Tiger Claws III (2000): 3 out of 10: The great Tiger Claws saga finally comes to a close. Sure the first Tiger Claw was a pedestrian movie of the week but the Tiger Claws II was a more entertaining and considerably more out there sequel so I suppose the third film could have built on the goodwill from the second film with its haunted house martial arts maze and sexy Cynthia Rothrock (As opposed the first film’s Parent Teachers Association Cynthia Rothrock.)
Nope… Cynthia Rothrock is back to her PTA look, never has a fight scene, and dies in the first ten minutes so Jalal Merhi can avenge her death. Because we all know we watch these movies for our Jalal Merhi action.
The Good: Well, this won’t take long. Loren Avedon is the good. He knows what kind of film this is and as a goatee wearing bad guy named Stryker, he chews the scenery from the corner of the screen till he consumes the entire frame. He is so delightful that you want him to capture Jalal Merhi and dismember him slowly (At the very least, so he can never direct again).
Bonus points for being called Stryker, which brings back delightful Airplane flashbacks during the movie. Striker? Striker, Striker, *Strike Her*!
The Bad: I don’t even know where to start on this buffet of awfulness. Loren Avedon brings back three Chinese ghosts that are dead ringers for the villains from Superman II (Ursa, General Zod, Non). I mean perfect cos-play copies. Bullets can’t kill the ghosts and they are using the Hadouken from Street Fighter 2. Their goal, unsurprisingly, is to take over metropolis and install General Zod as their leader. This, of course, means that Jalal Merhi (a character who could not convincingly take cover behind a car door in the first film) is Superman. Ugh, Maybe I should have put this under The Ugly.
So Jalal Merhi needs to learn (relearn?) the martial art of Tiger Claw and find a new master so he can fight the Chinese ghosts and avenge Rothrock, who clearly has left the set and is not returning his calls. In walks Carter Wong.
Look, I know Carter Wong is a classic actor who has done like 80 movies, but he is horrible at this. If I didn’t know any better (And I do) I would suspect he had never done a day of martial arts in his life.
So Carter Wong takes Jalal Merhi to his farm in upstate New York to train Rocky IV style. How this training will help him defeat magic ghosts that shoot energy balls is never explained.
The training is lame. Jalal is grabbing sushi on a string. Sticking his fist in a spinning wagon wheel. This would be laughed off The Karate Kid set. Wong doesn’t speak English all that well (The word Stryker is humorously well out of reach). So he has his daughter there to help. Except she doesn’t help with the training outside of a few you must try comments. She doesn’t sleep with our hero. She isn’t even kidnapped as far as I can recall? Why is she there?
And for that matter, where exactly are they supposed to be? Where exactly in upstate New York is there an endless frozen tundra and strip mines?
The Ugly: So Jalal Merhi learns how to catch a chicken and punch southpaw, and he is ready for the final showdown. Which takes place in a stairwell and parking garage of a generic office building. (Bangs head slowly on keyboard.)
The last fight is pretty awful, is the second lamest thing in a movie with a ton of competition (Really your hanging black plastic garbage bags and calling that a wall?). The location does the film no favors and the invulnerable ghosts suddenly getting beaten up by a flailing Jalal Merhi is headshaking.
If you are thinking, what a way to end a movie… oh don’t worry, Tiger Claws III has one more ace up its sleeve. You see, once Jalal Merhi defeats the ghost there is a time warp and everything goes back to the beginning. Everyone is still alive and Cynthia Rothrock is smiling and trying to remember to get an unlisted number. I rarely curse in my reviews which I keep family friendly. But Fuck You Tiger Claws III. Seriously, it was all a dream? Fuck You.
In conclusion: I am not saying there is a Tiger Claws curse, but neither Carter Wong nor Bolo Yeung worked after their Tiger Claws outings. They are some of the biggest names in martial arts theater. Loren Avedon was rarely seen after this film, and even Cynthia Rothrock only made six films in the following twelve years.
Jalal Merhi, on the other hand, went right into his “The Circuit” trilogy. Though in Merhi’s defense, he gave the leading roles to someone else this time. Mehri always seemed a little Tommy Wiseau in this series. Tiger Claws movies are not nearly as bad The Room, of course alas also not nearly as entertaining. I am surprised the boys at RiffTrax have not taken up the challenge of this trilogy. (There is plenty for them to work with in all three movies).
The Tiger Claw movies are a bit hard to find. I caught all three on Amazon Prime a few months ago, but when it was time to do some capture work, they were gone. Like a Chinese ghost from the Phantom Zone.