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Movie Review: The Challenge

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Mystery Science Theater 3000 is long gone, but host/writer Michael J. Nelson has started up Rifftrax, a company which records hilarious downloadable audio commentaries for DVD movies.  Most of them are for major-studio releases like Battlefield Earth and The Matrix, but if Nelson wants to get back to his roots with a low-budget B-movie, I recommend the German post-apocalyptic martial-arts epic The Challenge.

Back in the 1980s, video stores were littered with cheap Italian Road Warrior rip-offs with titles like Warriors of the Wasteland and Exterminators from the Year 3000The Challenge (which definitely needs a punchier English title) should be watched and enjoyed in that spirit.  In 2045, all of Europe descends into civil war and total anarchy (looks like Mark Steyn was right all along), and several thousand years later, a hero named Jonas does battle with a vicious warlord named Bosco ("Bosco"?) to recover the book containing his late master's martial-arts techniques.  Meanwhile, ol' Bosco – whose father was killed by Jonas several decades earlier, during which time Jonas doesn't appear to have aged – is pushed along by his seductive sister, to whom he is very close.  Very, very close.

The Challenge contains some genuinely impressive martial-arts sequences, although the bad guys would probably have more luck against Jonas if they all ganged up on him at once, instead of taking turns getting their asses kicked.  Thankfully, there's a big action scene every five minutes or so, so the movie doesn't get bogged down with a plot or character development, except for Jonas's budding romance with a comely female follower.  The movie also looks pretty good considering its low budget, although the scenes of the Reichstag in flames and ruined cities are pretty unconvincing.  (Then again, it's hard to make that stuff look convincing even with a major-studio budget.  See Battlefield Earth, mentioned above.)

As a rule, I prefer to watch foreign-language films with subtitles, so I can hear the actors' real voices.  For The Challenge, however, I made an exception: this is the kind of movie in which the bad dubbing is half the fun.

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