Martial Outlaw (1993)

Utterly anonymous martial arts movie star Jeff Wincott (Last Man Standing) finally meets his match in this, the darkest and grimmest of all the movies he made where his frequent karate chops effortlessly replace completely superfluous acting chops!

On the trail of a vicious Russian mob boss (he’s so mean he chops parts of his relatives’ fingers off just to make sure they stay loyal!), DEA agent Kevin White (Wincott) finds himself back in his old home town where his older brother, a cop named Jack, still lives and seethes with anger toward Kevin for going to college and getting out their crappy home town – some craphole named Los Angeles!

At first you can sympathize with Jack, what with being left in a dead end no name small town like Los Angeles while his brother gets to live in fancy big cities like Washington, D.C. and with Kevin having left Jack to take care of their crippled up boozehound father! You can even forgive Jack for stealing a little bit of jewelry from an antique store since he’s giving it to his wife for their anniversary and because he stopped a robbery there earlier with his bare hands! He just cut out the middle man (the store owner) in getting a reward for saving the ungrateful turd’s life!

And though I did grow a bit uneasy when Jack invaded the Russian mobster’s headquarters to force the mobster to cut him in on the profits of a drug shipment coming into town, my moral relativism (and my delight at seeing Gary Hudson from Operation Delta Force 4: Deep Fault and Black Thunder chew scenery with a entertaining surliness) meant I didn’t care all that much if some dirtbag criminal had to share the wealth. I’ll admit it did seem out of line when he then gleefully executed his brother’s undercover informant right there in the office!

I could probably root for Jack if he was simply a greedy homicidal maniac, but he pushes it too far once he’s back at home and he and his wife are getting ready to go out for their anniversary. She’s banging hot in her skintight dress which she inexplicably ruins with a silly blue scarf tied into her hair. A blue scarf that even more inexplicably was given to her by Kevin when he came to town to work on his case! Really Kev? What man is out there buying scarves to hand out as gifts to his sexy sister-in-law?

Perhaps owing to some heretofore undiagnosed hideous genetic defect common to certain families who spend all their time getting kicked in the head at the gym, when Jack sees the scarf, he thinks it looks smashing! Until his wife tells him it was a gift from Kevin! Then Jack starts smashing her!

Luckily dad isn’t drunked up so much that he can’t hear his oldest son beating down his wife, so he comes in before Jack can do any permanent physical damage, but you can’t really root for a dude who plays the wife beater card. All you can do is root for a brother vs. brother beat down to close the film.

Along with the addition of a compelling scumbag like the evil big brother Jack, Martial Outlaw is smart enough to lay on the fight scenes as much as possible and even has the brothers battle together as well as fight one another. Wincott also faces the second toughest challenge of his career during Martial Outlaw when he unwittingly ends up participating in a Russian Circle. Despite what it sounds like, it is not some strange vodka-fueled gay gang bang, but is where a bunch of guys stand in a circle and fight a guy one at a time. So it’s really just a more organized brawl than usual.

But while beating eight Russian muscle twinks with barbells and weights is surely an effort worthy of one of Twelve Labors of Hercules, it is the confrontation that Kevin has at the shooting range that is most dangerous in the movie and of Wincott’s career!

I am of course referring to the confrontation he has with the sweater he is wearing! Nearly unspeakable in its hideousness, it disorients the viewer with its multiple checkerboard patters. An alternating large black and white square pattern is merely the background for a smaller brown checkerboard swath of material haphazardly strewn about the foul beast. Our action heroes shouldn’t look like they were dressed in something that your crazy blind aunt would send you as a Christmas present. If she hated both you and Christmas!

That this was one of the most entertaining of Jeff Wincott’s films and nothing much has been said about what Jeff is up to (except his unfortunate sartorial choices ) is no coincidence. As in his other films like Open Fire, there just isn’t that much to Jeff beyond the periodic cloudburst of kicking he delivers to an endless procession of dimwitted thugs.

Minus any sort of personality or natural affinity for commanding our attention while on screen, he is admittedly still pretty ripped. However, he’s one of those ripped guys who is a runt. Being shorter than average, carrying a bunch of muscle and being dressed up in ill fitting sport coats leads him to have a somewhat funny-looking squat appearance that makes it hard to take him seriously as a premiere bad ass.

Those of you with doctorates in obscure action movies will no doubt be reminded of Ron Marchini of Omega Cop and Karate Cop fame, but even as silly as Marchini was as the centerpiece of a series of action films, Wincott still pales in comparison as he lacks the endearing obsession with hats that Marchini had.

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