Them’s fightin’ words, literally, as the wager is issued to the sexy star of this “EROTIC KUNG FU CLASSIC,” Firecracker.
Bruno, heavy set and sporting a grey gi and giant pompadour, has just snapped an opponent’s arm in a no-holds-barred fighting match, held in what looks like a downmarket supper club. Unbowed, black belt martial arts instructor Susanne Carter (played by Jillian Kesner, who apparently has a karate background, not always a requirement for many of these films), cleans Bruno’s clock to much applause.
This captures the attention of local no-holds-barred champ, Chuck, a mustachioed cross between Wayne Gretzky and Larry Bird channeling Ben Stiller in Dodgeball who is as adept at dishing out punishment as he is sexual innuendoes (“I intend to” he coolly replies after a fed up goon says “Screw her!”). And when we say “no-holds barred” this seems to include being able to skewer your opponent with a guandao, a Chinese pole weapon (how Chuck was compelled to fight a pole weapon-wielding guy unarmed, is anyone’s guess. Perhaps the rules in this kind of fighting aren’t codified).
Chuck’s boss, the Dana White of Southeast Asia, is a sleazebag who shoots up and looks like the lovechild of Hugh Hefner and Anderson Cooper.
But it turns out Susanne is really in the Philippines to look for a lost sister and is often the case in these films, she STUMBLES UPON A HEROIN CARTEL! That’s the plot to hundreds of rock ’em, chop sock ’em Asian action movies but really it’s just pretense for kicking some serious underworld ass.
Part of Roger Corman’s Cult Classic’s Lethal Ladies Collection (see our review of Too Hot to Handle), Firecracker features a bar brawl that is one of the best in cinema history, rivaling any of the beat-downs in Patrick Swayze’s Double Deuce Roadhouse.
And compared with the tectonic plate moves of Too Hot to Handle, Jillian Kesner is a dynamo, using every flat surface as excuse to do backflips and reverse double kicks from tables as well as swinging from ropes. There’s also an absence of “swinging arm” martial arts like you see in TNT Jackson (the third member of the Corman trilogy).
There’s the ubiquitous tight-lipped sensei, stiff-as-a-board acting, streets punks who don’t know when to quit, some arnis stick-fighting and nefarious threats, backed up with a cobra.
And because this is exploitation cinema, it also goes by the title Naked Fist (for the love of all things holy, don’t Google that). Yes, you also get a bonus of a topless kung-fu fight sequence.
Hugely entertaining, with a climax in the ominous, Arena of Death. More fun than two pokes in the eye with sharp sticks, as it turns out.
*** 1/2 (out of 5, **** if you think Bloodsport was robbed at Cannes)