Undefeatable (1993) — Street fighter builds a grudge match with a serial killer

“You have the right to remain silent… so do me a favor and shut up!”

Justin’s rating: My sea cucumber style defeats your starfish style!

Justin’s review: It is to my everlasting shame that it was only with the fairly recent viewing of Honor and Glory that I became aware of one of the silver screen’s greatest underground legends: Cynthia Rothrock. Known as “The Queen of Martial Arts Movies,” Rothrock trained in multiple forms of hand-to-hand combat before blazing a trail across Hong Kong action movies (as a western actor, I feel compelled to point out) and B-movies in the ’80s and ’90s. Like, seriously, just scores and scores of movies — only none that you probably heard of, which is why she’s extremely famous in some circles and virtually unknown everywhere else.

I will say that there’s one way you’ve felt Cynthia Rothrock’s influence without realizing it, because this woman was — and I’m not making this up — the inspiration for the character of Sonya Blade from Mortal Kombat. Seriously, look it up. In Cobra Kai’s fourth season, Rothrock was name-checked as “a beast” as a sign of respect, and that’s all it took for me to throw a bunch of her movies on my to-watch list.

I’m going to start to rectify my Rothrock ignorance with 1993’s Undefeatable. Here, Rothrock plays Kristi, a woman who’s trying to figure out a way to help pay for her sister’s college education. Eschewing the student loan racket, Kristi instead turns to the common sense route of fighting for the Mafia in street bouts. She’s just a small town girl on a Saturday night looking for the fight of her life.

Well, she’s gonna get it, because her sister gets kidnapped, tortured, and murdered by a vicious underground street fighter (Don Niam) who serial kills on the side and has deep-seated mommy issues. This sets Kristi off, and she goes on a hunt to find Stingray. Yup, that’s our villain of the hour — Stingray. This is what happens when all of the good marine beasts are claimed on the first day of Bad Guy Summer Camp.

I should mention that Stingray’s signature move is gouging out eyes. He’s doing this because his wife left him, and the appropriate response to that is to kidnap women who sorta look like her and make them pay. You know, with eye gouging.

There’s no chance defending the acting or plot of Undefeatable. It’s, at best, soap opera quality that made me wonder if the cast ad libbed most of their scenes. If the actual story was more light-hearted in tone, it wouldn’t be a big deal, but they’re trying to pull off a gritty crime drama without the guns to back it up.

Fortunately, the scenes with Kristi’s gang are downright adorable (she eventually enrolls them all into college), and Rothrock gets more than a few fun fights before all is said and done. She’s got a hard-bitten intensity that works well for her quest for justice, and Rothrock comes off as an Oscar-winner compared to her policeman partner (John Miller) who acts as well as… well, as well as any martial arts student that they pulled out of a dojo and offered a starring role without any training. He’s more wooden than Noah’s Ark, let me tell you.

Between the fights and the gonzo ’90s silliness, Undefeatable has “guilty pleasure” stamped all over it. Stamped, kicked, slapped, and punched.

Didja notice?

  • Stingray really loves to make bug-eyes insane faces when he fights
  • KID GETS PUSHED DOWN
  • You’re not cool until you introduce yourself by coming around the corner with a bandana and sunglasses and chains wrapped around your torso, then whipping off the glasses
  • The Mafia likes to make everyone clap together. Like summer camp!
  • “Do you remember how mom died? Poor.” That’s a normal conversation.
  • That’s an epic “NOOOO!” as he destroys the dinner
  • The victim was a “world karate champ?”
  • How many times they say “BEAR BEAR BEAR!”
  • I’d watch an entire movie of Cynthia Rothrock running through her practice routine
  • Classified police information involves styles of kung fu
  • *shoots off a gun* “All right kids, recess is over.”
  • Fish tanks are the best places to store eyeballs
  • The final fight is pretty epic
  • The music score changes abruptly during the final fight when Nick shows up
  • If someone is shot in the neck, just shout at them to “BREATHE!”
  • If you don’t rip off your shirt during the final fight, then what’s this all been about?

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