Undefeatable (1993)

Part feature length kung-fu demonstration, part terrible melodrama, Undefeatable is the kind of terrible film that is so bad, it’s awesome. Unlike the bizarre incoherent of a bad film like The Room, there’s a basic framework of a serious film here, but the execution can’t help but undercut every dramatic scene as possibly the most disturbing things I’ve ever laughed at. 

When street fighter Stingray (Don Niam) comes home to discover his wife, Anna (Emille Davazac), has left him because of his abusive behavior, he begins a murderous rampage against any woman that looks vaguely like his wife. Meanwhile, another street fighter named Kristi Jones (Cynthia Rothrock) is doing her best to make a living and evade the cops which becomes an issue when detective Nick DiMarco (John Miller) takes a personal interest in her future.

In the spirit of not spoiling the film, I’ll simply say that eventually the two storylines collide as the film takes a surprisingly dark and dramatic turn. What should be a moving and emotional moment in the film becomes awkward and hilarious as the cast simply doesn’t have the chops to pull off the material. In fact, the acting often gives the entire scene a whole new meaning.

For instance, Don Niam’s eyes in just about any scene he’s in makes the film a joke. His attempt to look intense results in bulging eyes that look more like a man in the middle of relieving himself than the cold gaze of a killer. It’s hard to find a man intimidating when all you can do is think about how he looks like he’s sitting on the can.

Likewise, it’s hard to take some of the kung-fu sequences seriously given how straightforward some of them are simply about showing off various kung-fu moves. When two men mid-fight consensually and in unison rip off their shirts, the comedic factor quickly overrides how good the kung-fu may actually be. Granted, some of the demonstrations are impressive, they’re just so obviously a show-off that they often become hilarious.

Another layer added to the kung-fu ridicliousness is that everyone in this film seems to know kung-fu. Half the time scenes just randomly turn into kung-fu fights. Also, I can only imagine in a perfect world Undefeatable would have come out right after The Matrix and before every fight someone would say “I know kung-fu” and then half the fights would inexplicably happen in slow motion.

If there’s one element of this film that isn’t terribly or terribly awesome, it’s Cynthia Rothrock. She’s by no means a nuanced or complex actress, but she’s got enough presence and a decent enough delivery to be a memorable action vessel. Especially in comparison to how terrible all the actors are around her, Rothrock stands as the only actor who doesn’t become undignified by the film’s end.

Undefeatable belongs in the annuls of terrible films, an astonishingly bad film seeped in unintentional hilarity. The over the top execution takes what might have been a passable story and turns it into a spectacle of overacting and buffoonery.

© 2012 James Blake Ewing