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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Best of the Best
Best of the Best
Columbia/Tri-Star // PG-13 // September 28, 2004
List Price: $19.94 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Francis Rizzo III | posted September 3, 2004 | E-mail the Author
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In 10 Words or Less
Entertaining '80s Taekwondo revenge flick with Eric Roberts

The Movie
This is one of many '80s films that I first saw on HBO. In fact, I'm certain I've seen it about 25 times on HBO in my life. Now, 15 years after its release, it's finally coming out on DVD. Of course, it's probably been bout eight years since I last saw it, so I was curious to see if it still held-up as well as I remembered. I was pleasantly surprised... but not that much.

The story is a simple one, and one that will be very familiar to fans of sports films. A rag-tag group of taekwondo champions is gathered by coach Frank Couzo (the always entertaining James Earl Jones), to take on an elite Korean team in the world championships. Good-guy Alex Grady (Eric Roberts) is the star of the show, but the plot truly revolves around his teammate Tommy Lee (Phillip Rhee, who also wrote the film.) As we see in flashback, Tommy's brother was killed in competition by Korea's top martial artist, Dae Han (played by Rhee's brother, Simon.) Avenging his brother's death motivates Tommy, and amazingly, the opportunity to do so could come in the world championships! Small world, huh?

The standard sports-movie cliches are all here, from the hardass, yet loveable coach and xenophobic portrayal of foreign sports teams, to teammates who don't get along (thanks to Chris Penn's obnoxious Texan, Travis Brickley) and the unforeseen obstacle that threatens to tear the team apart on the eve of its greatest opportunity. And I'd be wrong to not mention the workout montage, set to a guitar-rock song titled "Best of the Best." It's definitely in the realm of "so cheesy, it's good."

There are plenty of similar, over-the-top non-sports moments as well, including Tommy's flashback and Alex' tragic backstory. But despite having a plot that's so predictable a five-year-old could see the ending coming, the film is still very enjoyable. That's all thanks to the quality taekwondo scenes and the melodramatic performances of some talented actors. This is pure B-movie goodness.

Though the critics, including Roger Ebert, hate Best of the Best, it's obviously got a solid fan base, as seen in the fact that it has three following sequels, which spiral down in terms of quality. Here, you get, and I'm sorry for writing this, the best of The Best of the Best. This film is good for an exciting 97 minutes for any action/martial arts fan, plus, you get to hear James Earl Jones say "karate." And hey... isn't that Ahmad Rashad and Kane "Jason Vorhees" Hodder? Why yes it is.

The DVD
If you wanted (and I didn't), you could have had the second, third, and fourth installments in the Best of the Best quadrilogy for some time now, but Columbia Tri-Star has only now decided to release the first, and best of the four films. Unfortunately, the long wait has not resulted in a loaded 15th-anniversary DVD, as there are just a few trailers included. All we get is a widescreen transfer and a 2.0 English surround soundtrack, which I guess we can be thankful for. The menus are static, with scene selection and play previews options.

The Quality
The anamorphic widescreen video is crisp and colorful, though bright reds, especially those on Team Korea's practice uniforms, tend to burn bright, with some slight shimmering. There's a surprising amount of dirt and scratches on this transfer, and a small amount of grain. The final dimly-lit fight shows more grain than any other scene. This is the best I've ever seen this movie look, but it could definitely use some cleaning up.

As far as the soundtrack goes, there's nothing room-shaking going on, with the majority of the mix being dialogue. The sound effects that are here are clear and sound very good. The only problem comes at the end of the film, when part of the track drops out. Odd.

The Extras
Sadly, all you get are some trailers. There is one cool one though, which is the classic full-frame theatrical trailer for The Karate Kid. It's a moment in time captured, though it's in awful shape, and a welcome inclusion considering it's really not selling anything. That's a rarity in DVD production.

The Bottom Line
This is one of those movies that's purely an emotional thing, as you either love it or hate it. You can't argue or dissect it film-school style, as beneath the taekwondo/tearjerker surface, there's not a whole lot to it. For the uninitiated, in your heart, you know if you're going to like this movie, so if you don't think you will, just lay back and don't think about it too much...you may just find yourself enjoying it. If it was a better transfer and package, Best of the Best would be an easy recommendation. As it is though, it's a rental for most.


Francis Rizzo III is a native Long Islander, where he works in academia. In his spare time, he enjoys watching hockey, writing and spending time with his wife, daughter and puppy.

Check out 1106 - A Moment in Fictional Time or follow him on Twitter


*The Reviewer's Bias section is an attempt to help readers use the review to its best effect. By knowing where the reviewer's biases lie on the film's subject matter, one can read the review with the right mindset.

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