Ring of Steel (1994)

RingOfSteelCoverIt’s a fencer’s worst nightmare come horribly true! Three time state champion Alex Freyer is battling for a potential national title as well as a spot on the next Olympic team! During his match after a bunch of thrusting, parrying, and whatever else passes for manly fighting action in a fencing contest, Alex sticks his opponent in the chest! And total disaster strikes! His sword breaks and goes right into the guy’s face!

Now disgraced and a pariah cut off from the only thing he ever loved, Alex has no choice but to sign up for the illegal sword fights taking place at an underground club!

Is there anyway out for Alex? Any path back to redemption once he has prostituted his fencing gift for mere money? Any chance the viewer won’t be cramping from laughing at Alex’s blonde mullet?

I’m sure that the coach for your local high school fencing team shows this movie to his squad on the eve of every big match for motivational purposes just like those weirdos in amateur wrestling watch Vision Quest before rolling around with other sweaty guys on a filthy mat. For normal folks though who live in the real world where sports consist of pro football and college football, it all comes across as pretty strange. And really sissy.

I mean, how am I supposed to feel anything but uncomfortable when Alex starts dressing up in knee boots and one of those loose, lace up pirate shirts? Wasn’t there an entire episode of Seinfeld built around how stupid those shirts were?

The movie connects with mainstream America all too briefly though when it makes fun of fat asses who like role playing games. It all occurs during the try-outs for the secret, underground club run by Joe Don Baker. Why a secret, underground club is having auditions that just any boob can show up at doesn’t make a hell of a lot of sense, especially since after the members of the club humiliate the fat guy who thinks he’s at some renaissance fair, he threatens to go to the cops.

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I wasn’t even sure what he was going to tell the cops, but as far as I could tell the only thing that went on at Joe Don’s club was some gambling on the fights, so maybe it would be wise not to mention that part of the operation until after a guy looks like he’s going to be in it for the long haul and not just a few experience points and a couple of gold pieces.

Ultimately, this fat slob causes the police to start sniffing around the club. Why? Something about his bloated corpse being found with his head all beat up and his liver having a sword-sized hole in it! And his wife saying the last place he was headed was to the club! And his car being located two blocks from the club! It’s obvious that Joe Don doesn’t really know much about running an underground fighting tournament and making blabbermouths disappear!

In his effort to ratchet up the tension even further, writer and star Robert Chapin manages to have the story make even less sense. If Alex decided to join Joe Don’s club and fight for him, that would pretty much be the end of the movie, right? There’s not really any dramatic tension in whether some guy with a bad haircut can win a few sword fights for money and glory is there? There’s a reason why we don’t watch fencing when it’s being shown at the Olympics, right? This is why Joe Don kidnaps Alex’s girlfriend Elana then. With his girlfriend kidnapped, Alex will be forced to fight!

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Except that left to his own devices, Alex appeared to be ready to sign up and fight of his own free will. Sure, his girlfriend was against it because all chicks are opposed to stuff guys want to do that don’t involve them, but after his first match, Alex was really jacked up about the fighting and the money.

Even aside from that though, why does Joe Don want to try and force Alex to fight if he doesn’t want to? Joe Don has plenty of fighters and business is good. Why get all mixed up in kidnapping someone, hoping that Alex will do will what he’s told, and run the risk of it all blowing up in your face when you’re already making money hand over fist?

The movie generally follows the template of most your gladiator movies. Alex fights. Alex makes a friend. Alex’s friend is murdered in the ring. Alex fights the murderer. The police raid the joint. Everything gets set on fire and Alex and his girlfriend jump off the roof onto a mat the fire department has set up while Joe Don gets away. Alex ends up escaping his encounter with the illegal sword fighting circuit with nothing more than perhaps a slightly singed mullet.

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There is a lot of sword fighting in this movie if that’s your thing. And if that’s your thing, you’ll probably enjoy the comic relief when Alex and his buddy send out a chicken to battle the evil fighter in the club. You’ll probably also think the comedy sword fight Alex and this buddy have is the height of hilarity as well.

Real men though will be thinking that if this was a proper underground fighting movie that instead of some dude waving an egg in a guy’s face and clucking, someone like Olivier Gruner would be grimly battling his broken leg while taking on the undefeated evil German fighter who killed his brother years ago, raped his wife, and sold his children to gypsies.

For guys who like their hair to be all business in the front and a big ass party in the back, enjoy wearing women’s blouses and know what the hell a salle is, Ring of Steel is the fighting tournament movie for them! For the rest of us though, it’s kind of pansy.

© 2014 MonsterHunter

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