RAGE AND HONOR (1992) opens in black and white – first, grainy high contrast footage of the city, maybe 16mm, then camcorder footage with scanlines – following leather-jacketed Kris Fairfield (Cynthia Rothrock) in an empty high school class room, finishing up her day of work and heading home. I assumed this was a reference to the Michelle Pfeiffer tough-and-inspirational-inner-city-teacher movie DANGEROUS MINDS, which also opened in black and white, until I realized that this came out three years earlier. This is another TOP-GUN-coming-out-after-IRON-EAGLE situation. I got one very suspicious and insinuating eye on you, Mr. Bruckheimer. You’re on notice.
The biggest surprise about this movie is that after the opening it’s never relevant or mentioned that she’s a high school teacher. I was so confused by it that I reloaded the DVD two different times thinking I must’ve misinterpreted something. But it’s true – she has a classroom, a chalkboard, she leaves with papers to grade, she runs into a student named Paris (Patrick Malone, THE BONFIRE OF THE VANITIES) and gives him his paper, she seems to be his history teacher. It’s too bad they didn’t stick with the idea, because a Rothrock version of THE SUBSTITUTE or ONLY THE STRONG would be right up my alley. She really does seem like a cool teacher.At first the camcorder footage seems like the POV of a stalker, but it’s actually just Paris. When Kris finally spots him recording her he explains that “Everybody knows that hanging with you somethin’s gonna happen, and I wanna win that thousand bucks the TV station’s offering.” He’s right that somethin’s gonna happen, but his timing is terrible: he leaves her at the ATM machine about two seconds before three guys – one with a bat – try to rob her. (They do not succeed.)
Meanwhile, Australian ex-cop Preston Michaels (Richard Norton, who had already worked with Rothrock in MILLIONAIRES’ EXPRESS, MAGIC CRYSTAL, FIGHT TO WIN, JUNGLE HEAT, CHINA O’BRIEN, CHINA O’BRIEN II, LADY DRAGON and HONOR AND GLORY, and would have four more with her after this) works security for a band called Skab Factory at the Whisky a Go Go. While the band is leaving (Before dark? Were they playing a matinee?) he goes to beat up some guy he sees slapping a woman in a nearby alley. For this he gets brought downtown to be scolded by police captain Murdock (Catherine Bach, THUNDERBOLT AND LIGHTFOOT) because despite however they did things down there “in Kangarooland” he’s not supposed to get involved in their cases here.
(Like Kris’ job as a teacher, Preston’s security job will be quickly forgotten.)
We meet our scary villain Conrad Drago (a shirtless Brian Thompson [LIFE STINKS] with long blond rocker hair) in his office listening to opera and karate chopping a giant ice block in half. Which, honestly, is pretty relatable. His girlfriend Rita Carrion (Terri Treas, Cathy from the Alien Nation tv series), head of Carrion Pharmaceuticals, finds a flyer for a “Martial Science” class being taught by Kris – at a dojo, not the high school – so he gets all bug-eyed and then burns it. Later, Captain Murdock explains that Kris’ parents were killed when she was a kid, and she was raised by the sensei of this dojo, which she inherited when the sensei was found dead in a nearby junkyard.
Oh shit – I think I know who might’ve done it.
The guys Preston fought with earlier looked like gangsters, but I guess they were dirty cops. They don’t notice Preston following them to spy on their cocaine transaction with Rita, and Preston doesn’t notice Paris following him with the camcorder. This gets the poor kid into trouble because after recording Rita executes one of her thugs (Matt O’Toole, MARKED FOR DEATH, SAFE) Paris accidentally drops his skateboard, which rolls across the roof and knocks a Sprite can, which falls off and gets their attention. (As long as they’re doing a chain reaction I wish they had done a full on Rube Goldberg deal.)
Paris runs and gives the tape to a homeless man named Baby (Stephen Davies, THE LONG GOOD FRIDAY, BLOODFIST VII: MANHUNT) but is beaten into a coma before he can tell Preston that, so Preston gets blamed for the murder and goes on the run. (I like that the wanted flyer notes his his “excellent physical cond.”) After he explains the situation to Kris, the two work together to find Paris’ tape.
