It should have been called: Terry Silver is a Really Cool Dude and I Wish He Was My Friend. If you don’t believe me, READ ON!
The first Karate Kid movie was a genuinely good and warm hearted film, with director John G. Avildsen working in his patented Rocky mode. The second one was OK, but it fell into the travelogue dilemma of showing the audience the sights and sounds of an exotic location in hopes of covering up the fact it’s the same movie as the first one, just in a different setting. This one exists in a world of its own. Terry Silver’s World. As portrayed by Thomas Ian Griffith, Terry Silver is one of the most despicable characters ever to grace the silver screen. Terry is a man of incredible wealth and unlimited resources, whose only problems come from where to dump his hazardous chemical waste.
If you remember from KK1, Daniel-san (Ralph Macchio) beat Kreese’s (Martin Kove) dojo single handedly at the All Valley Karate Tournament. In 2, Kreese tried to beat up Mr. Miyagi (Pat Morita) in the parking lot and got his fists smashed through a windshield. 3 picks up with Kreese’s Cobra Kai dojo disgraced and his rep ruined. More importantly, he’s flat broke. He tries to give the keys back to his Nam vet buddy Terry, who bought the dojo for him for saving his life in Nam. Terry refuses and sends Kreese off to Tahiti for a few weeks. As he’s driving Kreese to the airport, he informs him that he will be putting his lucrative waste dumping activities aside for a few weeks in favor of plotting the downfall of Danny boy and “the slope”.
“I’m gonna get them for what they did to you. They made you suffer, so I’ll make them suffer. And suffer and suffer and suffer. And when I think they’ve suffered enough, then I start with the pain!”
In short, Terry is a guy we’d all like to have as a friend. What else can you say about a guy who sets in motion an intricately plotted scheme of humiliation, betrayal and revenge of Machiavellian design all because some kid and an old man made his bud look bad? That’s friendship. I’d like to take him down to the local bar and have some beers with him. While we watch the game and shoot some pool he can concoct an absurdly extreme and highly financed way to win the loyalty and strip the dignity of my neighbor, who lets his dog shit in my front yard. Or set forth a reign of inconveniences on the guy who used to steal my lunch money in the fourth grade. I’m sure Terry could work something out.
As Kreese enters the airport, Daniel and Mr. Miyagi, just home from their trip to Japan are leaving it. They take a cab to their apartment only to find out the complex has been sold. They end up getting a place together and Miyagi dreams of opening up a banzai tree store. Kreese calls Terry from Tahiti (where several of Terry’s mistresses are showing him a good time). Terry tells him, he just bought Kreese twenty new dojo locations and when he returns home, he’ll be the biggest dojo operator in the Valley. He asks Terry about Daniel and Miyagi and Terry responds: “Revenge, who wouldn’t want revenge, and I’m gonna get it for you. Those two jerks are taking up 100% of my time… When I get finished with that kid, he’s gonna be begging me to be his teacher. And do you want to know what he’s gonna learn? PAIN! In every part of his body and FEAR! In every part of his mind! And here’s the kicker: he’s gonna thank me for it!”
He asks Kreese if there’s anything else he wants, and he responds: “Yeah make his knuckles bleed!”
Silver sets his plan into motion, hiring a team of crackerjack tailors to disguise his wealth. “This is too nice, I have to look poor!” He tells his secretary to hold all his calls. “For the next few weeks, my business is strictly revenge!” They also assemble a line of beaters for him to drive. “Cute, but wrong. This one has no character. Ah, a truck, I like it!” He searches through some karate magazines and finds “Karate’s Bad Boy” Mike Barnes (Sean Kanan), and for a paycheck, 50% ownership in the dojos, and a place to crash, Barnes earns his keep by picking on Daniel. He even gives Barnes two flunkies to hang out with.
You know this makes me wonder if the guy who gave me all those wedgies in high school was privately financed by a crazed industrial billionaire, or possibly an oil tycoon.
Meanwhile Daniel and Miyagi open a banzai tree store and he tells Daniel there is a very old tree at the bottom of Devil’s Cauldron, a steep hillside. While setting up shop, Daniel sees a cute chick, Jessica (Robin Lively of Teen Witch shame) and tries to put the moves on her. On a date in the banzai shop, Barnes comes in and tries to bully Daniel into entering the next tournament. “You don’t enter, and that affects my financial future!” They tell him to sleep on it and they leave. The next morning while Miyagi and Daniel are practicing their “kata” or technique, Terry stops by for a chat. He tells them that he was sent as a goodwill ambassador to apologize for Kreese’s behavior. He also shocks them by saying Kreese is DEAD! That night over macaroni and cheese, Daniel and Jessica have a date that is promptly ruined when Barnes and his cronies wreck the place. Daniel tries to stay cool, but when they hit Jessica, it’s on. Barnes and Co. mop the floor with Daniel, but Miyagi comes in just in time to save his bacon. On the way home, Miyagi annoys Daniel by singing Japanese songs (he must think it’s cheaper than a car radio) and when they get home, they discover Barnes has stolen all their trees. Daniel goes to the cops and tells Miyagi, “This is the 80’s Mr. Miyagi, you can’t be so damn passive!”
