Way back in 2013 I reviewed BLOODSPORT II: THE NEXT KUMITE starring Daniel Bernhardt. But I reviewed it as part of this tournament gimmick I was doing called The Super-Kumite, and the movie lost its round to BLOODFIGHT, so I never followed up with BLOODSPORTs III and IV like I normally would. Until now!
Unlike me, the filmmakers didn’t waste time. Part III (no subtitle) came out in 1996, the same year as part II. Bernhardt (or, as we call him this week, Bob Odenkirk’s fight trainer/co-fight-coordinator/“Bus Goon” on NOBODY) returns as Alex Cardo, the guy who won the sub-titular “NEXT KUMITE” after Van Damme’s Frank Dux in the original.
One odd continuity with part II is that it has a wraparound where the movie is a story being told to a kid. In part II it was Master Sun (James Wong) telling kids in his martial arts class how Alex became a good person. This time it’s Alex telling his ten year old son Jason (David Schatz, AMBROSE BIERCE: CIVIL WAR STORIES) a story about his life “living in the far east as a very successful gambler.” He notices Jason upset late at night, finds out he got suspended from school for beating up three eighth grade bullies, and decides to take him for a camping trip. So Alex figures it’s time to tell his son – who has been training in martial arts – that he was the Kumite champion (“Cool!”) and then about something that happened while he was “living in the far east as a very successful gambler.” It’s pretty cool, because most fathers, when their son gets into trouble at school, aren’t able to whip out a “the time I tried to avenge a murder” story.
While gambling he 1) wears a white tux 2) flirts with a casino singer named Crystal (Amber Kelleher-Andrew, MARILYN & BOBBY: HER FINAL AFFAIR) and 3) single-handedly beasts up a gang of thieves trying to rob the casino. According to the cousin of the casino owner, “There was something very important in that safe.”
“Well, there usually is,” Alex says, which I thought was a good line. But he owes the casino a favor, so he chases them down to get some gems back. In the course of the story he also beats up thugs trying to get protection money from his favorite antiques dealer, and a trio trying to gang rape his friend. It would be funny if this was Frank Duxian tall tales to impress his son, but the kid isn’t exactly rapt in attention anyway as he practices his kicks and punches while listening.
Alex’s asskicking attracts the attention of sleazy rich dude Mr. Duvalier (John Rhys-Davies, THE DOUBLE 0 KID), who also happens to be Crystal’s dad. Mr. Duvalier wants Alex to enter the Kumite to have a fixed match with his champion, The Beast (Nicholas R. Oleson, FISTS OF IRON, AMERICAN HISTORY X), a hulking Kazakhstani war criminal who’s several inches taller even than Bernhardt and likes to pick people up and throw them.
Part I and II’s Jackson (Donald Gibb) does not return. We do get cameos by both of Cardo’s old man friends from II: Pat Morita has one scene, James Hong as his mentor Master Sun has one flashback scene (from part II, I think, but not sure) and one scene where he answers the phone and it’s attached to a bunch of dynamite set up by Mr. Duvalier’s men to punish Alex for turning him down. So this is about Alex trying to avenge his master’s death.
Obviously the way you have to do that in this world is find a new trainer so you can enter the Kumite and beat The Beast. The new master he finds is part II’s head Kumite judge Macado (Master Hee Il Cho, Korean Coach from BEST OF THE BEST, dubbed by Gerald Okamura, SAMURAI COP, CAGE II). He later reveals that he’s Sun’s brother, which seems like an ethical issue for judging the Kumite to me, but what do I know?
There’s nothing really original about the Judge, he follows all the usual tropes of an eccentric mentor, and I’m down with that. He does stuff like have his arms nearly pulled off by being tied to two oxes going in opposite directions, and wave around in front of a cobra to hypnotize it. The obvious highlight of his training regimen is when he unexpectedly shoots an arrow at Alex. Alex manages to dodge it and is like, “WHAT THE FUCK!?” and he’s told he’s supposed to catch it. Across a couple training montages he continues to be too scared and dodge the arrow until he progresses to first catching it, then catching it blindfolded.
The Judge also has a niece named Shari (Uni Park, THE ART OF WAR) who gets into a bath with Alex and starts to take her top off but he stops her and says that because Master Sun was like a father to him, she’s like a sister to him. Or so he claims when telling this story to his son. I guarantee either they were going at it every night after training or he made the entire bath incident up to show off that he has boob experience.
After the training section (and you know I love a training section) the rest of the movie is pretty much straight ahead non-stop tournament action, without even interludes to go into the locker room or anything. Just all the fighters sitting on benches watching each others’ matches until it’s their turn again. It’s just standard fight-until-one-guy-is-unconscious rules, except there’s one match where an Australian guy named Bruce Burly (Scott McElroy, TRUE VENGEANCE) starts using a whip in the middle of the match, and nobody stops him? I didn’t feel that was fair.
The Beast is obviously the top villain, but he’s not on, like, a Tong Po level of villainy, so they pad things out by making the other fighters all dress a little different and be assholes in different ways. For example this guy Stellio (Erik Paulson, FIGHT ZONE) puts a guy out with a sleeper hold, then kicks him in the balls, then spits on him. Not, in my opinion, honorable.
Maybe the thing this movie is most notable for is all the tournament fighters who went on to become behind-the-scenes action legends years later. The character J.J. Tucker (who promises to “Jack you up, punk,” but does not go on to achieve any jacking) is played by J.J. Perry, later the choreographer of UNDISPUTED II, WARRIOR and HAYWIRE. And more interestingly, the character Max Omega is played by JOHN WICK director Chad Stahelski. Here he’s a lanky guy with really long hair who sits cross-legged between matches and has interesting, rubbery movements in his fights. And then the character Sparx is played by Brad Martin, later Hugo Weaving’s double in the MATRIX movies and stunt coordinator of HOMEFRONT, WILD CARD and GEMINI MAN. Stahelski and Martin were also credited as fight coordinators for this.
Anyway, there’s fights and then at the end presumably little Jason learns a lesson. If not he’s got to be pretty annoyed that his dad started telling him a story about himself the night before and then continued telling it for the entire camping trip. Jesus christ dad you never even told me you were in the Kumite until last night now you won’t let me have a god damn minute of peace not fucking hearing about it.
It’s the same director as part II, Alan Mehrez (producer of SAVATE). Screenwriter James Williams has no other credits on IMDb.
The end credits reuse part II’s goofy ass MORTAL KOMBAT ripoff techno song “Rhythm of the Kumite,” which has samples of a guy saying “Bloodsport!,” somebody saying “Impact,” a robot voice saying “kickboxing,” etc. One thing that would be cool would be if they made that song public domain and invited all other movies to also use it for their end credits. I just think that would be a good gesture, you know? Think about it, BLOODSPORT producers.