The Martial Arts Kid (2015)

Posted in Reviews by - January 08, 2017
The Martial Arts Kid (2015)

A warm and welcome return to the screen for B-movie action heroes Cynthia Rothrock and Don “The Dragon” Wilson, who seem to be having a blast in this gentle, domestic entertainment. They play a sweet married couple living retired lives among the safari shirts and palm trees of a suburban Florida beach town. They also act as producers, and as a result, the film feels deeply personal, almost autobiographical in places. The story centres around renegade orphan kid Robbie (Jansen Panettiere) whose Ohio granny gets so sick of his troublemaking that she sends him off to live with Aunt Cindy and Uncle Don in the sleepy east coast resort of Cocoa Beach. Robbie quickly makes enemies in the form of a school bully, and begins his road to redemption by learning martial arts at his uncle’s dojo. The film focuses on two key themes: the responsibilities associated with teaching teenaged boys lacking in positive male role models; and the contrary stylistic and philosophical approaches to learning martial arts in the highly commercialised era of MMA. Uncle Don champions the more traditional methods of learning self defence as a uniting force for good in the world, while T.J. Storm’s character Coach Kaine is positioned as his aggressive antithesis, playing the head of a rival school called Dojo Extreme. The film firmly sides with the former approach, although it also acknowledges how the two rivals were once friends and even trained together – suggesting references to MMA’s lineage. The moral dilemma facing Robbie is much like the adolescent struggle at the heart of The Karate Kid, for which this film obviously owes a debt (it even directly references The Karate Kid when Robbie is shown washing his uncle’s car and asking, “no wax, right?”). The charming teen romance at the heart of the story is sincere and polite, and Panettiere is very good in the lead role. The final brawl feels contrived in comparison to the rest of the film, but it recovers well with a nice moment of levity at the end.

This post was written by
Editor and creator of Kung Fu Movie Guide and the host of the Kung Fu Movie Guide Podcast. I live behind a laptop in London, UK.

1 Comment

  • Great Review Ben! I’m very happy you seemed to “get it” and I appreciate your support of this “Anti-Bullying” themed film. Hope you enjoy “Paying Mr McGetty” too…..

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