This world can really make it tough on a tough guy who tries to maintain his non-violent stance. What with your pregnant old lady getting stabbed in the guts and your friend getting himself ass raped in the secret arctic fight-to-the-death club you’ve both been kidnapped to and forced to participate in, it is perhaps understandable that you’re eventually going to be beating the piss out of guys, throwing prison shanks into their backs and making sure it’s them who blow up and not you.
To his credit (and the audience’s consternation) Professor John Stoneman spends most of Fatal Combat (aka No Exit) trying to reason with all the killers and psychos he comes across, babbling unconvincingly that there can be a different path other than violence. (That Stoneman is played by karate expert Jeff Wincott who starred in such films as Open Fire and The Killing Machine serves to only make his scenes teaching a college class on how to avoid committing violence all the more delightfully ludicrous.)
John’s life as faux college professor pussy comes crashing down around him when his wife is attacked in a parking garage by one of those multi-ethnic gangs that only exist in movies. After John temporarily suspends his non-violent policy to beat down the whole gang but the guy holding a knife to his wife, he has to watch as this dude stabs her in the stomach. And if that wasn’t heinous enough, Fatal Combat is the type of film to let us know how difficult it has been for them to conceive and that his wife has had a couple of miscarriages before. Because just stabbing a woman in her third trimester might not be dramatic enough.
This whole sequence though is merely the way that John comes to the attention of Armstrong, the man behind the underground snuff fighting PPV show known as No Exit. With all the news coverage of what a bad ass hero John is, Armstrong knows that John would be perfect for the upcoming episodes of his program. Armstrong kidnaps John and his buddy and transports them to the old arctic mining camp in Canada where a modern day satellite TV operation has somehow been set up without anyone knowing. (Well, anyone except all the subscribers to his show!)
Armstrong is your typical gasbag businessman villain who is prone to unleashing monologues discussing society, morality and how he provides an outlet for people who watch. He and John engage in the expected arguments about whether John will kill someone on the show with John adamantly refusing to do so and Armstrong finally kidnapping John’s wife in an effort to force John to take a fall in the title match. In what has to be classified as a classic “backfire” it’s only when John knows his wife is kidnapped that he suddenly has no problems killing and prevails against the evil Darcona in the final fight in the tournament.
The fights are really the only reason for movie like this to exist. I’m not here to sit through one of Professor Stoneman’s lectures about controlling yourself, so it comes as a bit of a disappointment that there aren’t a hell of a lot of fights in the film and what fights do occur are brief and either are dull or shot poorly. (Do we really want to see Darcona lumbering around in a parka on the tundra in the middle of the night snapping a guy’s neck and growling at the camera?)
Way too much time is spent on John convincing his friend not to escape, trying to teach another guy how to breathe properly while training, and John and Armstrong bickering. John himself only fights twice during his time in captivity and neither was as good as the brawl he had with the dudes who stabbed his wife before all this arctic fighting prison camp business began!
Director/co-writer Damien Lee (Last Man Standing) does the viewer damage on multiple fronts with this effort, most notably with his repeated use of a “screen full of static” effect as a transition that looks like it belongs on your lame cousin’s backyard movie and the homoerotic training montage where a glistening and shirtless John is posing in various kung fu stances while terrible and utterly generic rock music is playing and ruining it for those of us loving the sweaty muscled up drenched-in-oil session!
It’s probably best if you don’t even bother to think about how a guy can operate a secret fight club and satellite PPV channel in the arctic wastes of Canada without the authorities detecting it or with the gargantuan overhead such an enterprise would necessarily entail.
Even the ending doesn’t manage to make much sense, first with John asking Armstrong what his viewers would think if they knew Armstrong was going to kill him and his wife in cold blood. Uh, the “viewers” are paying to see people get killed, I don’t think there’s going to be much outrage that a couple of party poopers who don’t want to fight to the death are dealt with. Then John slaps an explosive bracelet on Armstrong and it blows up. Presumably it was the one John had been wearing, but if so, how did he get it off and how did he activate it again?
The non-violent kung fu master professor is a dopey set up, the fight club at Santa’s Village is even dopier and the lack of entertaining violence is just inexcusable. Even the idea of setting up a rogue PPV channel just comes off as even sillier now than it surely was in 1995 since today anyone with an internet connection and a phone can stream whatever they want with little trouble. The reliably ripped Wincott is the best thing, merely because everything else is just that bad.
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