Filmmaker/genius Leo Fong cast Rothrock in her first film with the San Francisco set 24 HOURS TO MIDNIGHT (1985). However, it was the keen eye of a Golden Harvest suit that catapulted her to martial arts movie stardom as she headed to Hong Kong to perform alongside greats like Jackie Chan (R.I.P.), Sammo Hung, Yuen Biao, and Michelle Yeoh. Working steadily overseas proved to be an asset to her career as it allowed Rothrock to really show off her skills. A return stateside saw her hooking up with ENTER THE DRAGON (1973) helmer Robert Clouse for two CHINA O’BRIEN films, making her the only female martial arts star in the U.S. market at the time. Rothrock’s growing popularity saw her splitting her time between the United States and Asia, resulting in a rather disparate filmography in terms of quality. Eventually these two cinematic worlds collided in the early ‘90s when she teamed up with veteran HK exploitation filmmaker Godfrey Ho on two movies (HONOR AND GLORY and UNDEFEATABLE) filmed in America.
Man, the streets of D.C. are rough! Now, I don’t want to sound hyperbolic, but when a film has lady kick a soda can onto another woman’s forehead in the first 10 minutes, I’m pretty sure it is going to be a classic. After handling her kung fu business, Joyce heads to the airport to pick up her sister Tracy (Cynthia Rothrock), a Federal agent returning from doing overseas work in Hong Kong. Joyce fills Tracy in on her Slade efforts (she apparently houses a full editing suite in her home) and the sore subject of their father comes up. Seems Joyce is holding a grudge that daddy didn’t pay enough attention to her, resulting in two very different sisters. Or, as Joyce so eloquently puts it, “you chase honor, I chase glory.” Damn they should make a title out of that.
Meanwhile, the filmmakers continue to reinforce how evil Slade is by having him talk about his reasons for enjoying tennis. “Winning’s the easy part, Jake,” he says to his bodyguard, “It’s toying with them that I enjoy. I like to draw them to the net and let them think they have a chance. Then I crush them on the baseline.” Whoa, chill out, Patrick Bateman! Outside the gym, a couple of hitmen try to get Slade but Jake takes them out with ease. I assume they were hitmen…or guys who really don’t like people who ruin the ethics of tennis. Either way, Slade hires Hideo (Richard Yuen) to kill the two board members he thinks set him up. After all, they nodded toward each other knowingly when Slade gave his “for life” speech earlier.
to be investigating here in the States? Yep, that’s right she is tracking the disappearance of a certain nuclear device. My God and you thought your family had drama? Joining Tracy on her investigation is Dragon Lee (Robin Shou), her old partner from Hong Kong. The filmmakers really establish his character well by showing him just jump into Tracy’s car during a stakeout and having her say, “I thought you were in Hong Kong.” Slade is oblivious to all this heat though as he is planning to get the device for $5 million and sell it to a Saudi prince for $3 billion. Now far be it for me to interfere in high stakes illegal weapons sales negotiations, but I’m pretty sure that dude is overpaying on the resale. Jesus, what a mark up! What is this AMERICAN NUCLEAR PICKERS? Not so oblivious during all of this is Armstrong, who is not only beginning to suspect his boss might be crooked, but is also starting to fancy Joyce (by breaking into her home and asking her where she learned her kung fu). Naturally, it all comes to a head in the designated location for modern martial arts flicks – a warehouse!
With so many ass kickers, Robin Shou, future star of MORTAL KOMBAT, seems almost like an afterthought here. It is like he walked onto the set unannounced and asked, “You need anybody?” He only gets two fights, but they are both well done.
Note: Tai Seng released the ANGEL THE KICKBOXER version on VHS and DVD in the U.S. To make matters even more confusing, they later released an earlier Yukari Oshima film under the new title ANGEL OF KICKBOXER. (As Jack Burton would say, “I don’t even know what the hell that means!”) With such similar titles, the internet believes they are the same film. They are not. Thanks to some detective work by John Charles, we can now say that ANGEL OF KICKBOXER is A PUNCH TO REVENGE (1989). Confused? I hope so.