Next Karate Kid [1994]

A vast improvement over its immediate predecessor, The Karate Kid III, this appealingly understated 1994 drama features a compelling performance by Hilary Swank, who would later win a Best Actress OscarĀ® for her work in Boys Don't Cry. Swank plays 17-year-old Julie Pierce, the recently orphaned and troubled granddaughter of an old war buddy of Miyagi Yakuga (Noriyuki "Pat" Morita, the lone holdover from the previous Karate Kid films). Harassed at school by adolescent boys under the sway of an evil coach (Michael Ironside), Julie reluctantly finds refuge in the calm teachings of Mr. Miyagi. While the film's violence is as contrived and silly as that of the other KK features, the script provides exotic compensations via a subplot set in a peaceful Buddhist monastery. Still, it's Morita's crafty professionalism and Swank's emotional authenticity that makes this film more watchable than anyone might have expected. --Tom Keogh

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