Inferno (1997)

Over four decades, Don “The Dragon” Wilson won eleven world titles that included the IKF, WKA, KICK, ISKA, STAR and the PKO titles, defeating some of the most famous names in the sport of kickboxing, including Branko Cikatic, James Warring, Dennis Alexio and Maurice Smith. He turned that fame into a career in the kind of direct to video movies that exist in the lower rungs of the action hero world. This isn’t a knock on Wilson; I just break action heroes up accordingly and in order:

God tier: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sylvester Stallone

Challenging for God tier: Chuck Norris, Jean Claude Van Dam

VHS — and coincidentally often Cannon Films — stars: Michael Dudikoff, Sho Kosugi, Dolph Lundgren

Not exclusively action, yet makes great action: Kurt Russell, Bruce Willis, Mel Gibson, Harrison Ford, Patrick Swayze

Asian superstars: Jackie Chan, Bruce Lee and his clones

And, as always, Charles Bronson.

Wilson comes in at the tier of guys trying to break into the upper echelons, like Reb Brown, Brent Huff, Lorenzo Lamas, Ron Marchini, Billy Blanks and…The Dragon.

It’s interesting that this film combines Bollywood locations and actors with Wilson’s kicking style. He plays Interpol agent Kyle Connors, a man who travels the whole way to Istanpol to track down the killer of his partner.

The first American film to be made in India, this was also released as Operation Cobra and in Telugu as Secret Agent 786. R. Madhavan, who played Ravi, has gone on to be a huge star in seven different languages, which his big breakthrough being the romance movie Alaipayuthey.

If you pay attention to the guns in this movie, you’ll notice that most of them are wooden or plastic. That’s because of India’s tight gun control laws. When guns are shot, that effect was made by wiring each gun with miniature explosives.

Rick Hill, who is one of the bad guys in this, was also a direct to video action star, appearing in Class of 1999 II: The SubstituteDune WarriorsThe Devastator and as the Deathstalker in Deathstalker IV: Match of Titans. And wow — Jillian Kesner from two of my favorite weirdo karate movies ever — Raw Force and Firecracker — is in this too!

Don is pretty much James Bond in this — thanks to The Video Vacuum — with “a kingpin with a wild child daughter who falls for the hero (like On Her Majesty’s Secret Service), the hero performing a fake-out assassination (like The Living Daylights), the hero’s best friend faking his own death and becoming the main villain (like GoldenEye), and big fight scenes that take place in Indian marketplaces (like Octopussy).”

Check out that site — I’ve learned a lot from reading it.

If anything, watch this movie to see Ray, his wife and Gary Graver all have minor roles. And if you don’t love this movie after The Dragon finds a snake in his bed, these movies aren’t for you.

You can watch this on Tubi.

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