The next day Daniel and Jessica climb down Devil’s Cauldron to get Miyagi’s original tree which Daniel claims is worth $10,000, but Barnes cuts their ropes and refuses to pull them up until he signs up for the tournament. After Daniel signs, Barnes snaps the banzai tree in half. Daniel comes back to Mr. Miyagi with his tail between his legs and asks him to train him for the tournament, but Miyagi refuses. Daniel starts training himself and bumps into Terry who offers to lend him a book on sweep kick techniques. The next day, as Daniel is training, Barnes comes in and beats the shit out of him until Terry comes to Daniel’s aid. He gives Daniel the book and tells him he’s opening up Cobra Kai dojos and offers to train him. Daniel goes to Mr. Miyagi and tries to get him to show him how to sweep and when Miyagi brings out a broom, Daniel gets royally pissed and seeks out Terry Silver to train him.
This is where Karate Kid 3 kicks into high gear (no pun intended). The scenes where Terry trains Daniel are the best in the entire series. They’re chock full of wonderfully hateful dialogue and the sinisterly slimy balls out performance by Griffith.
Silver teaches Daniel (and us) “The Three D’s: Desire, Devotion, and Discipline. The first two I can’t give you, but the third one I can, but you have to be ready to receive it. Are you ready?”
“I believe the response you were looking for is yes sir”.
Silver also teaches his patented Quicksilver Method. Rule #1: A man can’t stand, he can’t fight. Rule #2: A man can’t breathe, he can’t fight. Rule #3: A man can’t see, he can’t fight. Silver also has him train on a wooden practice man and has him continuously punch and kick it until he’s bloody and bruised, and as Silver predicted, Daniel thanks him. He also says, “If you want to get beaten because of a little pain, be my guest! I can’t be a part of that. I make wimps into winners not the other way around!” He puts Barnes’ face on the practice dummy and Daniel punches it until his knuckles bleed (score one for Kreese). Finally, Terry tells him, he’s ready for the tournament.
When Daniel takes Jessica out clubbing, Terry pays a drunk to hit on her and a whacked out Daniel clobbers the guy. He feels bad, but Terry says, “That was beautiful!” He goes to cry on Miyagi’s shoulder because he feels bad for beating the guy up, and Miyagi tells him, he’s like the banzai tree, because he has a “strong root”. Daniel sees the error of his way and tries to break away from Terry, but Terry has other plans for him. “Mr. Silver, you can’t make me do something I don’t want to do!”
“Danny, Danny, Danny, from the moment you met me, I’ve been making you do things you don’t want to do!” Barnes comes out and when Daniel tries to run, Kreese jumps out and literally scares the piss out of him. Miyagi’s got Daniel’s back though, and beats up Barnes and Kreese. Then, it’s Terry’s turn. Terry starts Whaaaing and Woooing like Bruce Lee, but Miyagi throws him through a mirror, spilling paint all over him. As the villains laugh maniacally, Miyagi agrees to train Daniel for the tournament, which leads to the obligatory training montage.
At the tournament, it’s Barnes vs. Daniel (naturally) and before the fight, they bring out Terry Silver “President of Dynatox Industries” who gives a speech, “I’ve always lived my life by the rule, if you get, you give… today’s it’s time for me to give back!” He also reveals that he and Kreese will open a chain of dojos “where young people can come and learn the same values I learned: honesty, compassion and fair play!” Silver gives Barnes the game plan: first he wins a point, then he’ll throw in a cheap shot to have it deducted. He’ll keep it up until sudden death, where he’ll get the point to win. “I want him to experience pain, first he suffers… then he suffers some more!” Barnes hits Daniel, winning the point, then loses it by kicking Danny in the balls. He keeps doing it until the period is up and they go into sudden death. Miyagi gives Daniel a pep talk. “Your best karate still inside. Now time to let out!” Daniel starts doing his “kata”, befuddling Barnes, and when he goes in to hit him, Daniel strikes and wins the point and the tournament.
The end is suitable, I guess. I mean you know he’s gonna win, he’s the Karate Kid for Christ’s sakes! I’ll confess, I was rooting for Barnes to win just because Terry Silver had worked so hard and had sacrificed so much to put his revenge plot into action. Really though, you have to admire a guy who at a personal loss of probably billions of dollars, drops everything just so his pals can have a little dignity. The ending never explains though what happens to Kreese and Silver after the tournament. Presumably, since they own twenty dojos they still would be teaching their brand of evil Ka-ra-te to the nation’s youth. And who’s to say they wouldn’t stop harassing Daniel? Like making crank calls in the middle of the night or pulling a Brad Wesley and stopping shipment of peat moss to their banzai store.
Through all of this, you still have to love Terry Silver. Even if you overlook the fact that he’s the villain and that you’ve come to love Daniel and Miyagi over three films, you’ve got to consider the following: Daniel spends more quality time with Silver than Miyagi. And Miyagi (who has an even smaller role than in Part 2) continuously refuses to help Daniel, until the end of the movie. Also, did I mention, Thomas Ian Griffith totally kicks ass? It’s as if writer Robert Mark Kamen (who also wrote the first two movies) got fed up with the whole Miyagi teaching Daniel bit and wanted to show a bad ass dude kicking ass. Karate Kid 3 really exists as a showcase for Thomas Ian Griffith. Griffith has gone onto such films as Crackerjack and Excessive Force, and was quite memorable as the villain in John Carpenter’s Vampires. Director John G. Avildsen outdid himself the next year with the brilliant Rocky V and Pat Morita later returned to teach The Next Karate Kid.
Bottom Line: The Best Ralph Macchio Movie EVER!!!