Friday, 16 April 2010

Blood and Bone (2010)

The many emotions of Bone.

How awesome is Michael Jai White? Don't bother answering, because clearly the answer is so awesome. Ever since I saw him in Undisputed 2 and that scene that they cut out of Kill Bill Vol. 2 (even though it was totally sweet) I knew he was going to be big. Still, when I heard that he was starring in an underground fighting movie with a bunch of MMA guys I wasn't super excited. You see, I love fight choreography. Realistic fighting is boring; it's one guy twisting another guy into a pretzel on the floor and repeatedly punching him in the head until he gets brain damage. That isn't fun. I want flying kicks and lightning-fast flurries of punches and blocks. Neither do I want the camera shaking around like someone is filming a pub brawl on their mobile phone. I want to see what's going on. Fuck realism. Luckily this one is more like a JCVD film from the early 90s. Specifically Lionheart.

Here MJW plays Bone. Isiah Bone according to imdb but as far as I could tell his first name wasn't mentioned in the movie, so I'm going to pretend that he just has one name, like Madonna. The film opens in a prison shower room and there's a fight between Bone and some prison rapists led by Kimbo Slice. No, you haven't put in Undisputed 2 by mistake, this is just a short, pre-credits sequence to show how badass Bone is (answer: very) and when the film starts proper Bone is fresh out of prison. He takes up a room for rent in a crappy neighbourhood and gets involved with an underground fighting ring. He does not team up with a guy named Detective Jack Blood and solve crimes. It is not that kind of movie. This movie only has room for one hero, and that hero is Michael Jai White.

He does have room for a sidekick though. He teams up with a hyperactive fight announcer named Pinball (Dante Basco) who manages his fights and hypes up the crowd with corny lines like "They call him Bone because that's what he breaks when he hits." I thought this guy was kind of annoying, but he's a nice contrast to Bone's stoic silence and provides a lot of valuable exposition. Bone asks him a lot of questions about an evil fight promoter named James (Eamonn Walker), specifically about his girlfriend Angela (Michelle Belegrin). At first you figure he is just fresh out of prison and got a case of pussy madness (aka the vagina crazies), but a series of flashbacks reveals that it's more complicated than that. Turns out that his cellmate was Angela's husband. James had the hots for Angela so he framed her husband for murder, took away her kids and hooked her on heroin. What an asshole. If that weren't enough James paid to have him shanked in prison, but before he dies Bone promises that when he gets released he'll make sure Angela and their son were taken care of.

James is a pretty good villain. He's one of these guys who talks about codes of honour, quotes historical figures (Genghis Khan) and gets mad when his henchman use curse words, but doesn't mind cheating during fights or using the power of Wang Chung to put a white guy at ease (this must be whitest guy ever, he goes on and on about golf with a pastel sweater knotted around his neck) before suddenly stabbing him with a cane-sword and beating him to death. He's a man of contradictions (ie a hypocrite). He also has dreams of entering a fighter into one of those secret underground fighting tournaments for the ultra-rich run by Julian Sands, and you want him to win too, because Julian Sands' character is a huge racist.

I liked that this movie didn't try to complicate things with extraneous side-plots. They keep things simple. There's a little bit about the family that Bone is staying with. He seduces the mother with his shirtless Tai Chi, but I don't know if they do it (fucking). They had the scene where he comes home from a fight with a few tiny cuts on his face and she patches him up. That's pretty heavy foreplay in this kind of film. But mostly it's Bone beating people up and building his reputation so he can fight James' best fighter. He's this huge black dude named Hammer (Bob Sapp), who grunts and roars, beats his chest like a gorilla and drools on himself. His trainer hypes him up before the match by talking about "teenage girls". Even Julian Sands' character would find this guy a racist caricature. Jeez.

Of course Bone beats him and although he refuses to fight for James he is tricked into fighting world number one "Pretty Boy" Price (Matt Mullins) at James' secret rich-guy fight club. I like that Price takes one look at Bone and decides that he can't be bothered changing and fights him in a business suit. Surrounded by usual assortment of rich assholes (oil shieks, Japanese businessmen, probably Dick Cheney) Bone defeats Price but then taps out, forfeiting the match and losing James' five million dollar entry fee. You'd think James would have really seen this coming. Or maybe he did see it coming, since he decided to pack his cane-sword and a gun, just in case he had to fight Bone (not that they helped). I bet he didn't see getting prison-raped by Kimbo Slice during the end credits. I certainly didn't.

Apart from the fact that he goes to incredible lengths to keep promises to his friends, which is nice (if Bone promises you a ride to the airport you can guarantee he'll be there, even if he has to hospitalise a dozen people) we don't learn that much about Bone. We never find out why he was in prison or why he is so awesome at fighting. I mean, he even takes on the greatest underground fighter in the world and barely breaks a sweat. He also shoots some guys. I was expecting a government spook to appear out of nowhere like in Law Abiding Citizen and say "He's ex-CIA, the best-of-the-best, he's a man you don't want to fuck with and if he's after you then you're as good as dead", etc. Didn't happen though. It was a little frustrating, but it's refreshing that it avoids those cliches. Sometimes it's nice to have a main character who is so mysterious, blowing into town and righting wrongs, like the man with no name. Except that he has a name. Bone.

This one is directed by Ben Ramsey, whose most recent claim to fame is that he wrote Dragonball: Evolution. Hm. Well, I really liked this one anyway. It's a simple story, but it was well-paced and interesting. I liked the way it ended too, with Bone telling the family "I got some things I need to take care of" and walking off into the sunset. The world needs a sequel. There are too many Bone-related questions that must be answered. For instance, why was he in prison? For being too awesome? A sequel, a prequel, I don't care. We know he had a twin brother who was killed in a case of mistaken identity, so maybe they can have a prequel where they team up like in Double Impact. They can call it Bad 2 the Bone. As long as MJW is involved I'll watch the fuck out of it. You'd better do it quickly, because I have a feeling that these Direct-to-Video shackles aren't going to hold MJW for much longer.

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