Deathfight (1994) – Review

2 Stars

Deathfight is aimed at undiscriminating fans of Martial Arts B-movies. Even so the script is horrendous and the dialogue is unbearable. The saving grace of the film is the unique screen presence of Aussie karate master and action hero Richard Norton. Here he plays a wealthy business man falsely accused of murdering his mistress. Imprisoned and left to fend for himself Jack befriends a jailhouse snitch nicknames who serves as the film’s sidekick for the rest of the running time. The story is the usual nonsense involving two warring brothers and a bid to gain control of a Bangkok corporation. In truth there isn’t much in the death or fighting department for a film with both words in the title.

Norton resembles Chuck Norris mixed with a touch of Michael Dudikoff. His Australian accent and this particular director’s fetish for shots featuring Norton’s ass in the fore-frame recall Mel Gibson’s early films. Inoffensive to martial arts film fans of the 1990’s with nothing particularly memorable. The terrible sound mix leads to scenes in which actors are speaking but the voices are drowned out by an overbearing score. The script, which purports to be a Enter the Dragon / Bloodsport mash up, is actually more cerebral than either. Neither of those pictures had a scene in which a husband accused of murdering a local business woman has to explain his actions to his wife serving as his defense attorney. It’s a surprisingly complex development in a screenplay that seems to want to be more about a mercantile plant takeover than kicks to the head.

Somewhere in this story about adultry and international smuggling, hostile takeover and political intrigue, the filmmakers find time to fit in some action. Something that goes lacking for long periods of this low-rent effort. When it does arrive it’s done with some sleekness and properly showcases the (largely ignored) talents of Richard Norton. There is an extended car chase sequence that seems like an afterthought when the producers realized that Deathfight has more scenes of drama than fighting or dying. A stellar fight scene between Chuck Jeffries and Norton involving a sword and wooden staff is the highlight of the entire picture.

Truth in criticism requires me to report that I was amused for long stretches of Deathfight, but impatient viewers may find themselves bored early on and eager to abandon the viewing experience all together. If you can make it past an unusual and rocky first half the picture does pick up late and delivers a satisfying conclusion. Not the best or the worst in the Richard Norton film cannon.

Director: Anthony Maharaj
Stars: Richard Norton, Chuck Jeffreys, Tetchie Agbayani

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