Kick or Die (1987)

Kick or Die VHS CoverWomen are being brutally attacked and raped on the campus of the local college, but now the community is standing together to take back the night! By having a meeting to decide what to do! And they decide what any sensible low budget action would – hire the legendary alumni martial artist to teach the co-ends self defense! And it only took two short raped-filled years to add it to the curriculum!

If two years seems like an awfully long time to address protecting your female students, good old City U isn’t going to just hire any guy prancing around in his silk jammies, bowing and having unconvincing slap fights with local toughs. They need a guy with the freaking beat’em up bona fides! And that guy is Don Potter!

Who is Don Potter? He’s just a guy with a resume that any rapist would sweat over! He was in the reserves, but his kung fu jitsu was so sweet that he got called up to the Special Forces! He also ran his own karate school! But what really cinches things is that Coach wanted him to go out for City U’s football team! I mean, with Don Potter roundhouse kicking the opposing quarterback in the head all game long, you couldn’t keep them out of the Rose Bowl, right?

But Don Potter has one qualification above all that which everyone recognizes as making him the perfect kick stud for the job. Don Potter is a haunted man! Two years ago, the love of his life was brtually raped and murdered! The assailant was never caught and it was the beginning of the rape epidemic currently afflicting City U!

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Now, Don just hangs out in his house out in the remote countryside, training and getting in touch with his broken soul. Is it any wonder then that when his good friend Craig Merkle comes calling to offer him the job as Adjunct Professor of Punchology, that Don responds by whizzing a throwing star right by Craig’s head! As great as that was, it was a bit of a tease since Don never uses it again in the film, thus depriving the audience of Don whipping a shuriken into the rapist’s ball sack and sneering something along the lines of “guess you’ll have to change your major from raping to opera!”

Kick or Die though has no time for such cliched moments of bad dialogue because it’s more interested in cliched moments of bad action! When Don is gassing up his jeep on his way to town he notices an evil motorcycle gang cruising the area. If your Spidey sense just went off that Don is going to get in a few exhibition fights before his main event with the campus rapist, you probably also start to feel sorry for the insurance company that covers the diner Don visits in the next scene and are wondering how many broken tables, chairs and spilled salads it will take before the owner can meet his deductible.

Quickly turning the whole “campus rapist and bullying bikers” lemons into all kinds of romantic lemonade, Don and Eve, the daughter of the diner’s owner, fall for each other. But Don’s dead girlfriend PTSD gets in the way at the most inopportune times, thus causing him to suffer a near breakdown while at a dance club with Eve when he witnesses a disco dance that he feels showed the woman was asking to be raped! It would have been laughable except you admired him for finding a way to end the tedious dancing scene during the film.

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It causes a rift between him and Eve and eventually they would separate in a montage where she went on a singing tour with his friend Craig, while Don stayed at home, drinking booze, looking at pictures of his dead girlfriend and repeatedly banging his head on a table. And all of this was while Eve was singing a terrible song. Truly, Kick or Die lives up to its brutal title!

But what’s all this about Craig and Eve on tour? In a plot development that had you wondering if the film had either totally abandoned the campus rapist angle or more incredibly, that Don’s friend Craig was actually the campus rapist and he was going to try rape and kill Eve on tour for some reason, we learn that Craig is both a champion boxer (I wonder if that will come in to play later on?) and a music producer and that Eve has a great voice and desires a singing career!

She is still enrolled at City U though and despite suffering non-stop rapes for two years, City U’s campus security is invisible and there are sidewalks that seem to wind through the jungle mere feet from the university buildings, thus allowing Eve to be attacked by the rapist.

Proving that all those extra sessions with Professor Don have paid off, she fights back and escapes and with critical evidence – the voice of her attacker on tape! But it isn’t great quality so they need someone who’s an expert with audio. Someone like ace music producer Craig! Sadly, Craig quickly proves only that he’s an expert with the erase button!

Why Craig, why? Remember that girl that Don loved? That was Craig’s fiancee! Sure, he was heartbroken, but he said “no hard feelings!” And Don’s PTSD flashbacks finally pay dividends when he’s handed Craig’s sunglasses and he immediately recognizes them as the same ones that his girlfriend’s killer left at the scene of the murder all those years ago! You can guess the rest – a race to Craig’s secluded estate and another totally unrelated and time-killing confrontation with the biker gang!

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Clearly Craig is quite unbalanced. Why else would you recommend the most bad ass guy you can think of to investigate the crimes you yourself are committing? And recommend a guy who has an added incentive in catching the rapist since the rapist also killed his girlfriend? And then you attack his new girlfriend who has been training with Don right in the middle of campus? And if you are going to go through the silly attempt to disguise yourself as black guy, maybe you should invest in a different brand of sunglasses than what you wear in your civilian life. Sure, I love my Oakleys, but they make several different styles!

Kick or Die though is also just as technically deficient as Craig is mentally, from the visible boom mike in one scene to the terrible fighting sequences. (I’m going to give fight choreographer John Barrett the benefit of the doubt and blame the actors for the wimpy kung fu since John kicked so much ass in American Kickboxer and To the Death.)

Kevin Bernhardt as Don leaves no impression, but that’s an improvement over Holaday Mason as Eve. Kick or Die is her only credit and she speaks her lines in the pained and stilted manner of someone who only has one acting credit.

Even worse, none of the women get to confront and get revenge on the rapist and it is left for Don to do so, the brutal violence against the women merely the set up for the standard grudge match between two guys who used to be friends.

With its casual use of rape as a story element and less-than-empowering message (Don’s self defense class barely plays any part in the film and though his girlfriend fights the rapist off initially, she ends up drugged and needing to be rescued by Don), the scuzzy Kick or Die may well be the first cinematic Title IX violation.

© 2016 MonsterHunter

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