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The Gratuitous B-Movie Column: The Martial Arts Kid

August 3, 2016 | Posted by Bryan Kristopowitz
The Martial Arts Kid

The Gratuitous B-Movie Column Issue #369: The Martial Arts Kid

Hello, everyone, and welcome once again to the internets movie review column that thinks it would be pretty cool to be nicknamed “The Dragon,” The Gratuitous B-Movie Column, and I am your host Bryan Kristopowitz. In this issue, issue number three hundred and sixty-nine, I take a look at the low budget martial arts family movie The Martial Arts Kid featuring Cynthia Rothrock and Don “The Dragon” Wilson.

The Martial Arts Kid


The Martial Arts Kid, directed and co-written by Michael Baumgarten, stars Jansen Panettiere as Robbie, a troubled teen from Cleveland who, after one too many run ins with the cops, is shipped by his grandmother to Florida to live with his aunt and uncle. The aunt and uncle, Cindy (Cynthia Rothrock) and Glen (Don “The Dragon” Wilson), are happy to accept Robbie into their home (Cindy is a little more accepting at first, but then Glen eventually comes around), but Robbie really doesn’t know what to make of the situation. He’s thousands of miles away from everything he knows, and he’s surrounded by people he doesn’t really know. What the heck is he supposed to do? It doesn’t take long for Robbie to get into trouble with local hoodlum Bo (Mathew Ziff), the son of a rich asshole named Frank (Chuck Zito, although he really isn’t in the movie for more than a few seconds). See, Robbie made the mistake of being friendly with Bo’s girlfriend Rina (Kathryn Newton), something that you just don’t do. Robbie’s first day of school isn’t a hoot, either, as Bo pushes him into the girl’s bathroom and a teacher/administrator tells him trouble will find him (I have no idea who this administrator is, but she’s blonde and terrifying and I really thought she was going to stab Robbie in the face). Robbie does make a friend in Lenny (Brandon Tyler Russell), but then Lenny is a target for bullies, too, so it’s not like the attacks are going to stop because he’s friends with Lenny.

So then some stuff happens, Robbie watches his aunt disarm a knife wielding punk outside of her café, and Robbie finds out that both his aunt and uncle are martial artists. In fact, Glen owns and operates a martial arts studio in town. Robbie goes to the studio to check it out and see what happens there, and after seeing Glen in action as a martial arts teacher Robbie decides that he needs the martial arts in his life. Maybe he’ll learn discipline and, more importantly, kick ass. Because, really, isn’t that why everyone who studies martial arts wants to know how to do? It doesn’t take long for Robbie to learn that, in the kind of martial arts that his Uncle Glen teaches, martial arts are for two things and two things only: self-defense and protecting other people.

Now, while all of that is going on, we find out that there’s a second major martial arts studio in town, Dojo Extreme, run by Coach Laurent Kaine (T.J. Storm). Dojo Extreme is the exact opposite of Glen’s Space Coast Dojo, as Dojo Extreme is all about aggression, pain, and beating the shit out of people. The place is drenched in harsh blacks and reds and there’s a constant hard rock soundtrack going on in the background, so you know it’s an evil place. Bo trains there, and you know that as soon as you see that Bo trains there that Robbie is going to have to go there and fight him. But that doesn’t happen until the end. Before that, Robbie has to get better at martial arts.

And, yes, Robbie does get better at martial arts. Much better.

The Martial Arts Kid is not a full on action flick despite the presence of action legends Rothrock and Wilson. Instead, it’s more of a family drama/teen movie with some action stuff in it. It drags a bit every so often and features way too many montages, but you’re never really bored and you end up caring about Robbie and his martial arts journey way more than you expect to. Robbie’s journey isn’t anything we haven’t seen before, but because Panettiere has such an easygoing, likeable screen presence you can’t hate him, even when he’s kind of annoying (and that only happens a few times, which is a minor miracle with this kind of teen movie. I’ve seen way too many teen movies where the teen lead is an annoying little douchebag that you desperately want to see destroyed by someone. That doesn’t happen here with Panettiere).

Don “The Dragon” Wilson plays Glen as the nicest martial arts instructor in movie history, something I didn’t expect at all. I really thought that once Glen took Robbie under his wing that Glen would become a hardass inside the dojo, but he doesn’t do that. In fact, Glen is one of the least outwardly badass characters I think I’ve ever seen Wilson play. Glen is a badass, yes, but until you actually see him in action you don’t suspect it at all. I mean, Glen enjoys cleaning out his pool and grilling food in his backyard and he says “bicycle” instead of “bike” all of the time and he likes to wear loose fitting pseudo Hawaiian shirts. And he also falls asleep in his chair in the living room while watching TV. How can this guy be a badass? He is, though, and it’s just awesome.

