Robbie Oakes (Jansen Panettiere) is a teenager who is becoming a bit of a problem for his grandmother. After he takes things too far one last time, she decides it best to get him out of Cleveland, Ohio and send him off to Cocoa Beach, Florida where he’s going to stay with his Aunt Cindy (Cynthia Rothrock) and Uncle Glenn (Don “The Dragon” Wilson). It’s an awkward transition since he hardly even knows them. When he tries to continue down the same troubled path, things take an unexpected turn. One night he sneaks out of the house to get some smokes at the local party store, he meets Rina (Katherine Newton). He’s smitten with her right away but the problem is her boyfriend Bo Whitlow (Matthew Ziff) who is the local bully. He’s beaten and picked on but there’s an undeniable chemistry between Robbie and Rina. He knows very little about his Uncle Glen and eventually learns he’s a martial arts master and has a school where he teaches. Glen can see the potential in his nephew and begins to teach the boy how to defend himself. He not only learns self-defense, he learns more about himself and how to be a better person. It won’t be an easy road, Bo is training with Kaine (T.J. Storm) who has the complete opposite philosophy about martial arts. He teaches his students to destroy and they have their eyes on Robbie and Glen.
There are plenty of similarities between THE MARTIAL ARTS KID and THE KARATE KID but don’t let that run you off. There’s something special going on in TMAK that’s hard to explain. There’s the obvious of course, seeing Don Wilson and Cynthia Rothrock on screen together is always a treat. Growing up they were heroes of mine (they still are to this day) and in a film like this, I can introduce my cinematic heroes to my kids. I really admire the messages director/co-writer Michael Baumgarten is trying to get across. Watching a film like this is a great way to inspire a dialogue with your children about bullying. It sends out positive vibes and characters to cheer for. I also appreciate the idea of family values and how Robbie’s Aunt and Uncle welcome him with patience and open arms. Far too often children are lost because they don’t have family who are willing to love, trust, and care for them. Trust and patience goes a long way, especially with teenagers.
With Rothrock and Wilson, you’re going to want to see some action and they don’t disappoint. With action choreography from the legendary James Lew, there’s enough action to please most fans. Everyone gets their hands dirty and it’s great to watch. The eventual showdown between Wilson and the criminally underused T. J. Storm is quite exciting to watch. Another great thing about the film is the chemistry between the entire cast. Everyone involved really seems to enjoy making the film with the people surrounding them, that sense of family feels as if it carried over on and off the screen.
I really enjoyed THE MARTIAL ARTS KID. It might not be perfect but it has so much heart that it’s infectious. It’s a film you can watch with the whole family to entertain as well as educate them. Bullying has grown so much over the past few years that educating your kids as soon as possible has become a necessity and what better way to start the process than by watching a film like TMAK. On a side note, is Cynthia Rothrock aging backwards? She looks as if she’s getting younger and is absolutely stunning in the film. You can learn more about THE MARTIAL ARTS KID by visiting the official website here.