The Kid is back, on home soil and the familiar terrain of the tournament arena this time facing battles not just on the mat but closer to home. This third instalment in the Karate Kid saga was divisive on its release but it still holds its own in the series. The dynamic tension between Miyagi and Daniel, along with some truly nasty villains out for revenge makes for a respectable addition to the franchise.
Ralph Macchio and Noriyuki “Pat” Morita return again as the dynamic duo of karate, Daniel LaRusso and Mr (Kesuke) Miyagi. Returning from the first film, only this time in more than just a cameo is Martin Kove as Cobra Kai, Sensei John Kreese. This time, the disgraced teacher finds himself fallen on hard times, broke and his dojos devoid of students.
Joining the franchise in an impressive debut is Thomas Ian Griffith as corrupt business magnate Terry Silver with revenge on his mind. Helping him with this revenge quest, and also making his debut is Sean Kanan as the ‘bad boy’ of karate Mike Barnes, a hot-headed fighter whose only interest in the rules is breaking them.
Robyn Lively offers some potential romantic interest as local potter Jessica Andrews.
Daniel and Mr Miyagi return home from Okinawa to find their apartment building sold to property developers leaving Daniel homeless (while his mother is away looking after a sick relative) and Mr Miyagi without a job. Daniel and Miyagi go into business selling bonsai trees whilst disgraced Cobra Kai sensei John Kreese gets ready to throw in the towel. Kreese is aided by his friend Terry Silver, a businessman of dubious character who puts a devious plan of revenge into action.
The plan forces Daniel to compete in an upcoming karate tournament against Miyagi’s wishes and threatens to ruin their relationship.
With the usual team of director John Avildsen and choreographer Pat E. Johnson back on board for round three, expectations were high for some quality karate action. Whilst the pace and speed are consistent with the previous films Johnson added in some different, contrasting elements that complement the script’s themes of tension and conflict.
As always the action is intertwined into the story’s themes. The introduction of the Miyagi kata is an interesting addition, although for much of Daniel’s tournament preparation later on in the film it takes up all of the training sequence. It does however provide much of the film’s scenic and touching moments which on their own could be viewed repeatedly. The peaceful stoic kata does contrast in true Taoist fashion versus Daniel’s more hard core-style training with Silver, breaking boards and focusing on inflicting actual damage. They also invoke a little emotive response, mainly frustrations with Daniel’s naive blindness to Silver’s intent and willingness to adapt a more violent tactic that would disappoint his mentor.
Much of the karate skirmishes are brief but serve the story’s purpose, from the impressive introduction of Griffiths’, Terry Silver sparring in his mansion (complete with silk gi) to Mike Barnes and Daniel’s brief yet painful encounters. Griffiths impresses from the outset, with his lean 6’ 4” frame adding elegance to his kicking skills and a certain imposing presence. Whilst his taekwondo displays are obvious to the discerning eye, right down to his kata practice, none of it seems out of place here. Kanan as Barnes however brings all the no-nonsense, hard hitting qualities of his shotokan training, with some basic but highly effective-looking techniques.
The film does give us two hotly anticipated and outstanding moments; those eager to see a Miyagi vs Kreese re-match certainly were not disappointed with a fight that sees the two masters trade blows. Although Miyagi seems overpowered by the towering Silver, the showdown delivers a matching of skill and strategy topped with more of Miyagi’s trademark stoic humour.
The tournament finale is shorter than anticipated and perhaps could have done with one or two more match ups for both Barnes and Daniel against different opponents. For the final showdown it needed more strikes coming from Daniel to balance out Barnes’ domination. Yet the choreography features some crisp and clean karate in action especially from Kanan. Each hit comes hard and fast and with Macchio selling the impact of each strike, it’s not difficult to feel his pain at times making the outcome all the more satisfying.
“The Karate Kid Part III” is a film somewhat out of place. The story and character relations would’ve been far better placed in the second chapter with the events and characters, fresh in audience minds, it would have flowed better. It’s difficult to fathom that after the life and death battles of the second film, that the threat posed by Terry Silver, John Kreese and Mike Barnes just don’t seem nearly as daunting. Having said that, there is plenty to enjoy in this third instalment of the Karate Kid franchise.
It was a welcoming return for Martin Kove back as John Kreese hamming up his evil Sensei persona whilst Thomas Ian Griffiths’ over the top business mogul hits the target as accurately as his elegant spinning roundhouse kicks. Of the villains however Sean Kanan as Mike Barnes steals the show here; the scenes where he gets right into Daniel’s face taunting him are some of his best. The skirmishes and showdowns prove to be ample crowd pleasers with a variety of skill on show especially from newcomers Griffiths and Barnes.
On the whole, writer Robert Mark Kamen has captured the tension between Miyagi and Daniel perfectly and it’s a welcome change to the normal relationship dynamic we’ve previously seen. By making this the central focus of the film and downplaying any potential love interest with Jessica, the film holds viewer interest and adds more gravitas to the story. All in all “Karate Kid Part III” whilst not the best of the franchise, still holds its own where it counts with a solid, engaging story and some crowd pleasing karate fight scenes.
Music: Kata Training
- This was originally intended to be the first sequel in the series but the creators decided to go with a different story.
- Sean Kanan performed many of his own stunts often risking his personal safety. One stunt saw him fall so badly that he suffered internal bleeding from a torn abdomen wall.
- The kata Miyagi and Daniel perform is a mixture of Seienchin (meaning trapping battle) from Goju Ryu karate, and Wanshu kata from Wado Ryu. Both focus on trapping and throwing techniques.
- Fumio Demura returned to double for Pat Morita in the fight scenes.
- The abuse Mike Barnes hurls at Daniel lying in agony on the mat was improvised by Sean Kanan. It was a similar tactic that won him the audition where he backed Ralph Macchio into a corner and wouldn’t let up.
- Thomas Ian Griffith holds black belts in both Kenpo karate and taekwondo.
- “If karate used to defend honour, defend life then karate mean something. If karate used to defend plastic trophy, karate no mean nothing.” – Miyagi
- “This guy want to break you! Humiliate you! Stomp you into the ground! Now, what are you going to do about it?” – Terry Silver
Film Rating: 7/10
Do you think “The Karate Kid Part III” was a good end to the 80’s trilogy, what do you best remember about this round-off to the original 80’s franchise or indeed about “The Karate Kid” or “The Karate Kid II”? Let us know in the comments below, join in the conversation on Facebook and follow us on Twitter. (For more karate and other ‘kicks’ check out our striking movie reviews!)