Written by: Ron Cotton on January 3rd, 2006
Theatrical Release Date: 1991
Directors: Lou Kennedy and Brandon De Wilde
Cast: Jonathan Ke Quan, Eddie Saavedra, Ed Neil, Jerry Trimble, Bolo
DVD Released: 2004
Approximate Running Time: 85 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 4:3 Full Frame
Sound: Dolby Digital Stereo
DVD Release: Double D Distribution / Front Row Entertainment
Region Encoding: Region 0 NTSC
Retail Price: $4.95
Charlie (Jonathan Ke Quan) and Tony Moore (Eddie Saaverdra), are two brothers who live for the thrill of competing in Marshal Arts Tournaments. During one competition, they don’t suspect their own father Michael Moore (Jerry Trimble) being the criminal mastermind and ringleader to an enormous bank heist. Planning to divvy up the stolen gold bars, Michael and his henchmen devise a plan to hide the gold until the coast is clear. They mold two keys on the back of a model pizza, destroy the original keys and divide the pieces of pizza between each other to prevent foul play. Peter Stern (Drake Diamond) wants no part in it. Afraid that the authorities will be notified, Michael and his compatriots assassinate Peter and his wife yet are unable to find the missing piece to complete the mold. Annie Stern (Laura Hamilton) runs to the aid of David Moore (Ed Neil) as attackers pursue. David Moore’s knowledge of Marshal Arts grabs the attention of Charlie and Tony who want to learn from this master. You want your friends close, and your enemy’s closer…
The overall charm of Breathing Fire isn’t complete without the stunning performance of Bolo Young who is dressed as an aged grandmother during a heist appears quite odd masking his identity from the numerous security cameras. Instead serving too exploit Bolo in drag to new heights of hilarity. The angered flared-nosed expressions of Bolo now in drag wearing blue eye shadow and lipstick is simply priceless. Not forgetting to incorporate his trademark poses, Bolo taunts with his pulsating pecks in an attempt to place fear into the hearts of the bold and foolish youths. Be weary of Bolo’s gargantuan figure! Bolo’s cameos in this film were strategically placed, yet viewers ache for more of this “Chinese Hercules.”
Johnathan Ke Quan plays the hi-pitched quirky Vietnamese boy reeking havoc as expected from his prior films like Goonies and Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. It’s amusing that his father named him Charlie, a somewhat derisive name to his race. It makes perfect sense that two Asian actors showcase the cast for Breathing Fire during the height of Marshal Art’s popularity. In retrospect, I’m somewhat ashamed over the years of other films that have repeatedly pawned off white Caucasians as Asians.
Like every movie of its caliber expect a Marshal Arts training montage right before final showdown. Techniques are learned from the students and then incorporated into the battles. The overall Marshal Arts featured in Breathing Fire is akin to kick boxing. This is truly an American release, not featuring intricate and balanced action of a Shaw Brothers release. During the kick fest, I get a funny feeling that at any moment Chuck Norris will come to settle the score. Don’t forget the bartending dwarves, who truly were a force to be reckoned with. The break dancing scenes really adds to the flavor and ambience to this wonderful film.
The cheap and simplistic cardboard fold packaging decked with screen shots directly from this movie in a montage effect is strangely fitting for Breathing Fire. Breathing Fire has a menu reminiscent of Brentwood’s older releases like Street Fighter. Featuring a Bolo Young biography, which includes hardly anything special when you can find the same information can be gleaned on the IMDB.
The audio mix has above par sound quality with a slight hiss. Cheesy stereo drum beats flood the film filling the atmosphere full of eighties suspense.
The transfer is superior in comparison to most budget titles yet suffers expectedly from the aliments of a budget title. The disc is single layer with soft and blurry movement. The blocky edges of compression rear its ugly face twice in the movie. The film has an unnatural grain and colors appear second generation, lacking the depth of coming from good source material. In defense of Breathing Fire, the severities of these problems are not as problematic as other budget releases.
This film plays out more like an eighties film even though it was produced in the early nineties. The outfits, the dialog, the acting and the overall feel all point to the prior decade. This is what ultimately makes Breathing Fire so horribly bad. This arguably also is what makes Breathing Fire so horribly good. Breathing Fire watches like a fortune cooking, a simple treat to be enjoyed but nothing fancy. No deep plot. No over-the-top stunts. No theatrical acting. Instead, Breathing Fire is an enjoyable popcorn Marshal Arts flick akin to the American Ninja series.