Ironheart (1992)- * * *
Directed by: Robert Clouse
Starring: Britton K. Lee, Richard Norton, Karmen Kruschke, Meagan Hughes, David Mountain and Bolo Yeung
John Keem (Lee) is an integral part of the LAPD. Not only does he bust the baddies, but he also runs a Martial Arts training program at the police academy. When a woman named Cindy Kane (Hughes) goes missing - and his former partner Douglas (Mountain) does too - Keem hops in his Porsche and travels to Portland, Oregon to get answers. While there, he runs afoul of the criminal mastermind Milverstead (Norton) and his henchman Ice (Bolo). Keem must stop the human trafficking while finding time for love with Kristi (Kruschke). In the process of busting up Portland crime, he screams in an amusing manner and beats a lot of people up. But who will be the true IRONHEART in this situation?
Hot Flash Pizza. It's a great place to get a slice, especially if you're a nerdy sort of fellow and you're looking for a job. Or you could head on down to Up Front FX, the hottest nightclub in town. There's plenty to do in Portland besides get beat up by John Keem. Assuming you don't want to be beat up by John Keem.
Thankfully, there are numerous New Jack City (1991)-inspired dance club scenes, which we always like to see. Ironheart gets off to a bang with an extended one right from the jump, and the very catchy song, "If U Were Mine" by U-Krew plays continuously. Bobby Brown and Bell Biv Devoe were very hot at the time, and U-Krew is right in that vein. The clothing and occasionally synchronized dance moves are a joy to behold.
Now, even though there are several dance club scenes, an aerobics scene, a standout moment where Keem foils an attempted rape, all the songs are by U-Krew, and there's plenty of 90's charm on display, surprisingly, not much actually happens in Ironheart. At least in terms of plot or characters, which are why most people watch movies. There are major pacing issues throughout the film which slow things down for the viewer.
Director Robert Clouse, who was born in 1928, was a bit out of his depth on this one. He passed away in 1997, only five years after the release of Ironheart. Needless to say, it was his final film as director, but he had just come off a hot streak of Gymkata (1985), China O'Brien, and China O'Brien II (both 1990). By the time he got around to Ironheart, I think it's fair to say he was a bit unfocused, at least in terms of his directorial abilities.
While getting Richard Norton and Bolo Yeung to appear side by side was a good idea, the movie might have been more successful if there was a casting change-up: make Norton the hero and Bolo the main baddie, rather than just a goon. Britton K. Lee could have been his henchman. Or perhaps make Bolo the hero and Lee the main baddie, with Norton as the henchman. It's all very fluid, but it's pretty safe to say that only fans of Norton, Bolo, or 90's video-store action will be watching Ironheart in the first place.
In the U.S., Ironheart got what appears to be quite a limited release on VHS on the Imperial label. At least for us, it was never easy to find. Thankfully, MVD have rectified that situation with their Bloodfight/Ironheart Bolo double feature on DVD or Blu-ray. Now these movies are easier to access than ever before. In both films, Bolo is a scowling baddie that doesn't say much, if anything at all. But even going back to the VHS days, he was always front and center on the box art. He was, and remains, a fan favorite even if he doesn't always get the amount of screen time that he should.
In the end, Ironheart is not the slickest, most coherent, or most streamlined beat-em-up you'll ever see, but if you have an affinity for these sorts of things like we do, the nostalgia factor should carry you through at least one viewing.
Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty