So once again we have survived.

Vern predicts BLOOD AND BONE will be this year’s best picture (direct-to-video category)

tn_bloodandboneLadies and gentlemen (although, let’s be honest, mostly gentlemen around here), Michael Jai White has arrived. He has officially gone from “promising” to fully formed action icon. He has earned the right to just be referred to as MJW and have everybody know what it means. It doesn’t matter that Hollywood hasn’t figured out to build movies around him like they do with Jason Statham, that Sly didn’t think to make him an Expendable, that Marvel Comics hasn’t lined up some super hero for him to play. He’s sick of waiting so he’s just taking it.

I believe come this Fall many of you will agree with me on this, and even for those already on board his status in your internal action hero rankings will be elevated. In October you’ll get to see him in the very entertaining blaxploitation homage BLACK DYNAMITE, where he gets to show both his badass presence and his previously untapped comedy chops. That’s a long time from now but you’ll only have to wait until September 15th to see him in a serious DTV action vehicle called BLOOD AND BONE.

mp_bloodandboneOkay, that’s a few weeks away. I’m jumping the gun on this review. But that’s because this is the best DTV movie I’ve seen in a long time – in fact one of the best I’ve ever seen. If it wasn’t MJW I wouldn’t have known to watch it because it’s yet another underground fighting movie with a bunch of mixed martial arts star cameos listed on the back. These things are spreading across the DTV world like tent caterpillars and they’re usually unwatchable. I don’t know about you but I’m not entertained by 90 minutes of strobelight, guitars and shirtless giants behind chain link fence. But that’s not what this is, and it doesn’t really have much to do with real “MMA,” it’s about flying kicks. It’s more like Van Damme’s LIONHEART, and on par with many of the movies from that era that we still e njoy.

MJW is introduced in a prison bathroom. He stands with his back turned to Kimbo Slice and a gang of rapists. He’s so unconcerned that he rinses his shirt in the sink while they threaten and berate him. Then he turns around and gives them until the count of five. Of course they try to laugh it off so he fights them and within seconds he has Kimbo on the floor whimpering and clutching the shank in his chest. MJW says, “I want you to tell every motherfucker behind these bars that if they get the notion to fuck with me – don’t.” And then BAM, the title slams on the screen.

That’s what I call the declaration of badass intent. You immediately know the movie is serious about delivering. It’s like Seagal throwing that pimp through the windshield in OUT FOR JUSTICE. If a movie has a badass opening and then the title strikes like a flash of lightning that’s usually a good sign.

Out of prison, MJW (who says to call him “Bone” but never says it’s his name) finds a place to stay and quickly shoves his way into a circuit of underground fighters. He clearly has his eye on a rival fight manager named James (Eamonn Walker) and his lady (Michelle Belegrin). James is a great villain. He’s a cruel pimp, he loves his pitbulls, he doesn’t drink or do drugs but keeps his women hooked on heroin so he can control them. He doesn’t believe in cursing (“Remember, profanity is a brutal vice. He who uses it is no gentleman”) so when he starts to swear toward the end you know Bone is getting to him.

He also has the best “Just How Evil Is He?” killing-a-henchman scene I’ve seen in a long time. It takes place at a dinner party where he entices a white guy into a singalong of Wang Chung’s “Dance Hall Days” to lower his guard before chopping him with a fuckin sword and then kicking him to death. And I know it’s only Wang Chung but I’m surprised they were ab le to get the rights to that. I’m glad they did, so everybody could have fun tonight, etc.

Another thing: I like an action movie villain to be a westerner who loves swords, especially when this is established at the beginning to set up a sword fight at the end. James and Bone also share an interest in Genghis Khan, so there’s some quoting that goes on. (Surprisingly there’s no mention of Sun Tzu in this one.)

As evil as James is, there are times when you kind of like him. He has a goal of infiltrating an elite consortium of international rich assholes who bet on the highest stakes underground fighting matches. His connection is Julian Sands, who bluntly tells him that he doesn’t want to hang out with black people. He makes “African-American” sound like a racial slur. So James tells him his theory of how big dicks caused slavery.

He’s a menacingly intelligent and cold-blooded villain and it’s a real “I gotta look this guy up on IMDB” performance from Walker. I cannot emphasize enough how rare it is for a DTV action movie to have a really good and memorable villain. Or a modern action movie in general – anybody remember who the bad guy in TRANSPORTER 3 was?

And the hero is just as good. MJW seems just as deadly and vicious as he was in UNDISPUTED II, but not an asshole. Actually he’s a sweetheart, he looks after women and keeps promises and what not. It’s kind of a Seagal approach in the sense that he’s indestructible, he defeats almost every foe he encounters without getting hurt. He’s outnumbered but I’m not sure if you can call him an underdog. There’s no training (well, he does some tai chi). The appeal is not in seeing him improve but in seeing people shit their pants when they realize their ten giant musclemen can’t take this guy and that he will stop at nothing.

But his background is even more mysterious tha n a Seagal character. We hear about a guy who was framed for murder, and I assumed that was Bone, but it turns out to be somebody else. So at the end you realize that you don’t know how Bone learned to fight, how he learned to shoot, why he was in prison or even what his name is. And then he says “I got some business to take care of” and walks off into the sunset.

MJW is on a roll because his last DTV movie was Isaac Florentine’s UNDISPUTED II: LAST MAN STANDING, the only DTV sequel I like better than the theatrical original. The director is Ben Ramsey, who wrote the recent DRAGONBALLS movie which I haven’t watched but I’m familiar with his previous directorial work, LOVE AND A BULLET starring Treach. I consider that one of the better DTV movies because it’s a pretty clever take on the “hitmen as working professionals” cliche. That was a good-for-DTV script but it was lacking in the action scenes. This one has really good fights and a slicker look than that one.

Credit is due to J.J. Perry, listed as stunt coordinator here, and he was the fight choreographer for UNDISPUTED II and THE SHEPHERD. I also want to acknowledge the writer, Michael Andrews, who did a great job with the underappreciated art of the action script. He follows the formula the right amount to give you all the types of thrills you hope for, but also puts in enough subtle tweaks that you know you haven’t seen one exactly like this before. The story is good enough to take seriously but then you get some crazy moments like when James attacks Bone with a sword, Julian Sands watches for a little bit and then yells “Ohara!,” at which point some dude throws Bone a sword. As if he’s been holding it at the ready until Sands calls him to action. I think we could all use an Ohara standing by for situations like this.

Another crazy touch: the villain gets raped du ring the end credits. No bloopers, no singalong, just prison rape. People who write these types of movies usually get shit on for supposedly being unoriginal but I think it takes a special talent to play an old song this well, so hats off to Andrews.

I demand BLOOD AND BONE 2. There are so many directions it could go. We don’t even know where this guy lives or what kind of life he left behind. They could reveal why he went to prison and have him get revenge on some motherfucker for that. Or he could stay mysterious and his business could be some other revenge. He’s serious about keeping promises, and you never know how many other people he promised to get revenge for. It could be a whole series, a guy who travels around getting revenge on behalf of various dead people. As long as they can get more great villains like James I know Bone will know what to do.

I declare BLOOD AND BONE probable best DTV of the year (although I’ll have to see Seagal’s THE KEEPER, Lundgren’s ICARUS and Adkins/Florentine’s NINJA before I can be sure). If you’re a fan of the early Van Damme movies and that type of thing I think you should definitely see this. And if you get the notion to fuck with it – don’t.

–Vern

Originally posted at Ain’t-It-Cool-News: http://www.aintitcool.com/node/42070

VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.
This entry was posted on Sunday, August 16th, 2009 at 10:38 pm and is filed under Martial Arts, Reviews. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

41 Responses to “Vern predicts BLOOD AND BONE will be this year’s best picture (direct-to-video category)”

  1. Eamonn Walker is a great actor. He had a small role in Cadillac Records as Howlin Wolf and owned every scene he was in and it was strange in that he made a blues musician terrifying, just with his ability to project his presence. Good in Oz too.

  2. Vern, I got this saved on Netflix just because of your pimping. Since you study DTV actioneers like which me and many others would never bother…so thanks man.

    Besides, I enjoyed URBAN JUSTICE. Action filmatics were lacking, but I liked everything else about it.

    “Yeah I’m fucking worse.”

  3. Also, I’m assuming that Walker plays an American (without having seen the movie) but its interesting to me that he and Idris Elba (Stringer Bell) are Brits who can play Americans and American bad guys better than most Americans.

  4. The bad guy in “Transporter 3” was Robert Knepper, a.k.a. “T-Bag” from “Prison Break”, a.k.a. one of the greatest you-love-to-hate-him-villains in TV History! (At least in the first two Seasons.)
    You’re welcome. (And yes, he had nothing interesting to do in “Transporter 3”.)

  5. I like how Knepper got top billing (in some territories) for Transporter 3.

  6. sounds good. MJW deserves a break. I hope this one transcends the poor-ass DTV action movie pitfalls and really spreads around to the right people. i’ll be hunting this down within a week or so.

  7. Not trying to be funny, Vern, but how about a review of Tyler Perry’s Why Did I Get Married? Michael Jai White is actually not as good as he was in Undisputed II, but he tries his hardest in a different genre and it’s fun to see him just straight up ACT without having to beat some ass.

    Perry movies are definitely for a specific demographic (which I’m incidentally not part of), but there’s something scrappy and likable and earnest about all of them – I think you actually might dig them.

  8. Sounds good, but looking up the trailer for it, Vern, the voiceover does reveal his name is actually Isiah(sp?) Bone.
    As for the lack of mainstream success for MJW, I’d love it if Marvel took the chance to cast him as Luke Cage superpowered ex-con Hero for Hire.

  9. Vern, what did Gina Carano do in the film besides look beautiful? Does she have a fight scene or anything?

  10. Lawrence – I was wondering the same thing – she is another big plus for this movie as far as I’m concerned.

    Did you watch the fight the other night? It was scrappy and you could tell the girls were really nervous – but it was really intense – put some of the guys on the card to shame.

  11. So wait… this film ISN’T about organic fertiliser? Count me out.

  12. STU – it says that on the back of the box too, but in the movie he just says “you can call me Bone.” It’s possible that the script calls him Isaiah Bone, but it’s also possible that some asshole in marketing made that up. In this world the boxes are usually misleading – if I believed the box then Kimbo Slice would be one of the main characters. I’m used to it because a bunch of the Seagal screeners mention names and backgrounds that are never mentioned or are even contradicted in the actual movies. So as far as I’m concerned his name is just Bone and that might not be his name.

    LAWRENCE AND TELF – I think I know who you’re talking about in the movie. If so she’s just in one scene but it’s a fight between two women and then she has a good line. I noticed Zoe Bell did some stunts so she’s probaly either pummeling or doubled by Zoe Bell.

  13. Why would somebody who can probably beat up Zoe Bell need to be doubled by Zoe Bell in a fight scene?

  14. I think that Brendan Bone would be better. Or Bernard. Or Bertram. Or Bob Bone.

    Yeah, I like the way that rolls off the tongue: “They call me Bobby Bone…”

    Although, from a point of badass juxtaposition, does having a particularly girly or unthreatening name count?

    Marion Bone, anyone?

  15. Absolutely the greatest martial arts revenge flick ever made. Holy shit I loved this movie, Vern. Thanks for the heads up.

  16. This movie was bad-ass. Good all around acting. I particularly like the Asian supporting characters. My favorite line was when James was asking his henchmen why he wouldn’t step into the pitbull cage and the guy said “In China, they eat dog.” It was like he was hungry and didn’t trust himself around the dogs. If he got caught eating James’ pitbulls there would be hell to pay.
    One bone I have to pick is that they could’ve spent a little more money on extras. There were some really weird looking extras in some of the fight scenes, and not many were there at all for the big Hammer fight. But great movie anyway–even my wife liked it.

  17. Did anyone notice that O’hara was the actual O’hara from Enter The Dragon, except older now? I thought that was pretty funny. He suvived the island! Haha.

