by Bobby Blakey
Throughout the 80s and 90s there was an uprising of martial arts films that delivered some great action stars including Don “The Dragon” Wilson, Cynthia Rothrock, Jeff Speakman, Sho Kosugi and Jean Claude Van Damme to name a few. In 1990 action fans were introduced to a new action star Olivier Gruner in director Eric Karson’s feature Angel Town. For years the only real release outside of the VHS release was one an independent release from Hellbone Entertainment, but that has all changed thanks to MVD and their Rewind Collection.
Angel Town follows a graduate student and martial-arts expert who rents a room in a house owned by a single mother who lives there with her son. A local street gang is trying to recruit the son, but the new tenant tries to help the boy's mother keep him out of the gang. When they learn of this, they target both the mother and her new tenant. Much like most of the action films of that period it is filled with a clichéd storyline and some not so great acting at times, but Olivier Gruner steps up and does a great job in the role bringing both the acting and his martial arts action skills to the table.
This is a simple story that keeps things grounded so not to waste too much time and set up for the real reason fans want to see this film which is the fight sequences. With this being his first film he really does a good job and it is not surprise that he has gone on to such a big career as an action star. The action is fun and plenty as Gruner takes on the street gangs using old school skills without any of the flashy flying nonsense or wirework. One of the best sequences of the film is a montage allowing the audience to not only be introduced to Gruner as an actor, but it showcases a variety of his skills while training.
Growing up I was obsessed with these kinds of movies during my own martial arts journey and this one was on the top of my list. Gruner's Muay Thai style was something I loved and watched this movie among others
determined to be able to kick the same way. These films are so much more than just "karate flicks" to me. This specific one not only serves up the great entertainment and inspiration to me, but also gave us one of the first screen appearance of the always awesome Mark Dacoscos who most currently know as Zero from John Wick 3.
This release features a great transfer of the film looking as good if not better than it did when it originally came out. In addition to the film there are new and old interviews, making of featurettes and so much more as well as a collectible mini-poster that makes it a must have for any maartial arts fan.