Hidden Tiger (1996)

a.k.a. - Balance of Power (USA)

Billy Blanks and Mako star in an unoriginal but enjoyable martial arts thriller. Prism Leisure UK R0 DVD.

The Film

Niko (Billy Blanks) is a karate tutor in a deprived inner city area - he is hounded for protection money by a criminal syndicate but refuses and one of his students is gunned down in the street. Niko is taken in by Todo Matsumoto (Mako) who wants to train him to defeat the syndicate's champion in a tournament they are running which he hopes will help to bring them down.

One of a small handful of martial arts films made in the mid-1990s starring fitness trainer Billy Blanks, Hidden Tiger is like his earlier Showdown (1993) a rather generic film with a storyline that could easily have been cobbled together from productions of Jackie Chan, JCVD, Olivier Gruner, Seagal et al. Like almost all Blanks' roles, the Niko character is a pretty typical good guy (although not a cop) who is drawn into the criminal world to get his revenge on wrong doers, although at least he is already a martial arts tutor so his training to be a fighter is quite plausible. Despite the unoriginal plot, the film remains enjoyable and the storyline is enough to fill the ninety minute runtime without dragging, even if it is generally a little on the predictable side.

Similarly, director Rick Bennett does a unoriginal but solid job on the direction with the fight scenes all looking good and easy to follow. Perhaps the strangest sequence is an extended training montage that runs for a full ten minutes, possibly the longest in the genre (although there is at least only one, compared to the half dozen in Showdown).

Billy Blanks, like most of the second-tier martial arts stars of the 90s, was never much of an actor and fortunately the script here seems to be written with this in mind, with far more physical action than emoting required. The Japanese actor Mako Iwamatsu is well cast as his tutor.

The last of a short run of low budget martial-arts films for Billy Blanks, Hidden Tiger is a pretty forgettable production, but enjoyable while it lasts.

In Brief
Anyone famous in it? Billy Blanks - creator of the popular Taebo workouts he had a short career in B-movies like Showdown (1993).
Mako Iwamatsu - Japanese actor, best known for his roles in Conan the Barbarian and Conan the Destroyer
Directed by anyone interesting? Rick Bennett - an otherwise unknown director with no other film credits.
Any gore or violence ? Some violence and blood but nothing strong.
Any sex or nudity? None
Who is it for? Really only appealing to fans of Billy Blanks.

Visuals Original Aspect Ratio - 1.33:1. Colour.
Picture quality is a little on the dark side, but good detail.
Audio English stereo - balance is sometimes slightly off, dialogue a little muffled.
Subtitles None
Extras None
Region Region 0 (ALL) - PAL
Other regions? No US DVD release.
Cuts? Believed to be fully uncut. Titles and credits are in English (although the title card is obviously newly created).



All text in this review written by Timothy Young - 10th June 2013.
Text from this review not to be used without authorization.

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