Anyone who is familiar with martial arts and martial arts movies knows Cynthia Rothrock. She won five consecutive world titles in forms and weapons, hold seven different black belts in Tae Kwon Dow, Tang Soo Do, Karate, Eagle Claw, Wu Shu, Northern Shaolin and Pai Lum Tao Kung Fu.
She has been in some legendary films like The Blonde Fury, Above the Law and Rapid Fire. As an action heroine, Rothrock had to make her way to Hong Kong to have a successful career because in the States women were thought of as set dressing instead of stars.
“When I first did American films I was always second, the guy was the main guy, then there was me. I would fight but then he would come in and save the day. They believed that women couldn’t sell a movie and finally when I did China O’Brien, it did well but there is still that old school mentality because a lot of women did come out and did action, but just because you look good doesn’t mean they could make a good movie. If your action sucks and you need a double for almost all your scenes it’s just not going to work. So if the film is made like that then everyone says, ‘Women’s action doesn’t sell.’ It’s a movie business mentality that has never been broken,” said Rothrock about difference between American and international actions films staring women.
After taking some time off to become a mother, Rothrock now wears another other hat, film producer in The Martial Arts Kid. Her and multiple time Kickboxing world champion, Don “The Dragon” Wilson play married couple Glen and Cindy, who take in their troubled nephew Robbie (Jansen Panettiere) in and teach him the Do (the Way) of life.
All though the name will make you think of The Karate Kid, it is far closer to Footloose in structure, but still able to stand apart as a family film that is relatable to everyone. The film was shot in two and a half weeks, spending a week and a half in Los Angeles and another week in Florida.
“James Wilson said, ‘I want to make a good family action picture’ and even though that’s the first thing people think that it’s a cheap remake of The Karate Kid, it really isn’t. It deals with anti-bullying and the kid learns how to defend himself. He only gets to be a green belt, learns to defend himself and learns real martial arts. All the teaching is done by real martial arts masters so there is nothing unrealistic. It teaches kids to not tolerate bullies and he learns self-defense, which is the last resort if someone is going to hurt you,” said Rothrock about the similarities and differences between both films.
Rothrock has an answer for the detractors to this film in the everyone gets a trophy world.
“I believe everyone should know self-defense. It is something you have to know and there are situations where you might have to use it. It has nothing to do with competition, but in real life and the real world, you might have to protect yourself or someone you love’s life, that’s priceless. The tournament part is only the sport aspect of it,” said Rothrock.
The cast of The Martial Arts had some heavy hitters in the martial arts world, along with Rothrock and Wilson, JT Storm, who holds belts in five different styles plays the villain of the film teaching aggression over discipline. The main star however, is Panettiere, the younger brother of Hayden Panettiere, who leaves Cleveland for Cocoa Beach, FL to learn the real meaning of the martial arts.
“The thing that I was impressed about him (Panettiere) was that he wasn’t young teen that jokes around on set. He’s very serious about the scenes and if he had suggestions he would share it and was totally into the character,” said Rothrock about her lead actor.
Rothrock mentions that there are talks of a Martial Arts Kid 2 and a kickstarter campaign for a film she will executive produce and star with Sammo Hung called, The Amazing Shanghai Dragon. However, before any that happens, we have to wait for Rothrock to finish climbing Machu Picchu on her trip to South America.
The Martial Arts Kid is out now on DVD.