AKA: Tiger Mask
Directed By: Warren A. Stevens
Starring: Bruce Locke, Richard Lynch, Matthias Hues, Timothy Bottoms, Stoney Jackson, and Robert Z’Dar
Lone Tiger is proof that having a great B-Movie cast filled to the brim with fan favorites doesn’t mean the movie is going to be any good.
Bruce Locke stars as Kurenai , a Japanese Karate man who moves to America and lives in an abandoned warehouse with some runaways. His goal is to defeat the American fighter “Dark Tiger” (Hues) because he thinks he killed his father many years ago. But Kurenai has a “Tiger” mask of his own that he wears when he fights.
Lynch plays Bruce Rossner, an unscrupulous fight promoter who hires Jane (Barbara Niven) to act interested in Kurenai, but really wants dirt on his background. She finds Kurenai and gets Rossner’s right-hand man King (Z’dar) to train him to be a killer in the ring, but it goes against his moral code of honor. However if he doesn’t fight, the runaways that he cares for will go into foster care. The underground matches run by Rossner are in an underground pool with no water. Rossner primarily bets with Marcus (Bottoms) on the outcomes of the matches. It is not punch-fighting, it’s pool-fighting.
Twice Rossner forces Kurenai to kill his opponent and he refuses. Unfortunately, the hobo he’s fighting dies accidentally and Kurenai begins to sour on the whole enterprise.
It all comes a head at Rossner’s birthday party and the truth is finally revealed.
Stoney Jackson is constantly commanding one of the runaways to “Get me my money!” Jackson looks like Dave Chappelle as Rick James and gets the most cringe-worthy line in a while: he exits the bathroom in one the first scenes of the movie and proudly and un-ironically announces “I love to pee!”. The viewer will then realize this will be a tough sit.
This movie is overlong at a punishing 105 minutes.
Matthias Hues is seen next as the wrestler “Dark Tiger” doing his thing in the ring. What seems to be going on is some sort of “Punch-Wrestling”. Hues looks like Fabio more than ever here. However, Hues brings considerable and much-needed charm to the proceedings.
Robert Z’Dar’s presence is always welcome and he does what he can in the role as Coach King. There is a training sequence where King inexplicably just drags Kurenai on his dirt bike. In most states this is a crime. There’s also some other slapstick which feels forced and Kurenai trains while wearing the tiger mask. Apparently it's not for the crowds, it's for his own personal use. From a filmmaking standpoint, the mask is useful because it could be any number of fighters or stunt men at any time. Or better fighters for that matter.
When’s Rossner’s moll Jane states “We are having fried chicken for lunch.” King angrily yells at Kurenai: “GO TO LUNCH!” This is the most inappropriately shouted line since Glenn Ford bellowed “I LIKE FLOWERS!” in Raw Nerve (1991)
Timothy Bottoms joins his Total Force (1997) castmates Lynch and Z’Dar as Marcus, manager of the wrestler “Mr. Mexico” and “Dark Tiger”. Bottoms seems glum and would probably rather be making a something better, like the Total Force sequel “Absolute Force” which also stars the director of Lone Tiger himself, Warren A. Stevens.
Super fan favorite Richard Lynch is enjoyable as Rossner, but far from his glory days as Rostov in the classic Chuck Norris fight-fest Invasion U.S.A. (1985) He always makes a good baddie. Rossner prays to a strange altar so that his men will win his fighting matches.
Sad to say, the fight sequences and choreography are laughably inept and totally inane. They are slow, stagey and lifeless. They seem to be in slow motion, but aren’t. It’s all very ham-fisted. Just look at the scene with the bum and his whip for the worst example. The biggest injustice is that this is just another waste of Hues’ fighting abilities. Ugh. Speaking of ugh, King appears to have been eating a least one jelly donut when he gets kicked in the face at the climax.
Bruce Locke’s broken English and clumsy martial arts moves are another detriment to a production whose crud already runneth over.
Leave this one a "lone" and avoid this one tonight!
Comeuppance Review by: Ty & Brett
Yeah, this was a tough deal. It also felt very weird, between the mask, and the whole wrestling angle, and the dirt bike dragging in the training montage. I wasn't sure how serious I was really supposed to be taking it.
How serious you are supposed to be taking it can be answered in the scene where Z'Dar spews jelly donut filling for blood! All the answers are within.
I know you've said it before but it truly is wild how Hues, Jorge Rivero (Nosferatu, Werewolf) and Lynch were in these other deathmatch films back to back (Death Match, Warrior of Justice).
Part of me believes this was originally another Hard Target/Surviving the Game/Running Man flick prior to more cast changes. Lynch's character seems to mirror virtually every villain in the Best of the Best & Kickboxer sequels esp. James Ryan (Space Mutiny)'s antagonist in the 5th installment of latter franchise.
It's funny how many Kickboxer\surviving the game knockoffs came out in the 90s. There was basically one every week. There's a surviving the game type movie called Final Round with Lorenzo Lamas. Would love to see that.
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