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Film / Only the Strong

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Only The Strong is a 1993 live-action film starring Mark Dacascos and distributed by 20th Century Fox.

Louis Stevens (Dacascos), having completed his tour as a Green Beret in Brazil, returns to his old Miami neighborhood to find that the local high school has been overrun by drug dealers. He intervenes in a dispute with one of the more prominent dealers, an act that ends with the gangsters being forced off campus. Seeing this, Louis' old teacher Mr. Kerrigan (Geoffrey Lewis) brings a proposal to the principal of teaching the art of capoeira (which Louis learned while in Brazil) to several of the school's worst at-risk students as a means of instilling discipline into them.

However, Louis' earlier intervention with the drug dealer does not go down well with the local drug kingpin Silverio, who is himself a Capoeira master and proceeds to viciously beat Louis as a warning not to interfere. Louis eventually recovers, but what follows is a fight to liberate the neighborhood from Silverio's influence.

Only the Strong provides examples of:

  • Artistic License – Martial Arts: Averted for the most part, as the film makes a pretty good job of portraying the culture of capoeira in such a reduced context, but several of the fight scenes indulge in the standard kung fu flick kicking instead of showing the intrincated game of dodges and level switches which is instrumental to the Brazilian style. This is justified because Mark Dacascos had never trained in capoeira until this very film and already had a background in other martial arts.
  • Badass Boast: Between Silverio and Louis during their second confrontation:
    Silverio: This time, I play for keeps.
    Louis: And this time...I don't play.
  • Badass Teacher: Louis himself, although technically he's not a member of the school faculty.
  • Benevolent Boss: Silverio is this to his henchmen and a good deal of the people in his section of the neighborhood. As Orlando says about his cousin, "They're either scared of him or they think he's Robin Hood."
  • Berserk Button: Silverio does not take it well when he learns that Louis has wrecked his chop-shop.
  • Heel–Face Revolving Door: Orlando, Silverio's cousin, has to choose between his respect for Louis and his loyalty to his cousin. He chooses the former.
  • Police Are Useless: It's justified, though, as a cop indicates that Silverio's history of intimidating potential witnesses who would otherwise give testimony against him has left the police unable to arrest him on any solid charges.
  • Roaring Rampage of Revenge: Louis goes on one against Silverio's operatives after Donovan's death.
  • Save Our Students: The point of the movie. The protagonist teaches his proteges how to use Capoeira, which somehow reforms them into better people using team mentality to go against the local gang.
  • Skewed Priorities: Donovan dies because he runs back into the burning building to save a musical instrument. Even worse, berimbau (the instrument) isn't really meant to last - you can and should replace parts as the simple wear and tear ensures they will degrade if not outright break down. Basically they are for the most part disposable and sure as hell not worth dying over.
  • Why Don't Ya Just Shoot Him?: Philippe thinks Silverio should do this to Louis. However, Silverio refuses on the grounds that doing so will make Louis a martyr in the eyes of the neighborhood and thus cement his positive influence, which would undermine Silverio's power in the process.