Directed by: Robert Radler
Starring: Eric Roberts, Phillip Rhee, Chris Penn, Sonny Landham, Ralf Moeller, Meg Foster, Simon Rhee, and Wayne Newton
Now here’s a classic! In this lovably absurd sequel to Best of the Best (1989), illegal, underground Punchfighting matches are taking place in a secret club called The Coliseum. The front is a Las Vegas dance club called The Stock Exchange, but behind the scenes, “Gladiator Fights” are taking place (remember, at this time, the TV show American Gladiators was huge). Specifically, fighters dress up in absurd outfits and pummel each other to death. The star of the show is the arrogant, powerful and unbeatable soulless automaton Brakus (Moeller).
When the likable Travis Brickley (Penn) dies at the hands of the nefarious Brakus, only fellow fighter Alex Grady, his young son, inexplicably named Walter (Gross), and of course Tommy Lee (Rhee) can get to the bottom of this illegal Punchfighting operation. To do this, they head out to the desert so James (Landham) can help them train. Oh, and one more thing...WAYNE NEWTON is the head of this evil hydra.
Only in the early 90’s could a mix of utter silliness and brutal violence come together like this. Not only that, but we feel this movie was instrumental in promoting the Punchfighting genre. The Best of the Best series was surprisingly popular in video stores and on cable channels, and many people first got their taste of Punchfighting because of them. So for that, they deserve a lot of credit. Additionally, this was a time in which filmmakers felt that they should get quality actors and teach them to fight, instead of the other way around. That they should get Eric Roberts and Chris Penn, instead of any old meathead. And at least here, the formula works great.
And when we think “action movies” we immediately think “Wayne Newton”. Newton is a showbiz professional and gives his all here, and he, for whatever reason, really seems to care. he gives an energetic, big performance, and his presence sets the movie apart and makes it really enjoyable. And while it’s great to see Chris Penn, Wayne Newton, Walter the kid (who looks more like a 35 year-old stunted adult), who loves his Tetris, and Eric Roberts, complete with his tomato apron, AND Phillip Rhee, Sonny Lanham, Meg Foster and Nicholas Worth, lest we forget....BRAKUS?
The writers of this movie must really be proud that they came up with the name Brakus, because it is said a minimum of 36 times throughout the movie. Ralf Moeller plays the classic German baddie, and a lot of Best of the Best 2 is lifted from Rocky IV (1985). The invincible Teutonic muscleman is the antagonist, and our heroes must go out into the wilderness to train to beat him (why are Phillip Rhee’s relatives Indians for some reason?), and of course the parallels between Apollo Creed and Travis Brickley.
There are many funny bits, Eric Roberts seems tipsy (if not drunk) throughout the movie, and all is well and good, but even as lovable as it is, it is a bit overlong. If the movie had been chopped down by about 10-15 minutes, we’d be dealing with an even bigger classic. But this is one David and Goliath tale that can certainly withstand multiple viewings.
Featuring the memorable title song by Mark Free, Best of the Best 2 just narrowly makes it into the ranks of a must-see.
Comeuppance Review by: Ty and Brett