Only the Strong (1993) – Review

1 1/2 Stars

After a honorable discharge from the service, ex special forces solider Louis Stevens (Mark Dacascos), returns to the inner-city of Miami, to find his former high school overrun by drugs and violence. While stationed in South America, Stevens became a master of capoeira, a Brazilian martial art that combines driving rhythms with deadly force. Now back home, he devises a plan to stop the gang violence by instructing this martial art to the districts most feared kids. Stevens pledges to straighten out a dozen of the school’s worst students by teaching them the demanding and highly disciplined fighting style. Slowly, his program begins to work, giving the students new hope and purpose. But the local drug lord, himself a capoeira expert, vows to stop Steven’s positive influence on the kids. Now Stevens must fight to save his own life, as well as the lives of his rebellious young students.

Director Sheldon Lettich, the man behind Lion Heart, Double Impact, and writer on Rambo 3, attempts to bring a new martial art and a new martial arts star to the screen in Only the Strong, The style is capoeira, a dance inspired fighting style that consists of moves similar to break dancing and gymnastics. As beautiful an art form as capoeria is, that doesn’t make for very exciting fight scenes in a movie. Lettich gives us slow-motion shots galore so we can appreciate the athleticism involved with such activity. These performers are no doubt talented, but after the laughably bad choreography during a playground fight sequence the film never recovers. Lettich is more successful however in his discovery of the muscle-bound, Mark Dacascos. After aiding in launching the career of Van Damme, Lettich seems to be doing the same here for Dacascos. Unfortunately, Only the Strong is sorely missing any remarkable attribute that would even qualify it as a guilty pleasure. This predictable action/adventure features the customary stiff dialogue and second-rate acting but, at least, some of the ethnic characters are depicted with less stereotyping that usual.

Director: Sheldon Lettich
Stars: Mark Dacascos, Stacey Travis,

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