  18. You probably know this already, but in case you don’t, you’re quoted on the cover of the UK edition of BLOOD & BONE. Except instead of quoting you as Outlaw Vern, you’re quoted as AICN.

  19. Just watched this one. Holy crap you guys were right, it’s good. Did anybody else think that Eamonn Walker was Wesley Snipes though?

  20. Just got done watching this one. Thanks for the recommendation Vern. I second the motion for a sequel. Usually I think sequel that fill in the backstories for characters ruin their mystique (just look what they did to Michael Myers) but this one left me wanting to know more about Bone’s past and (hopefully) future.

  21. I dunno, I kind of liked not knowing much about him. Sort of the same thing as with the Joker in “The Dark Knight”.

    Always good to see a villain with a sword-stick though. I haven’t seen one of those in quite a while.

  22. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wdPP0TmqKiU

    I thought you guys might dig this. Assuming you haven’t seen it already. I feel like a better fighter already.

  23. Finally watched this – good rec! Glad to see that Walker got props above; really everyone made the most of their parts, but he took it to another level, and made a great foil (har har) for Bone, who MJW makes a lot more intriguing than most undefeatable powerhouses. Thumbs down on leave-em-laughing prison rape and the bad-Tarantino Wang Chung scene, but the rest was pretty damn good. And the fights! I’m not often rewinding, but a few times here, just had to.

  24. Rudolf Klein-Rogge

    August 18th, 2010 at 10:47 am

    Just watched this and thought it was fairly enjoyable, save for the unbearably tedious subplots involving Michelle Belgrin and Nona Gaye’s characters. Eamonn Walker was a pretty good villain – he did what he could with a poorly written character, and it was fun seeing Julian Sand hamming it up. Also, needless to say, the fights were really good.

    For the first thirty minutes I seriously thought this was a DTV remake of HARD TIMES – Walter Hill’s first film as a director, and his first masterpiece. As much as I like MJW, he’s no Charles Bronson. Worse, Dante Basco (“Pinball”) is certainly no James Coburn and there is no equivalent of the Strother Martin character in this. You should definately check out HARD TIMES, Vern, along with some other vintage Hill flicks you might have missed. Also, you really need to give UNDISPUTED another look. As much as I like the DTV sequels, they have nothing on the original, which is a genuinely great film, with what is without a doubt the greatest performance by Wesley Snipes. Peter Falk is also terrific, of course. You won’t performances like these in even the best of the DTV flicks. Although the Weinsteins tried to fuck UNDISPUTED up in post, the terrible editing choices only affects the opening of the picture. After that, it’s a lean, mean B-picture from one of the last great action directors.

  25. Fucking great movie…
    By the way, O’Hara is palyed by Bob Wall, who played one of the Evil Henchmen in ENTER THE DRAGON. His name was O’Hara.
    There even is a similar scene where his Boss sits on his throne and yells “O’Hara”, right before Bruce Lee crushes O’Haras balls.

  26. Travis – thanks for pointing that out here. I don’t mean to shrink your testicles down to the size of onion seeds, but I should point out that that same point has been made in at least two other threads (and probably more that I’ve missed.) But hey, this is where it belongs, so woohoo!

  27. I just saw this and i loved it. One of the best DTV films i have ever seen. Definitely reminded me of an old Van Damme film too.

  28. Finally saw it on Netflix Instant, and yes, it’s fantastic. Comparing it to Universal Soldier: Regeneration for best DTV movie yet is like comparing apples and oranges, but I’ll say Blood and Bone is Iron Man to Unisol’s Dark Knight. It’s a fun, action-packed crowd-pleaser, not a dark, brooding, mood piece – but they’re both equally great.

    Btw, I was shocked to hear Dance Hall Days in a DTV movie too, but I swear that it’s not the radio version we know and love (the vocals sounded different, even though the credits said it was still Wang Chung performing) As for the movie itself, not much to say that hasn’t been said – excellent fights and filmatism, great villain, great supporting characters. It’s small-scale and modest but not cheap-looking. They pull off the “invincible” hero thing without once making us care any less about him. I do think the during-credits tag involving the villain is a little too jokey though.

