Who you got?First of all, I want to thank everybody who read some of these things. I know it probly got repetitive, but I like that type of repetitive. I love comparing and contrasting similar movies, and I’m addicted to this particular subgenre, and I thought this would be a good way to study them. There was alot of randomness involved in this, because of wanting to only do movies I hadn’t seen before, and trying to have them connected in a way that the teams seem to make sense, and also with the difficulty in ascertaining which competitive fighting movies actually have tournaments in them. So whoever ends up losing, whether it’s all women or the people of Hong Kong, please don’t take it too hard. Even though you fuckin blew it.
For the deciding bout of this tournament of tournaments we ended up with BARE KNUCKLES (2010) vs. THE KUMITE (2003), two movies that had alot of similarities. Both were about athletes trying to enter and win a tournament, but were more character and relationship driven than the movies like KICKBOXER and what not that formed the template for tournament movies. Both seemed influenced by other dramatic genres and film movements, not just trying to imitate the BLOODSPORT or BLOODFIST formulas. Both were PG-13, not getting into the blood part of bloodsport, or the standard sex scene (just kissing). Both had a washed up alcoholic manager/mentor who brings in two other trainers to help. Both had a hero who went into the tournament correctly assuming who they would have to face in the finals, and that opponent was an asshole, but showed a crack of humanity at the end.
Let’s look at the overall performance of these two teams. The Men From Hong Kong had MASTER OF THE FLYING GUILLOTINE in round 1, far and away the best movie in The Super-Kumite, though its tournament is not the focus of the story. Their team had the most consistently high quality martial arts of the tournament, and featured true martial arts legends such as Jimmy Wang Yu, Gordon Liu and representing the new generation, early Scott Adkins.
The Women were more of a DIY team. All three entries are low budget b-movies, each with a compelling but little known star (Mimi Lesseos, Cat Sassoon, Jeanette Roxborough). PUSHED TO THE LIMIT and BARE KNUCKLES both seemed to be made by relative newcomers or outsiders to the world of feature filmmaking, rather than the established b-movie factories that made most of the movies we’ve studied here (including ANGELFIST). All three of these came into the competition as underdogs. I honestly didn’t expect them to win any of these matchups.
Of our two finalists, THE KUMITE is the more polished movie. It definitely seems like a bigger budget, made by people with more experience. I feel like it might have better martial artists, too, but you can’t really tell for sure, due to post-action style filmatism. BARE KNUCKLES is shot in a cruder manner, but you can see the moves much better than in THE KUMITE, so the fights are more involving.
The relationship drama in BARE KNUCKLES is, to me, more interesting than in THE KUMITE. It deals with old timers who fell out regaining trust in each other and themselves, that’s always more interesting than standard boy meets girl shit.
Also, the hero is more likable. Not just because she has a better motive (providing for her disabled daughter as opposed to… just wanting to win I guess?) but she has a far better screen presence and charisma. I like her better as a character so I’m more interested in seeing her fight and win. And would’ve been disappointed if I didn’t find out if she won or not. (In THE KUMITE, of course, who gives a shit if he pulled it together after the freeze frame or not? He gets to get his teacher into trouble.)
Ladies and gentlemen, the Supreme Winner of The Super-Kumite, by unanimous decision of Super-Kumite Commissioner and Head Judge Yours Truly:
It’s THE WOMEN!
Congratulations to The Women, and to all women everywhere. No one believed in you, but you conquered all. Next I hope you take out the glass ceiling and those fuckers trying to deny you health care.
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.