What do you get when you mix a blaxploitation kung-fu movie and an Asian horror movie? You get Gang Wars, a weird combination of bad fight choreography, drug dealers and a monster movie all rolled up in to one.
An inner city martial arts instructor with a nice afro goes to Hong Kong to get further training and takes one of his star pupils, Rodan, along with him. During the training, the pupil breaks off from the group and stumbles upon the site of an ancient sacrifice and decides it would be wise to take an amulet from the site. As you can guess this is a bad choice, as it awakens some kind of demon from the site who was being kept at bay by the amulet. Now that the amulet is gone, the demon is free to roam, and he wants that amulet.
Once back in New York, Rodan gets caught up in the drug trade, and gets stiffed by an Asian gang. This gang war results in many poorly executed scenes that look like a bunch of 12 year olds staging a slapfight in their backyard, including a scene where a man with a katana can’t seem to even nick his opponent in an embarrassing display of ineptitude. If the fact that his shitty gang can’t fight isn’t bad enough, Rodan is being stalked by the demon, who has now occupied the body of a Chinese businessman and somehow survived the entire journey from Hong Kong to New York via boat.
While the demon tries to recover it’s amulet, it decides to take refuge in the subway because sunlight is the only thing that can weaken the it. While down in the dark subway, it lures it’s victims with shiny necklaces that it thinks is the amulet one by one by pretending to be a helpless victim trapped on the tracks. Oddly enough, all the attacks take place in the exact same subway station, but the cops can’t seem to figure out what the hell is going on the entire time. The demon wants it’s amulet back, and it’s going to take someone with the mediocre fighting skills in order to send it back to hell! Say, do you think that inner city karate instructor might just be the man for the job!?
Gang Wars has quite a bit of promise. The premise itself is pretty decent, if not a little convoluted, and it’s the classic example of too many ingredients spoiling the meal. What starts out as a kung-fu horror flick gets turned into a bunch of white belts practicing their kicks and punches back and forth without ever even looking like they’re going to hit each other.
The non kung-fu element of the movie is equally bad. While the demon is supposed to be this blood thirsty and menacing monster, you barely see it. When you do finally get to see it at the end of the movie, the tiny bits of it you do get to see look pretty good, and that added more to my disappointment than anything else. You have this decent looking monster that you hide in darkness until the final showdown. Was it a rented suit, and did you only pay for the one day of shooting that you actually used it?
Gang Wars is another example of a movie that is full of promise that just ended up falling short of expectations. It made up for a little of it by having some laughable fight sequences and “do-it yourself” special effects that you could pull off better by yourself at home (like the Chinese businessman with the “eyes” painted on his actual eyelids), but overall it missed the mark in three genres (kung-fu, blaxploitation and horror). Gang Wars gets 1 and a half spits of fake blood out of 5.