    Also – who’s the guy in the final fight? I can’t seem to get a clear answer from IMDB, but him and MJW work great together and kudos to the director for just letting the camera linger on them. Other action directors could take a hint.

  29. Yeah, I finally saw it and man, I feel so bad because I waited so long. It’s awesome! Seeing a sword fight between MJW and Kareem Said was just one of the many great moments. It actually makes me wish I had more friends, so that I could recommend it to each one of them.

  30. nabroleon Dynamite

    June 19th, 2013 at 4:58 pm

    Dope Interview!!

    R.I.P. Tony Soprano And Shit!!

  31. any one seen this re-make of the famous Bruce Lee – O’hara scene – it’s hilarious http://youtu.be/Vx-0b0vtZdE

  32. Wow. I just watched Blood and Bone today. Awesome movie. I’ve always liked White. It’s a shame he’s not a bigge star. Donnie Yen should put him in something.

  33. I just re-watched it last night myself. It’s such a classic. MJW is unadulterated badass in it. He has motives of loyalty and caring but he’s Parker-like in his single-minded drive. I love that he has this goal but he doesn’t tell it to anyone or reveal it to the audience, he just goes and does what he needs to do, which involves beating up like 40 people, shooting some guys, cutting a guy’s hand off and getting him into trouble with war profiteers. He doesn’t speak or smile much, is a master at menacing one-liners and flying kicks and keeps suddenly revealing new talents: oh, I guess he’s good with guns. Oh, he is a sword master. Oh, but he would prefer to just use the sheath so he can beat the guy silly before chopping him. There is a crazy backstory implied and never explained. How did he get so good at all this stuff? What is up with having a twin brother who was mistaken for him and killed? We don’t even know why he was in prison.

    Also, MJW gives such a great physical performance. This of course includes the top level fighting (knocking out two guys with one kick, going through choreographed fight moves with several opponenets in one shot, etc.) but I’m also just talking about his posture, his posing, his body language. One subtle example is the scene where James shows up at his apartment and tells him he’s put down the 5 million dollars for the big fight. Bone is deliberately fucking his shit up by telling him he never agreed to fight and he’s not gonna do it. This is designed to cause James to flip out, but he doesn’t go into a defensive stance when he drops the bomb. He doesn’t even stand up! He just sits calmly on the bed, half smiling, proud of himself. Not scared at all as he steps into the deepest shit of the movie so far.

    And maybe it’s the low number of great action movies in the 5 years since, but I don’t think I gave the movie enough credit at the time for great visuals and clarity in the fights. Lots of long takes, lots of head to toe framing, but never boring looking, always visually appealing. And it’s a colorful movie! Almost reminds me of a DO THE RIGHT THING look at times.

  34. Just saw this – i’m clearly five years behind the time but damn this has to be the most fun i’ve had watching a flick in the last…five years or so.

    One of my favourite things was the number of hilarious moments where i actually couldn’t figure out if they were intentionally or unintentionally hilarious. Probably intentional but subtle enough that you can’t be sure. A couple parts that made me laugh hard – when the old man is yelling at the punk neighbourhood kids, bone stands behind him and they run off and then the greatest line in the movie – “don’t you know i’m from pittsburgh?!”

    So the non-action bits were very entertaining and the action bits were even more entertaining. I’ve only seen mjw in a few other things but never starring (except black dynamite) and i was pretty blown away. I am planning to go watch a lot more of his stuff now.

  35. So have you guys heard of the almost 2 hours long director’s cut that Ben Ramsey randomly put up for free (but admittedly a not very good picture quality) on Vimeo?

    BLOOD AND BONE Director's cut

    This is the extended director's cut of the cult action hit Blood and Bone

  36. Thanks CJ.

  37. Has anyone watched it? I am immersed in horror movies and put off by the picture quality, but of course I love the movie and I’m curious what the additions are. The one report I heard is that it’s not real obvious and mostly just longer cuts of the scenes, not new scenes.

  38. Not yet. Also I haven’t seen the normal cut often enough to most notice any changes anyway. As soon as I find a detailed listing, I send you the link.

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