A Review from Black Belt Magazine
Honoring the Past, Embracing the Future Is The Martial Arts Kid a knockdown, drag-out fight flick in which Don "The Dragon" Wilson and Cynthia Rothrock lay waste to gang bangers and drug dealers? Nope. It’s more accurate to describe it as a family film in which an ordinary teen discovers the meaning of the martial arts.
However, because I’m a few years past being a teenager, it wasn’t themovie’s portrayal of the trials and tribulations of teen life in the21st century that appealed to me most. What I really enjoyed was theway the movie paid homage to the men and women who helped spread themartial arts in America. Both in front of and behind the camera, thestars were out in force.
Wilson and Rothrock may have retired from competition decades ago, butthey still can throw down — and they get a few chances to do exactlythat. Among other encounters, Wilson takes on martial artist T.J.Storm, and Rothrock dispatches some baddies on the beach. The man whochoreographed those close encounters is veteran martial artist, actorand stuntman James Lew, perhaps best known for his work in Big Troublein Little China.
Another martial arts veteran contributed her expertise to the making ofthe movie: Cheryl Wheeler served as co-producer. You probably recognizeher name. She’s a former Black Belt columnist and WKA kickboxing champwho’s done stunt work in scores of movies — including fight-doublingfor Rene Russo in Lethal Weapon 4, which featured one of my favoritemale-on-female fights.
As I mentioned, Wilson and Rothrock are center stage in The MartialArts Kid, where they’re surrogate parents for troubled teen Robbie(Jansen Panettiere). Yes, critics fired a few shots at Wilson andRothrock’s performances in the early years of their acting careers, buttheir skills have improved substantially. In fact, their scenes withRobbie are among the most engaging parts of the movie.
I also loved the film’s nods to history. I’m talking about things likeRothrock’s character hailing from Scranton, Pennsylvania, the citywhere the star actually grew up. And things like the dojo her characterco-owns hosting seminars with real martial arts luminaries like Pete"Sugarfoot" Cunningham, Gerry Blanck, Christine Bannon-Rodrigues,Olando Rivera and Jeff Smith. And details like using old competitionphotos of Rothrock to adorn the walls of said dojo.
The positive messages that run through The Martial Arts Kid make itperfect for youngsters who are in the martial arts, as well as thosewho should be. But there are plenty of gems that make it fun to watcheven if you’re a generation removed from that target audience.
— Robert W. Young Editor-in-Chief, Black Belt magazine
Read more reviews here