• John Lim

MF 395 : Summer movie series: Ring of Fire (1991) and Ring of Fire II (1992)

Updated: Sep 1



Today, I share two guilty pleasures that are a product of its own time. Ring of Fire (1991) and Ring of Fire II (1992) represent the height of the low budget martial arts flicks of the 1990s. However, as I share on today's episode, these two actually make an attempt at a compelling story and nearly succeed despite its budget limitations. The actors while not A-list try their best and the result is a fun time. More at www.bemovingforward.com.


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Note: the summer movie series will air on Fridays.


A B-film series bonanza that tries its best

Ring of Fire I (1991)

Imagine a low budget West Side Story set in 1990s LA with martial arts gangs. Throw in a Romeo and Juliet love story between the sister of one gang's leader and the cousin of the other, and you have Ring of Fire. This is a product of its time: a martial arts b-film showcases its age and its low budget limitations, warts and all. However, unlike its contemporaries, ROF has a plot, an interesting story and characters. While the acting is uneven, they do their best and you can tell they must have had fun making this movie. If you have 90 minutes to kill, and you set aside big budget expectations (with a healthy dose of suspension of disbelief), you'll enjoy this film.


The good:

  • The movie tries its best despite its many limitations and with surprisingly decent results.

  • It's a fun movie that will keep you entertained if not engaged.

  • A quick movie that moves fast.

The bad:

  • The rough spots are very evident; however, this is less of a criticism that an observation. The movie does the best it can with what it has to work with. If anything, the story is solid enough that if it had a little more budget and polish, the film could have been more mainstream in popularity.

Rating:

  • ***1/2 (out of five)

Where you can watch Ring of Fire (1991):

  • Not currently streaming but may appear on Prime from time to time.

  • Purchase or rent Ring of Fire on digital or physical media (Amazon affiliate link).

Ring of Fire II (1992)

A surprisingly well made sequel for a surprisingly likeable low-budget franchise. ROF II picks up sometime after the first with Dr. Johnny Woo (Don the Dragon Wilson) now engaged to Julie (Maria Ford) from the first film. In a series of unfortunate mishaps, she ends up injured and kidnapped by Kalin (Ian Jacklin), leader of an underground society of thugs. Johnny makes his way through this dystopian netherworld beneath the streets of Los Angeles where he teams up with Ernest (Sy Richardson), a Vietnam veteran who's been surviving underground. He's joined by characters from the first film, including Brad (Dale Jacoby), Li (Ron Yuan), Chuck (Vince Murducco), and Kwong (Eric Lee), who have ended their rivalry from the first film. The result is a crazy, off the wall action adventure.


The good:

  • Unlike most low budget sequels, this one make a strong effort to be a sequel with direct ties, references to the first film. As far as continuity, this one succeeds far better than many big budget follow-ups.

  • The movie is completely bananas and a fun time.

  • The film wisely doesn't replicate the first but actually tells a different story while giving characters from the first film arcs.

The bad:

  • The movie suffers from some slow moments and feels disjointed at times, especially since most of the main characters are separated throughout the film.

  • The low budget shows, especially with the poor lighting making it hard to see what's happening in a lot of the underground scenes.

Wishlist:

  • Avoid Ring of Fire 3 (1995) as it is mostly an in-name only sequel lacking most of the cast from the first two. I was disappointed that the third film is so disconnected from the first two. Since most of the actors are still alive and acting, I would love a proper ROF3 sequel taking place in modern times. Doubtful that this will happen.

Rating:

  • *** (out of five)

Where you can watch Ring of Fire II (1992):

  • Currently streaming on Amazon Prime.

  • Purchase or rent Ring of Fire on digital or physical media (Amazon affiliate link).

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