Directed by: Ruta K. Aras
Starring: Ruta K. Aras, Tara Lee-Ann Roth, Dennis Swarthout, Louis Lombardi, and Sandy Kay
Sandy Thomas (Tara Lee-Anne Roth in, sadly, her only credited role to date) is the owner of an aerobics studio named High Kicks! It’s not so much that we’re really excited to tell you that, but the studio name, defiantly, has an exclamation point. One day, a man named Sam (Dennis Swarthout in, sadly, his only credited role to date) walks into High Kicks! looking for a job. Sam is just a guy who sails from port to port in his personal yacht. He also knows Karate, but his feathered and ponytailed blonde locks are stunning enough for everybody both good and bad. After Sandy is raped and assaulted by a gang (or, as they call themselves, a tribe), she goes for a walk in the park with Sam. She notices Sam get into a shirtless skirmish with two of his buddies. One looks like a more buff George Lopez and one is a German gentleman named Jonas who is a Steven Seagal and Jean-Claude Van Damme wannabe (that’s not an insult - he actually says so to his pals). Impressed, Sandy wants to learn Martial Arts from Sam, and, if there’s time, get revenge on the baddies that wronged her. Not kill them, mind you, just rough them up a little. Once Sandy’s friend Jill (Kay) sees what’s going on, she wants in on the training. Soon it dawns on Sandy that she could combine Karate and aerobics into the ultimate workout - what she then calls “Karobics” is born. After some ups and downs in their relationship, they eventually go after the main baddie, T.C. (Lombardi), who is less evil and more of a bossy fat guy. In the world of High Kicks (!), anything can happen - who can kick the highest? Find out today!
Out of all the shot-on-video movies in the “Women Who Kick Butt” DVD collection (for those keeping track, there’s also Street Angels, Death Run to Istanbul and Flight To Danger), High Kicks is the most professional of the bunch and the most watchable. It’s a bit like being the tallest midget, but, in the spirit of comparison, let’s keep things in perspective. High Kicks is a minor gem of zero-budget ingenuity, especially if you keep your standards and your expectations low.
The movie carries the baton forward from the classic aerobics movies of the 80’s like Killer Workout (1987) and Death Spa (1989), but adds a totally-90’s, video vibe to that groundwork. Clearly Billy Blanks was watching - and you thought Tae Bo was the first workout program to combine aerobics and Martial Arts? Sorry, Sandy Thomas and Sam were there first. As if this innovation weren’t enough, the opening rape scene plays out as if some pre-teens tried to make their own episode of Law and Order: SVU at home. Or if the Lifetime channel switched to videotapes to film their movies. Then Sam arrives, a man who looks like the result if Dave Coulier downed a whole bottle of Rogaine with Minoxidil. Even the baddies are more baddie STEREOTYPES. But one of them has a T2 shirt, and someone else has an L.A. Law shirt. So clearly it wasn’t all about women in leotards.
Sandy Thomas is a heroine the audience can get behind: she leaves a message on her answering machine informing callers that she’s out chasing down the bad guys. And she eats pizza with fries as the topping. While this was Tara Lee-Anne Roth’s only foray into moviemaking, other cast members did some interesting stuff; Roth’s stunt double was Michele Krasnoo, who was in Death Match (1994) and Kickboxer 4 (1994), among other DTV action titles. Director Aras produced some AIP movies throughout the 90’s, and the guy who plays T.C. was in plenty of mainstream material later, including the show 24 and a lot more. He must have shown casting agents his High Kicks reel. But whatever happened to the Karobics Instructor credited in the end credits? That’s the real question.
Oddly, the version we have of the movie features no music whatsoever and no sound effects. Is this just a defect of our copy? The opening titles, the many montages, even Sandy playing a cassette tape in her studio - nothing. The movie muted itself. It got to where we imagined our own music, especially for the sailing montage. We imagined a jaunty keyboard tune with poppin’ bass and a rockin’ guitar solo. The lack of music hurt the movie, and this was certainly a first for us. Has anyone out there seen a version WITH music? We’d really like to know. Even still, there should have been a title song to pump us all up.
Sure, none of it makes much sense (how are they tracking down all the baddies?), but are you really watching High Kicks for a logical reason? It’s all pretty much silly fun, and if there was music, we’d probably have enjoyed the movie even more. It would have been interesting to see Ruta Aras go on to make more movies as director - but we should be thankful for what we have. For a nutty and nonsensical reach into the outer regions of DTV action (?), may we suggest High Kicks? Clearly, we’re still boggled.
Comeuppance Review by: Ty and Brett
Also check out a write-up from our buddy, Bleeding Skull!