I like villains like Conrad who have a bunch of weird shit going on that don’t seem to fit together. I was surprised when I realized he’s not so much the boss as the boyfriend/henchman of Rita. At first he tries to farm his work out to Hannah the Hun (Alex Datcher, PASSENGER 57, SCORCHER). He calls her and has a funny way of describing the situation: “The community has a problem in the form of an Australian gentleman… there seems to be a video tape of a certain misadventure.”
Hannah has big hair, Madonna-esque fashion sense, constantly refers to herself in the third person, and commands an army of women who would all fit in on Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling. I can’t imagine she gets paid enough on these jobs to compensate them well, but who knows. They all live together in a lair made of nets and TVs. There are arcade games, but sadly no half pipe or Pepsi machine.
In the course of their adventure, Kris and Preston find Baby, who seems to be mentally ill and/or high, wears a torn up suit and knows Kris as “Miss Fairfield,” as if he might’ve been one of her students. He mentions Sensei, though, so this is not necessarily a reference to the high school teaching. Anyway, he doesn’t have the tape anymore.
Michaels is a sexist bozo, so he says “this has gotta be a gag” – twice! – when they’re attacked by Hannah’s badass ladies (one of them trans) and takes a well deserved beating at first. Lucky for him he’s been using the Thighmaster or something so he catches a foot between his thighs before it reaches his balls.
Conrad tells Rita he doesn’t want to kill Kris because “She’s family. Blood, you know. That’s forever!” Plot twist. Rita changes his mind with an off screen sex act but I gotta say, I don’t know that that should be enough to make somebody agree to kill their sister. I could get with your ice cube chops, but this is too much, buddy. I’m disappointed in you.
I consider this one of the more fun American Rothrock movies. As opposed to the TIGER CLAWS series she seems like the real lead as opposed to support for her male co-star. The fighting’s not as good as in her Hong Kong stuff, of course, but she gets in plenty of scraps, grabs a “sleazoid” by the face and knees him in the balls for catcalling her, is forced to fight Preston (who tries not to at first), does a bunch of unnecessary (but appreciated) flips. Preston keeps saying lines like “Oh, this is one weird bloody Tupperware party.” I don’t know what about the situation reminds him of a Tupperware party – maybe it’s an Australian thing.
Eventually we learn the secret backstory of why Conrad killed Sensei and hates Kris, and they have a duel on a rooftop. Kris knocks him off the roof but his foot catches on a cable and she saves his life. Once he’s safe he shows her affection for a second and it seems like it really could be a touching ending where he forgives her. Instead he sucker punches her in the face, knocking her off the building. She’s alive but out of commission, so Michaels subs in for her.
Well, at least when it’s all over Michaels and Rita’s bodyguard (Toshishiro Obata – Tatsu from TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES I and II) bow to each other. So somebody’s got some honor to go with their rage. Another unusual touch is that they have to hand over the tape to Rita and she snaps it in half, but of course we all assume somebody secretly made a copy, as happens in all movies. Except this one! At the end Michaels hasn’t cleared his name and has to hitchhike out of town. He seems to have a pretty good attitude about it, though.
Sadly, Paris’s footage is featured all over the TV but not as part of the contest he mentioned, so I doubt he won the thousand dollars to put toward his hospital bills.
RAGE AND HONOR is written and directed by Terence W. Winkless, writer of THE HOWLING and director of BLOODFIST and 40+ episodes of Power Rangers. One odd thing about the movie is that it’s produced by I.R.S.Media, better known as the record label that released albums by R.E.M., The Go-Go’s, Fine Young Cannibals and Concrete Blonde. Some of their other movie releases were ERASERHEAD, SHAKES THE CLOWN, RUBIN AND ED and ONE FALSE MOVE. So this is kind of less hip than most of their stuff but also it’s kinda eccentric for the b-action format. And that’s how I like it.
signs of the time: Hannah’s code for referring to the incriminating footage over the phone is “an overdue videotape.” Her lair has arcade games including Pac-Man and WWF Superstars. And there’s a scene that takes place in front of a graffiti mural of the Delicious Vinyl logo.