The queen of martial arts movies, Cynthia Rothrock, Scorpion kicks her way onto the screen in this straight-to-video release that has stood the test of time. Produced by PM Entertainment Group, an independent film company behind countless lower-budget action showcases in the nineties, this is the only time they teamed up with Rothrock and it led to a winning result. How could it not with the unstoppable action queen holding court?
Cynthia Rothrock, plays Christine McKay, a Los Angeles detective whose life is turned upside down when her fiancé, Detective Nick Taylor, played by Marshall R. Teague, is ruthlessly executed before her eyes. Daniel McVicar takes on the role of roguish millionaire playboy, Lawton Hobbs, who needs Christine’s help to protect him from counterfeiter and psychopath, Nina Lindell, played with chilling effect by Lydie Denier.
The role of Hobbs’ butler and friend, Clayton, is portrayed by John O’Leary. Also appearing is Ken McLeod as Detective Ostendorf, an all-round jerk and major pain in Christine’s neck. Taking on the only ever role of her acting career is Anna Dalva who plays Captain Goddard. The cast is rounded out by Robert Miano as David, Lydie’s counterfeiting partner, and veteran martial arts choreographer, Art Camacho as one of his men, Jimmy Lee.
Christine McKay’s life is sweet and on track. She’s a top LAPD detective and is happy at the thought of marrying fellow officer Detective Nick Taylor. However, this happiness is brutally ripped away from her by the cold-blooded Nina Lindell.
When McKay and Nick go undercover to buy some counterfeit money from Lindell, she gets the upper-hand on them and cruelly and unnecessarily murders Nick in front of McKay. The murder of her husband-to-be sets McKay on a downward spiral. Even though Lindell gets caught and sent to prison, McKay cannot get over Nick’s death so she quits the police force and to pay the bills, starts up a personal bodyguarding business.
Enter handsome, rich womaniser Lawton Hobbs. Hobbs retains McKay’s bodyguard services to protect him from a dangerous ex-lover. However, the catch is, the ex-lover is none other than Nina Lindell, who’s just freshly broken out of prison. McKay reluctantly takes on the job and despite herself, finds herself drawn to the charming Hobbs. While not only battling Lindell and her henchmen’s constant attacks, she must find out if there is actually a deeper, more sinister bond between Lindell and Hobbs.
Some movies take a while to get into the action, teasing the viewers and making them wait for what’s to come. This isn’t one of those such movies! The five-minute mark barely hits before McKay finds herself neck-deep in the middle of a rumble between rival gangs of criminal organisations, laying out bad guys one after another to the strains of electric guitars. Awesome! Something should also be said about Cynthia’s speed which we think might have been a little underrated over the years – she is lightning quick!
In this first brawl we’re treated to a nice variety of Rothrock’s superb kicking techniques. McKay delivers some serious pain with straight kicks, spinning back kicks, hook kicks and a mixture of crescent kicks. One crescent kick in particular, a jumping spinning one, is captured nicely in slow motion so you can clearly see her perfect form.
On the hand attack front, you can also observe kung fu style arm grabs where she hooks some incoming punches responding with some sharp punches of her own.
Whether it’s a gunfight, a car chase, speedboat chase or even pursuit on horseback, you’re never too far away from a pulsating action scene, and fortunately the main ones are martial-arts based giving you ample chances to enjoy some well-choreographed, hand-to- hand combat.
After the impressive opening, the next big fight scene sees McKay and Nick take on some of Lindell’s thugs in an Old West museum. Nick has some decent moves himself but it’s McKay who dominates the fight mainly with her kicks, the best moment being where she nimbly chains a hook kick into a sweep kick in an artful attack.
After Nick dies and McKay becomes Hobbs’ bodyguard, there are even more tussles with Lindell’s goons. McKay nails them with her arsenal of punches and those signature kicks but also, in one scene, defeats her opponent with the help of some short stick techniques. Rothrock is a decorated champion in weapons forms so she easily sells the moves. Another memorable and enjoyable fight occurs in a bar, again replete with a pretty dizzying array of kicks, including what had come to be seen as her signature finisher – the scorpion kick – demonstrating Rothrock’s incredible flexibility.
There is no hand-to-hand showdown with Lindell as Lindell really isn’t a physical antagonist, more an evil mastermind. However do not despair as there is one solid last physical encounter with another of Lindell’s cohorts and like the rest of the fights in this movie, it delivers the goods!
In the nineties, when you picked up a straight-to-video martial arts movie from the store shelf, “Guardian Angel” is the type of film you hoped you would get. It’s packed with solid fight encounters which are pleasantly well-directed and choreographed to deliver satisfying bursts of genuine action.
Not only that, you get a main character in McKay with some depth. Rothrock conveys some real emotion and vulnerability to the viewer that marries the beatdowns she doles out on a regular basis. There is also some nice back-and-forth between McKay and Hobbs with a real “will they, won’t they” vibe providing some levity to proceedings.
A definite special mention must go to fight choreographer, Richard Norton, who has worked with Rothrock on numerous occasions, even fighting her onscreen a few times. The quality of the fights shows what a great partnership they had. For Cynthia Rothrock and martial arts movie fans alike, “Guardian Angel” makes for a nice piece of nostalgic action fun!
- One actor claimed that Rothrock broke his nose in a fight scene even though she barely touched him. He actually asked for $250,000 from the producers but they didn’t pay out.
- Actor Marshall R. Teague who played Nick Taylor studied Taekwondo and Hapkido and was NATO Kickboxing Champion. He battled Chuck Norris on numerous occasions in “Walker: Texas Ranger” and also had an unforgettable showdown against the late Patrick Swayze in “Road House” (1989).
- Richard Norton is still very active in the upper-echelons of Hollywood providing fight choreography for big-budget movies like “Suicide Squad” (2016) and “Dark Phoenix” (2019).