Best of the Best (1989) Eric Roberts, Phillip Rhee, James Earl Jones, Sally Kirkland, Chris Penn Movie Review

Best of the Best (1989)   2/52/52/52/52/5

Eric Roberts in Best of the Best (1989)

If Hallmark Made Martial Arts Movies

With a major Tae Kwon Do competition coming up Alex (Eric Roberts), Tommy (Phillip Rhee), Sonny (David Agresta), Virgil (John Dye) and Travis Brickley (Chris Penn) are chosen as the best of the best to be Team America up against the top fighters from Korea. But the journey to the competition is not a smooth one as when Alex's son ends up in intensive care and he drops everything to leave it infuriates Coach Frank Cuozo (James Earl Jones) who threatens him with expulsion from the team. It is not much easier for Tommy who knows he will come face to face with Dae Han Park (Simon Rhee), the Korean fighter who during an earlier competition killed Tommy's brother. But if that wasn't enough there is also Travis whose loud mouthed, antagonistic antics threatens to spit the team before they even start.

If Hallmark made a martial arts movies then "Best of the Best" would be it. It is on one hand the equivalent of a martial arts version of "Rocky" with cliches such as underdogs, training scenes to a pumping soundtrack and of course a big fight climax. And then on the other hand it has emotional drama, family issues which combine with that big fight climax to manipulate your emotions. And as such it would be fair to say "Best of the Best" is seriously corny for a martial arts movie and features plenty of melodramatic over acting alongside lashings of cheesy dialogue. But at the same time "Best of the Best" is strangely entertaining, drawing you in to the various cliche elements, making you laugh at the obvious humour and being slightly impressed by the martial arts scenes.

Eric Roberts, Chris Penn and John Dye in Best of the Best (1989)

The thing is that having said all that it is clear that "Best of the Best" is not the most complicated of movies, yes there is the drama such as when Alex leaves to be with his sick son but it is false drama because of course he will end up back in the team, it is obvious. A bit more intriguing is the storyline surrounding Tommy although because "Best of the Best" isn't about the realism you sort of know that come the end of the movie there is more likely to be a handshake than a revenge killing. It is just that sort of movie and is why I call it a "Hallmark" style action movie.

But as I said it is entertaining and if you enjoy the inspiration of seeing fighters train then "Best of the Best" will give you some training scenes to work out to. Plus whilst it intentionally includes humour some of it is so poor that it is funny for a whole different reason. And then there is the acting and from Chris Penn delivering pig headed to a long haired Eric Roberts doing tough but sensitive as well as one armed fighting expert it kind of makes you smile. In a way the best way to describe all aspects of "Best of the Best" is inspirationally tacky.

What this all boils down to is that "Best of the Best" is not a good movie and is both cliche and corny. But at the same time, despite the over acting and false melodrama it is strangely enjoyable. And whilst it follows the obvious sport movie formula mixed in with a touch of what comes across as Hallmark emotional drama it is entertaining, although often for the wrong reasons.