Rothrock, who was somewhat stiff in the last movie I saw her in (that would be the low budget female The Expendables homage Mercenaries) is fully back in form here as Cindy. Rothrock plays Cindy as a bit of a hippie, and despite the fact that she is Cynthia Rothrock you’re shocked when she breaks out her martial arts skills and destroys a potential mugger. You like her immediately and you want to see more from her, both in her beach café and in Glen’s martial arts studio. Both Wilson and Rothrock also showcase a warm sense of humor as Glen and Cindy, something you don’t normally associate with either one of them when it comes their cinematic output. It’s great stuff and shows that both performers can really do more than just kick ass and take names.

T.J. Storm is absolutely terrifying as Coach Kaine. He’s freaking gigantic yet moves like a man half his size. And when he starts spouting off about Extreme Dojo’s motto “Assess, assert, dismantle,” he becomes even more terrifying. Storm has a nice little fight scene in a training ring where he breaks a guy’s leg and an even better fight with Wilson at the end. Great stuff all around.

Mathew Ziff does a fine job as Bo the bully. You know that he’s a total douchebag the second you see him and after that, everything he does just solidifies just how awful he really is. I was a little surprised that he isn’t in the movie more than he is since he is Robbie’s rival, but I’m guessing Baumgarten and company are holding off on that for the sequel. And I’m sure we’ll see more from Bo’s father played by the great Chuck Zito in the sequel, too. They look like father and son.

Kathryn Newton does a decent job as Rina, although you’re not sure how to take her at first. Is she a nice girl stuck in a bad situation (a seriously controlling boyfriend) or is she one of those movie characters that just can’t see what the heck is going on around her. You eventually find out that she’s a little bit of both and she makes the right decision. She has good chemistry with Panettiere, so that helps you believe in their relationship even more.

The Martial Arts Kid could use some tightening. The movie features way too many montages that feel less like character motivated moments and more like tourism advertising for Florida. And Robbie’s big chase sequence towards the end could use some shaving. The scenes where we see the teen characters in school are a bit all over the place, too. All in all, the movie as a whole should be faster, or at least not feel as deliberate as it currently is throughout. I’m not sure how Baumgarten would “fix” that now that the movie is finished and out into the world, but if and when there is a sequel the people behind that should keep that in mind. Make it faster.

The movie does look good and, despite its low budget, never looks cheap. That’s always a plus. And its soundtrack is pretty decent, too. Ask yourself if you think Don “The Dragon” Wilson is singing on the soundtrack. He isn’t, but there’s a song towards the beginning of the movie where it really does sound like Wilson. Interesting.

I liked The Martial Arts Kid way more than I thought I would. It’s a fun movie with an inspiring, positive message that martial arts are a worthwhile endeavor and not an excuse to beat the crap out of people simply because you can. It’s also a movie where two characters have a wicked swordfight with aluminum baseball bats. That kind of thing is always awesome.

See The Martial Arts Kid. See it, see it, see it.

So what do we have here?

Dead bodies: None.

Explosions: None.

Nudity?: None.

Doobage: A police foot chase, multiple arrests, backyard grilling, a total lack of respect for family breakfast, multiple discussions about literature for some reason, attempted beach mugging, multiple instances of people participating in martial arts in a group setting, a bicycle shop beatdown, multiple montages, stretching pool cleaning, leg breaking, a costume party, multiple instances of bullying, a restaurant beatdown, meatball throwing, a viral video, a giant brawl, a wicked arm bar, gun stuff, a bat sword fight, a serious dragon sleeper choke attempt, a hilarious security guard, and the promise of a sequel.

Kim Richards?: Zero.

Gratuitous: Cynthia Rothrock, Don “The Dragon” Wilson, Don “The Dragon” Wilson grilling in his backyard, an emotional breakdown, Don “The Dragon” Wilson falling asleep in front of his TV in the living room, multiple martial arts grand master cameos, Don “The Dragon” Wilson explaining the difference between street fighting and the martial arts, a “hero” discount, talk of Dragon Fest, bicycle cops, a costume party, smoothie making, a giant brawl, a bat sword fight, Chuck Zito, and the promise of a sequel.

Best lines: “You may be fast but not fast enough,” “The secret is not cleaning the grill,” “You know, that table’s not going to set itself,” “Oh, how nice, you already have buddies!,” “So, what is a hero?,” “Man, that hurt as much as it looks?,” “Uh oh. Time to fear the pain,” “Uncle Glen! Yeah! That’s what I’m talking about!,” “There’s no honor in fighting, there’s only winners and losers,” “Hey, nice bike,” “You know, you can ‘wash on, wash off’ all you want, you’re not going to be driving any of our cars,” “Robbie, this is how you do it,” “I guess you’re not a typical PTA Mom, huh?,” “What’s up, bro? You like making girls cry? Why don’t you try to make me cry?,” “Ah! You broke my leg! Get me an ambulance!,” “You have really good form,” “Yo, Bo, forget this punk! Let’s go get some yogurt! Yogurt! Yogurt!,” “You don’t quit me! I quit you!,” “Where’s Bo?,” “It’s never good to go through life alone,” “Everyone! Stop fighting!,” “This is over. We’re done,” “No more students. We are all students, Kaine,” “You guys can’t be in here! Okay, settle it. You’ve got two minutes. And then I’m calling the cops,” “You ae responsible for what your students do,” and “I guess you are the baddest man in town.”

