Remember when the 90's American Martial Art movies exploded in the Z grade scene, and there seemed to be millions of different films which all included a lot of the same themes....REDEMPTION. I was fourteen when I got to watch this for the first time, and at first I was not sure of what to expect from it, and I won't lie, it did look a little crap at first. But the more I got myself into the storyline the more I thought 'Hey this really isn't that bad, in fact I am really enjoying the storyline and the characters'. The thing is with 'To the Death' is that, it knows exactly what it is, it doesn't try to be a blockbuster smash or try to have the same calibre of fight scenes like any Van Damme film, but just because it isn't punching at those heavy heights, doesn't mean it isn't enjoyable. This film in particular always stand out in my mind as one of my favourite American Martial Art movies because it was just down right honest and dirty, and scummy. I mean c'mon the budget alone must have been pretty small, so I think the cast did a great job with what they had to work with.
Here is the run down. Rick Quinn is a kickboxing champ and decides to retire, which really pisses off his main rival Denard who also plays TONG PO...Yep, so knowing that should make you want to watch this movie if you haven't. Anyway, Rick gets offered to fight for a tonne of money by this seedy little guy, Dominique Le Braque...but refuses. Next thing you know Quinn's wife is murdered and you can imagine he spirals out of control and finds himself getting bailed out of jail by Angelica Le Braque...so he meets again with Dominique and decides to fight for him. He knows something isn't quite right with these guys he is getting involved with, but hey earning some money can't be so bad right? Piece of cake right? WRONG! Quinn gets in the ring, and beats the absolute shit out of this guy, so what happens, this loser gets shot...now Quinn understands that shit has just gotten real.
I love the storyline to this film because it isn't convoluted or over excessive in certain elements. It is violent, with some decent kickboxing and fight choreography, it has some funny but bad lines in this, and the characters are so terrible that you actually enjoy their presence on screen. I won't lie to you though, you have seen all these kind of characters before. You have Quinn who is the hero who has fallen on some bad times, he sides with the baddies until he realises what is going down, and will of course save the day. You have Denard, who at first may seem like this muscular hot head who hates our protagonist, but will come to realise he isn't that bad. Then you have Angelica, she is Dominique's wife, and the only reason why she is with him is because he has money and can afford to keep that habit of hers up her nose, but she realises that doesn't mean a thing because she has fallen for Quinn...see love can exist in Z grade American Martial art films! And lastly you have Dominique, he clearly has short man syndrome, he has a bad temper and will make any person feel uncomfortable, but if you put him in a room with Joe Pesci, I can guarantee he would be shitting himself. He seems tough and crazy but when you compare him to someone else, he really isn't a strong force to be reckoned with.
There is a tad bit of romance in this film, and a sex scene, which is terrible by the way. But what is funny is that Quinn and Angelica get caught, it is just so hilarious, especially when Dominique loses his absolute shit over it. To be honest I didn't buy the romance, but hey I didn't watch 'To the Death' for that, so I can't really fault it for that. There really isn't any strong character development at all in this film, the only person I was ever excited to see on screen was Dominique, because he was such a violent boob who said things to make him sound like he was a man you don't fuck with it. I also thought his relationship with Angelica was actually kind of interesting because even though he treats her like shit, and she's drug fucked out of her mind on cocaine, he is wondering how he can better their marriage, and how he think's he isn't doing anything wrong, it's all her...I just found it quite funny and somewhat odd that he would actually bother to think twice about his marriage...Let's face it, most antagonists in films like 'To the Death' don't actually think about their marriages, they just know they don't want anyone else fucking their lady.
Now after explaining all that, I believe it is a damn shame that this has not been released on DVD. I am lucky enough to have this on VHS, however I would like to have that option of having it on DVD. I will never understand how so many gems get tossed aside and forgotten, when they could be making companies money and people happy. American Martial Art movies like 'To The Death' will never die, as long as the fans are still around to enjoy those kinds of films. You can get so much enjoyment out of these kind of movies, whether it's with a group of friends or by yourself. And you can always heighten that experience with a Cherry Coke. I don't know the ins and outs of bringing out films onto DVD, obviously it will have something to do with rights for the films but, why don't they have a select group of superhero's out there who try and get all those classics onto DVD and Blu Ray...Those would be the best kind of heroes out there. Either way, you all need to try and track down a VHS copy of this film, because it will rock your damn world with how bad and good it is. Don't expect this to be the same calibre of gem of let's say 'Bloodsport' but it's a forgotten gem of tackiness with a hint of cheesy awesomeness.