make you betray every value you held dear? What could possibly drive you to commit the very acts you’ve spent years standing up against? A woman? A family member? A new house?
That’s right! Don “The Dragon” Wilson graduates into the world of real movies with his version of Extreme Make Over: Crooked Ex-Cop Edition! The Dragon knows that it’s time to put away the cyborg assassins, the vampire hunter outfits, and the crazy CIA psychic powers to tackle storylines that almost resemble real life issues!
Sure, most of our real lives aren’t spent worrying about our drug-addicted hooker friend or the fact that our SWAT buddies lied to get us kicked off the force, but The Dragon comes from a world where guys run around using the Death Touch on people and villains are called The Hydra.
The Dragon is even loaded down with more ordinary problems including a burgeoning workplace romance and dealing with his ex-wife shacking up with a professional baseball player which causes the Dragon to worry that his connection with his son is going to be lost since his new dad can teach him how to throw a split-fingered fork ball.
Then this guy goes and gets traded to Florida and The Dragon’s old lady starts talking about taking The Dragon’s kid with them!
I didn’t have any problem buying everything else in the movie, but the whole child custody thing was bogus. Really, if you were a 12 year old boy, would you rather hang around some sissy who wears cleats and a cup, or around your kickboxing SWAT team dad?
So how exactly do all these soap opera threads come together to give us The Dragon at his most angst-ridden? Like a lot of us, The Dragon is having problems at work. Tom Sasso is another guy on the SWAT team and feels like he should be the leader.
Sasso complains that the Dragon keeps making all kinds of wrong decisions that put cops’ lives in danger. Sure, The Dragon gets one cop stabbed and his girlfriend blown up, but come on Tom! Everybody has a few bad days at work!
Even though I was dreading watching this movie due to its hideous DVD cover which just screamed “turgid drama about a cop in too deep”, Redemption acted quickly to reassure me that not only was it going to be okay, it was going to set a new standard in Don The Dragon cinema!
You know surly Tom Sasso? Played by Richard Norton! As in Deathfight‘s Richard Norton! And Raiders Of The Sun‘s Richard Norton! And the very same Richard Norton who already fought Don The Dragon at the end of CyberTracker!
So Sasso and The Dragon get it on in a climatic battle that tears apart all of southern California in the last five minutes of the movie, right? Sure. In a movie that sucked!
In a movie that managed to be an awesome Don The Dragon effort while transcending all previous awesome Don The Dragon efforts, Redemption gives you a bare knuckled brawl right at the beginning of the movie in the SWAT team locker room!
The only thing that prevented a lot of guys having their lockers dented in the shape of Sasso’s head was the intervention of fellow martial arts legend Cynthia Rothrock!
After getting Cynthia blown up, The Dragon’s team turns on him and lies on a report that blames him for her death. The Dragon is forced to resign and into a life of crime. Because he needs cash for a down payment on a house. Because he wants to have a house for when his son visits him in the summer. Because I guess his apartment isn’t cool enough. Seemed to be a bit thin on the motivation front, but it brought the late great Chris Penn to the forefront of the picture, so who frigging cares!
Chris and The Dragon had already worked together in Future Kick and this time around Chris appears as the crime kingpin who The Dragon turns to for a job in an effort to make some quick cash.
While Chris isn’t in the movie much, he owns every scene he is in! His intensity whenever he’s on screen will have you hanging on every cuss word and racial epithet he spews out! During one of his rants, he even manages to name check Cloris Leachman!
One of the great things about Redemption (besides everything!) is that many of the characters don’t follow the expected trajectory. Chris Penn? There’s no showdown between him and The Dragon! In fact, they’re pretty much buddy buddy throughout and never have a falling out!
The drug pushing pimp who beats The Dragon’s hooker pal? He and The Dragon never settle up with each other!
And evil Tom Sasso? He has his life saved by The Dragon during the big bank robbery that closes out the film! And acknowledges that maybe The Dragon is okay after all!
Redemption manages to juggle its various plot elements efficiently and if most of them never quite add up to anything (there are no consequences for The Dragon’s life of crime, nothing is resolved as to his child, and the SWAT team’s lies about The Dragon’s conduct is never revealed), well, we can overlook it because we love seeing Chris Penn swear, we love seeing The Dragon doing whatever it takes to get paid, and there’s a nice amount of kicking and killing going on.
Director Art Camacho (Recoil) does manage to irritate with his headache-inducing jerky camera work during some action scenes, but it’s not as awful as the Parkinson’s Cam used in Night Hunter. Besides, I’ll take a little bit of that in an actual movie over the less annoying slow motion used in abysmal juvenile kickbox junk like Red Sun Rising. Consider The Dragon redeemed with this one!
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