Rating: 8.5/10.0


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Things to Watch Out For This Week


The Trust: Nicolas Cage and Elijah Wood star in this low budget thriller that, I believe, got some sort of small theatrical release not that long ago. Jerry Lewis also apparently appears in it, although I’m guessing his appearance is more of a cameo than an actual part. I’ve liked the low budget Cage movies I’ve seen, and I’m hoping that this is another good one. And Elijah Wood has been cranking out some good and weird low budget stuff, too.


Sniper: Ghost Shooter: This is the sixth movie in the Sniper franchise. Billy Zane is back, as are Snake Doctor Dennis Haysbert and Chad Michael Collins. I really need to see this movies. I saw the first one on TV several years ago, but I’ve missed the others. So, with this sixth flick, I think this column may have to do a Sniper franchise marathon at some point. Anyone out there interested in seeing that?


Bite: This low budget horror flick has been getting great reviews. I really thought that it might get a smallish theatrical release based on those reviews, but it looks like it’s going straight to video instead. And that’s okay. It looks damn good, and I definitely want to see this at some point. Anyone out there see this at a convention or film festival? Anyone?


Traders: This is apparently some sort of Irish action thriller deal. It’s all about people killing one another for money or something. It looks messed up, and I have a feeling that the actual movie is way more messed up than the trailer suggests. Rentable.


Assassin X: I talked about this movie last issue. It was originally called The Chemist, and it stars Olivier Gruner, Patrick Kilpatrick, Martin fucking Kove, and Richard Grieco. It looks pretty awesome, and Gruner really needs a good movie because his last few have been terrible. Can’t wait to check it out.


B-Movie News


Phantasm: Ravager is getting released this October!: This fifth, and apparently final, Phantasm movie has been this writer’s most anticipated movie for the last two years, and I’m super jazzed that it’s finally getting released this October (October 7th, to be exact). The fine folks at Well Go USA are putting it out in conjunction with a theatrical release of the first Phantasm movie that was recently remastered by JJ Abrams and his Bad Robot company. It sounds like Ravager will be getting a smallish theatrical release, too, although I’d imagine that if you don’t live in a big city (New York City, Los Angeles, Austin, etc.) you’ll have to settle for seeing it via video on demand. I was hoping that there would be some sort of Fathom Events type deal for Ravager, but, hey, the most important thing is the movie is getting released.

It also looks like we’re going to be getting new Blu-rays/DVD’s of parts 3 and 4, too. Scream Factory put out an awesome special edition DVD of Phantasm II, so be sure to pick that up alongside the new releases for parts 3 and 4. It’s too bad that Well Go USA, Scream Factory, and Universal Pictures can’t find a way to get together and do a super special edition boxed set like that Anchor Bay UK silver sphere set that was the talk of the DVD nerd community several years ago. I think the Phantasm nerd community would love a new one.

October 7th! Phantasm: Ravager! Yeah!


Luc Besson found guilty of plagiarizing John Carpenter’s Escape from New York: I don’t know how I feel about this. Is the movie that Besson produced, Lockout, similar to Carpenter’s Escape from New York and Escape from L.A.? Yes. But did Besson really engage in plagiarism? It doesn’t seem like he did, but then it was determined to be plagiarism in a court of law, so I guess he did.

I really liked Lockout (check out my review of the flick here). I was hoping that it would become some sort of franchise. It didn’t make much money at the box office, but I hoped that it would find an audience on home video and TV.

Oh, well. At least we have one Agent Snow adventure. That was pretty damn cool.


Who is this week’s Douchebag of the Week? Go here and find out!


Next Issue: The low budget made-for-TV movie event of the summer- Sharknado: The 4th Awakens!


Check out my review of david j. moore’s The Good, the Tough, and the Deadly here!

Check out my interview with the man hisself david j. moore here!

Check out the interview I did with the great Jino Kang here!

Check out my interview with character actor Vladimir Kulich here!

Check out my interview with martial artist and actor Paul Mormando here!


Follow me on Twitter!


Well, I think that’ll be about it for now. Don’t forget to sign up with disqus if you want to comment on this article and any other 411 article. You know you want to, so just go do it.

B-movies rule. Always remember that.

The Martial Arts Kid

Jansen Panettiere– Robbie
Don “The Dragon” Wilson– Glen
Cynthia Rothrock– Cindy
Kathryn Newton– Rina
Mathew Ziff– Bo
T.J. Storm– Kaine
Chuck Zito– Frank
Brandon Tyler Russell– Lenny
Kayley Stallings– Katie

Directed by Michael Baumgarten
Screenplay by Michael Baumgarten and Adam W. Marsh

Distributed by Traditionz Entertainment

Not rated
Runtime– 103 minutes

Buy it here