The Karate Kid (1984): Breakdown by Kain424
Weakling learns the Karate Way to save himself from bullying. America becomes obsessed with martial arts.
Ah, the 80s. We saw the perfection of the police procedural film, the emergence of Hong Kong’s heroic bloodshed movies, the 80s Action hero, and the revival of martial arts films. And in that final category, perhaps no other film was as influential as 1984’s The Karate Kid.
The director of Rocky, John Avildsen, doesn’t stray too far from the familiar, creating a story with parallel themes and moments. Ralph Macchio (who was 22 at the time) plays a teenage underdog who, with the help of an older mentor, overcomes the odds to uh, become good at fighting. It’s essentially a feel-good sports story with a love interest thrown into the mix. Like Rocky. And those aren’t the only connections. The film’s soundtrack features the Joe Esposito classic, You’re The Best Around, which was rejected from the Rocky III soundtrack in favor of Eye Of The Tiger. Coincidence? Probably not.
Anyway, the film plays out in a fashion that’s become all too typical: kid moves into a new town, is interested in a girl, gets his ass handed to him by the local jock/bully who also is interested in said girl, kid trains with old master, gets awesome through the power of the montage, wins the day. Cliche, classic, and fun. The only real reason to watch this film is for nostalgia’s sake or if you’re on an Action pilgrimage and want to see some of the humble origins of America’s fascination with martial arts.
Humble it is, and you could probably have a legitimate argument about whether or not this film even belongs on this website’s list of Action films. Still, enough movies have copied the formula (No Retreat No Surrender, Never Back Down, Sidekicks etc.) to more than warrant it being added to our roster. Don’t expect much in the way of impressive choreography, with Pat Johnson being responsible for it. This is the guy that hampered Jackie Chan‘s style in The Big Brawl.
I’d say to check this one out, but don’t expect pure greatness. Still, underneath all the cliches and 80s-era dialog, this is a pretty decent movie and an American classic. But best of all, it features an over-the-top performance from Martin Kove (Death Race 2000, Rambo: First Blood Part II), who’s like an evil David Hasselhoff.
[HOW BAD-ASS ARE THE MAIN CHARACTERS?]
Ralph Macchio is Daniel ‘Daniel-san’ Larusso
Macchio plays the character as a very extroverted Italian kid from the “big city.” This can either make you love him or hate him. Through his constant complaining and seeming ignorance, he makes Anakin Skywalker look almost optimistic at times. Still, he’s got a knack for pushing himself to the limit, and the guts to go with it (yeah, Elisabeth Shue is way out of his league, but his confidence is totally enough to seal the deal). He may not have the strongest body, but his ambition more than makes up for it.
Pat Morita is Mr. Miyagi
Originally going to be played by Mako and then even Toshiro Mifune, Morita is the man that made this role iconic. His serious style is never undermined by the pinch of humor Morita gives him, making him the most lovable lethal old mentor ever. Also, in his backstory, he served in the 442nd Regimental Combat Team of the United States Army, which went on to become the most highly decorated unit in the war. So that’s pretty bad-ass. Plus, he seems to have ancient Japanese magic in his hands. All he has to do is clap them together and the film’s soundtrack pretty much does the rest.
[THE BODY COUNT: ZERO]
No one dies, but Ralph Macchio gets his ass beat pretty bad in several scenes. Some people can’t stand the guy, and it might just get you through the death drought.
[MOST SATISFYING ASS-KICKING]
The final fight in the 3rd act. Easy. At the end of a tournament, which started with a montage set to the tune of You’re The Best Around, and featuring such great lines as the memorable “Sweep the leg” and the awesome “Put him in a body bag! Yeah!”, how could I not choose it?
Hobbled, but still fighting, Daniel presses on against Johnny (William Zabke), the bully that’s tormented him through the entire film. For a simple karate tournament match, featuring torso and head hit-based points, the movie does a great job of making the moments tense. The fight comes to a conclusion with Daniel using the now-iconic Crane Kick. But best of all, it ends the way all movies should end: with a freeze frame.
[DUDESWEAT AND MACHISMO]
I’ve seen some people read into the relationship between Daniel-san and Mr. Miyagi to a grotesque extent, but I just don’t get it. I’m going to ignore the fact that Miyagi rows little Daniel out to the middle of a lake and has him stand on one end of the boat in short shorts and practice his “form”. They may be soul-mates, but it’s purely spiritual love. Besides, this whole movie wouldn’t have even happened if Danny-boy hadn’t been chasing after Elisabeth Shue‘s teenage ass.
[EXPLOITATION AND MISOGYNY]
Despite puppy love being the sorry excuse for the protagonist’s struggle, women are not featured too prominently in this story. Daniel’s mother is seen a few times nagging at her son, but it’s nothing a real mother wouldn’t do. But don’t worry, the sequel’s got enough misogyny to help even things out.
[EPIC MOMENT AND BEST ONE-LINER]
The Karate Kid‘s epic moment occurs when Daniel-san finally figures out that Mr. Miyagi had been teaching him karate all along, through hard labor and chores designed to build in and instill the movements through Daniel’s muscle memory. This brings us to the immortal one-liner Mr. Miyagi had used to produce said results:
“Wax on, wax off.”
[THE MORAL OF THE STORY]
Do your chores. You are secretly being taught life lessons and other awesome things like karate.
[THE CHECKLIST: 06 outta 25]
[ ] Athlete(s) Turned “Actor”
[X] Clinging To The Outside Of A Moving Vehicle*
[X] Crotch Attack
[ ] Dialogue Telling Us How Bad-Ass The Main Character(s) Is/Are
[ ] Ending Featuring An Ambulance, A Blanket or A Towel
[ ] Factory/Warehouse
[ ] Giant Explosion(s)
[ ] Heavy Artillery
[ ] Improvised Weapon(s)
[ ] Macho Mode(s) Of Transportation
[X] Main Character Sports Facial Accessory(s)
[ ] Manly Embrace(s)
[ ] Notorious Stunt-Man Sighting
[X] Passage(s) Of Time Via Montage
[ ] Politically Fueled Plot Point(s)
[ ] Senseless Destruction Of Property
[ ] Shoot Out(s) and/or Sword Fight(s)
[ ] Slow-Motion Finishing Move(s)/Death(s)
[ ] Stupid Authoritative Figure(s)
[ ] Substance Usage and/or Abuse
[ ] Tis The Season
[X] Torture Sequence(s)**
[X] Unnecessary Sequel [The Karate Kid II]
[ ] Vehicle Chase(s)
[ ] Vigilante Justice
*Johnny and his 80s dirtbike gang grab onto Daniel’s bicycle while their riding their motored bikes. They grag him along abit before throwing him down a hill.
**Daniel-san gets his ass beat on the beach, and it’s no contest. I’ll call it torture.
22, huh? 22 is good age. Massage is next job. Learn good karate with Massage.