Martial artist and filmmaker R.L. Scott directs this pumped up hybrid of urban action film and martial arts tournament genre featuring a cast of amazing fighters.
A continuation of his original film, the film begins with Heaven’s Fist expert John Merser (Brad James) and Earth’s Fist expert Abel (Shaun Mixon) taking down the gang of Abel’s former arch-nemesis Cain. When they successfully rescue Merser’s friend, they learn of an upcoming tournament to be run by crime boss Solomon (Terrance Parham). For Abel, it is personal because Solomon has kidnapped his love Star (Noree Victoria) and their daughter.
Another fighter in the tournament is Kyo Akeshi (D.Y. Sao), an undercover bureau agent and Chinese boxing expert who plans to get his brother out of the tournament and put an end to Solomon’s crime reign. Sanshou expert Osiris (Kevin Lukata) has come to town to find Soleem (Balogun), the original Champion Road winner. Osiris is Soleem’s long lost son who is seeking revenge for his brother, who was killed in the last tournament. Kyokushin expert Conner Solaco (Robert Mitchell) is entering to make enough money for a better life for himself and his son. Krav Maga expert Neesa (Shay Latte) is entering the tournament for only one reason, the purse of one million dollars.
As the fighters prepare for the tournament, Solomon begins to have other plans as well. He knows of Merser and Abel’s entrance and plans to somehow make it so they will not win. He goes as far as hiring right hand man Jupiter (Jay Don), a Golden Gloves boxer, as a competitor. As the tournament begins, once the qualifiers are completed, the fighters learn that the arena is actually the city and the fights can happen at any time. The fighters soon learn that there is more at stake than the million dollar purse. When secrets are revealed, the fighters must find a way to band together to stop Solomon once and for all.
Writer/director R.L. Scott does really well combining urban action film with the martial arts tournament film. What is interesting about Scott’s script is that he brings in plot twists at exactly the right moments. Once you get into the film, Scott’s plot twists enhance the overall film rather than make it a mess. For an independent film, twists have that tendency to make the film better or make it worse and thankfully, the twists here work out very well. Not to spoil the film, but a twist that is reminiscent of a classic kung fu genre’s plot point really brings a shock value to the film and in a good way.
The cast gives it their all in their film. Shaun Mixon’s Abel may look like a robot at times, but it is clear that he is feeling the anger as his girlfriend and daughter are kidnapped. D.Y. Sao’s Kyo is an agent who only wants to get his brother out of the game as it is dangerous. Brad James’ Mercer is someone, who like Abel, wants to end the violence at any cost, even if it means leaving his very pregnant wife to do it. Shay Latte’s Neesa can be quite annoying at times as she only cares about being a tough chick who steals because she has nothing else to live for. Her introduction scene involves killing two potential rapists only to slap the victim across the face for being weak. It’s nice to see a character emphasize feminism, but the extremity of weakness perception is perhaps one of the only flaws in Scott’s script.
D.Y. Sao took charge of the fight choreography with Scott himself serving as both stunt and fight coordinator. Sao really did a tremendous job with the fight sequences. It must be noted that each fighter’s introduction includes that of their fighting discipline. Sao and Scott collaborated well utilizing various techniques of each style named in the film and Sao truly stands out here with his amazing combination of acrobatics and kicking skills while the other cast members really give it their all in the fights, which at times can be excruciatingly bloody.
CHAMPION ROAD: ARENA is definitely worth the 117-minute running time, filled with exciting action and plot twists that enhance the film. Definitely worth a rental and possibly worth a buy as well.