Who you got? (read the rest of this shit…)
“I’m not interested in champions of the ring. I’m interested in champions of the heart.”
When I found BARE KNUCKLES I wasn’t sure it would even be watchable. It’s recent (2010), I’d never heard of it, it’s not from an established action star or director, and the box mentions serious matters: “Women will go to extreme lengths for those they love, and single mother Samantha Rogers is no exception, being the sole provider for her daughter Mila, a child in need of special care.” That kinda sounds like a recipe for an indie drama about a fighter that’s not really about fights. Then I put it in and the menu and opening credits both of terrible fonts and music, and they put the obviously bogus claim “inspired by a true story” right after the title. This just looks like amateur hour from the get go.
What I’m saying is BARE KNUCKLES was an underdog. A Cinderella story. Cinderella Man, but with a lady… and it makes us all proud. It’s a little ragged and cheesy at times, but it’s a really likable take on alot of the genre tropes, feeling a little different without ever reinventing anything. (read the rest of this shit…)
The final bout of Round 2 is another close match. In fact, I thought I had a decision, then I changed my mind. Both DRAGON FIRE (Red Fist Club) and EXTREME CHALLENGE (The Men From Hong Kong) are kinda crappy, and yet kinda good, and in totally different ways from each other. Please join with me to consider their merits.
EXTREME CHALLENGE (2001) is a movie that didn’t come up in any of my extensive internet searches for fighting tournament movies, but I happened to come across it in the Hong Kong section of the video store. Another victory for human browsing. This is a Hong Kong production, a Golden Harvest presentation even, but it’s in English (non sync). Director Tung Wei was usually more of a stuntman and choreographer. He did action direction for HERO and appeared onscreen in HARD BOILED (which character is “Foxy”?) (read the rest of this shit…)
THE SUPER-KUMITE continues to be a rewarding viewing experience. In this battle between TEAM BOLO and THE WOMEN I was able to see two fairly ridiculous movies, both loosely based on the BLOODFIST template, and by watching them in such proximity I’m really able to properly appreciate them as valid variations on an American-ish artform. So which will it be: the MBA who goes to Hong Kong and enters a tournament after his brother dies of a drug overdose, or the cop who goes to Manila and enters a tournament after her sister is killed for knowing too much about an assassination?
Round 2, Bout 1
Team Bolo vs. The Women
ANGELFIST is kind of a rehash of FIRECRACKER, an earlier Cirio H. Santiago joint I tried to use for the Super-Kumite, but this one has an actual tournament in it, so I didn’t have to disqualify it. It’s also kind of the same plot as BLOODFIST, but with ladies. A competitive martial artist in Manila (Cat Sassoon) gets murdered. Her sister Kat in L.A. (also Cat Sassoon) gets the news, flies in and joins the Kubate International Women’s World Karate Championship tournament in order to get closer to everybody and figure out who did it. The guy who vouches for her, stickfight-spars with her and acts as her cornerman (Roland Dantes) is not as intimately involved in her training as Xian in BLOODFIST, but ends up having the same purpose in the story if you know what I mean, spoiler spoiler. (read the rest of this shit…)
Round 2, Bout 1: Team Bolo vs. The Women
Jalal Merhi (who we previously saw in the similarly animal-titled TALONS OF THE EAGLE) stars as Lyle Camille, a dorky Canadian martial artist who chooses to go into business instead of pursuing life as a true warrior. He’s just graduated with his MBA, he’s engaged to get married to Ashley (model Monika Schnarre) and his dad (Jamie Farr!) got him a job as VP at his credit card company. This moment of achievement and potential could set him up to get the Goose-in-TOP-GUN treatment, the ol’ one-last-job-before-I-retire curse. Instead it’s his brother Lance (Laurent Hazout, whose only other role is “Interzone Boy” in NAKED LUNCH) who bites it, overdosing on a new opium-based “more addictive than crack” drug called “fish food” or “nirvana” (often pronounced “ner-VAN-uh.”) (read the rest of this shit…)
Round 1, final competitor, Team Blanks vs. The Red Fist Club
“I didn’t come here to box. I gave that up a long time ago. I came here to find his killer.”
I’m not sure, but could BLOODFIST be the first movie to include sports achievements in the credits? Because it lists the star as DON WILSON – WORLD KICKBOXING ASSOCIATION LIGHT HEAVYWEIGHT WORLD CHAMPION.”
(Rob Kaman, Billy Blanks and Kris Aguilar get similar credits.)
Of course, we call him Don “The Dragon” Wilson for short, and he stars as Jake Raye, a retired boxer who works pathetically giving faked fight demos for bullied kids at Hal & Jake’s Self Defense in the Valley. He coulda been a contender or whatever but he selflessly donated his kidney to his half brother Mike (Ned Hourani, BLOOD CHASE, BLOOD HANDS, BLOOD RING, FIST OF GLORY, ETERNAL FIST, LIVE BY THE FIST). With only one of those things he could die if he went back in the ring. (read the rest of this shit…)
Round 1, Final Bout, Team Blanks vs. The Red Fist Club
“You’ve got steel balls, but no brains.”
How’s this for a weird twist on the fighting tournament movie: mismatched undercover narcotics agents Billy Blanks (USA) and Jalal Merhi (Canada) train real hard to enter an underground fighting tournament so they can impress crime lord Mr. Li (James Hong). It works, he hires them, and the tournament is never mentioned again.
Up until that point it has all the traditional tournament movie touches, though. The older mentor is Master Pan Quing Fu, a hall-of-famer martial artist who helped the Chinese government catch 23 Triad leaders in the ’60s, appeared in SHAOLIN TEMPLE with Jet Li, and is playing himself in this movie! We know he’s a good dude because when Mr. Li tries to “pay repects” to him with a bunch of cash Master Pan burns it with a torch. (read the rest of this shit…)
Round 1, Bout 3, Team Video Games vs. The Men From Hong Kong
Fung Shang Wu Chi is the Darth Vader of the Man Chu Ching Dynasty. He’s a blind man who lives on a mountain disguised as a Buddhist lama, but he works for the Emperor, seeking out the last remaining rebels who support the former Ming Dynasty and decapitating them with the flying guillotine, a scientifically questionable but cinematically unparalleled weapon that’s basically a ring on a chain. When he tosses it over someone’s head it unfolds into a basket with a circle of blades inside, then he yanks it and it’s off with their head. And it’s ingeniously designed because the whole thing can fold up into small cylinder about the size of a pocket umbrella. If these things were easier to master then women could keep them in their purses instead of pepper spray, that would be pretty cool. (read the rest of this shit…)