Lamas, and chest rug.
It seems that the great movie makers often overlook kickboxing during their cinematic investigations into the human condition. While regular boxing has movies like On The Waterfront, Champion, Raging Bull or Rocky, kickboxing has movies like Final Impact. OK, so some of those movies aren't really about boxing and there are certainly better kickboxing movies than Final Impact, but this film is so dire that it drags the genre down in the same way Police Academy 7: Mission To Moscow erases all my happy, carefree memories of Police Academy 6: City Under Siege.
So why would you be attracted to the film, apart from the general pedigree of the ILC publishing stable? Well, it's Lorenzo Lamas for one thing, a direct-to-video giant, and this is an actorly outing for him as most of the fighting goes to someone else. Also, he sports a cowboy hat for much of the movie, which is generally a sign of acting pedigree. Secondly, it's a movie about a washed up champion taking on a young prot?g?, which means you have the distinct advantage of having basically seen this movie before, probably several times, hence freeing the mind from having to concentrate on those distracting plot elements, or troublesome storytelling.
As you may have guessed, Lamas is in fact the washed up former contender of the piece, as one time kickboxing champion Nick Taylor. Beaten humiliatingly by the current champion, played by Jeff Langton who pulled off an inpiring combination of TV work with episodes of Buffy and Matlock on his CV, Lamas has given up on the world of Sport, and retired to running a strip / kickboxing bar, and drinking booze to try and exorcise the demons of his defeat. However, when a young turk with the potential for greatness comes along, Taylor sees the opportunity to return to the sport, and have his revenge on the man that beat him. The contender is Danny Davis, played by Michael Worth, and has, as far as we can see, no skills whatsoever, but that can be solved with a short Team America style training montage. Then it's off for the big tournament, Danny's shot at the big time, and Nick's shot at vengeance.
So, the negatives. Well, it's a cheesy movie, but you do expect that to some degree, especially when Mr. Lamas is involved, and I'm not sure that cheesiness really changes a fun movie to a rubbish one. Unfortuately for Lamas' fans he is only involved in one fight in the whole thing. His role, as it happens, is reasonable, but I suspect the majority of people that actually watch this movie are going to be doing so for the chance to see Lorenzo get in the ring, rather than Michael Worth. Even then, the fights are few and far between, and what's between makes them seem a lot further. The pacing of the movie has much more to do with its more dramatic cousins in the kinds of boxing movies I mentioned earlier, but without writers, actors or directors that ever seem really comfortable making this kind of film. Even the lovely Kathleen Kinmont disappoints, wrangling a little bit of life out of a very, very poor role as Taylor's long suffering wife, without any of the attitude that makes her an interesting presence in the more regular action films she starred in with Lamas through the early ninties.
The project does feature a lot of regular PM Entertainment names, with Joseph Mehri co-directing, but I get the feeling that the keeper of the vision was writer/director Stephen Smoke. The PM films, at their best, are slices of entertaining, low budget action, but Final Impact has few of the hallmarks of one of their better pictures. The action, when it's there, isn't bad. I think anyone would enjoy watching Gary Daniels' brief cameo in the film as a fighter at Nick's club who knocks several shades out of Danny near the start of the film, and in general there's an aggressive energy to the fighting that works well, and gives the pace that makes these kind of movies work. Unfortunately, this means that the fights are short, which leads us into a quick return to the slightly drab existence of training montages and stilted dialogue.
Overall, this could have been worse, but it could have been much, much better. Lorenzo Lamas isn't totally incapable of acting, as he has shown in various other projects, but Final Impact tries to be a drama and a kickboxing movie and is entirely unsatisfactory as both. There's not enough fighting for fight fans, not enough talent for drama fans, and the only group I can think of that will really get a kick out of it are the hardcore Lamas-heads who want to see something a bit different.