Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Bloodfist 3: Forced to Fight (1992)

Someone done woke The Dragon

Those hoping to see the continuing adventures of Jake Raye may be disappointed to discover that Bloodfist III: Forced to Fight has absolutely nothing to do with the first two movies apart from Don "The Dragon" Wilson (World Kickboxing Assocation World Light Heavyweight Champion). It was originally intended to be released under the title Forced to Fight but the first two movies did well enough at the box office that this movie was shoehorned into the series.

Given it's origin, it's not surprising that this movie is a bit of an anomaly in the Bloodfist series. For instance, I believe it's the first and only film in the series that begins with a prison rape. The perpetrator is cell block kingpin Luther and, unfortunately for him, the victim is friends with Jimmy Boland (Wilson). Jimmy interrupts Luther's crazy rape face by dramatically throwing open the door while some squealing guitars let you know it's ass-kicking time. Luther stabs Jimmy's friend right in front of him (who is not enough of a friend to get a name) so Jimmy does some punching and Luther catches a shiv to the kidneys.

Unfortunately this incident is captured on closed circuit camera just as the warden is giving a guided tour to the press. As punishment, Jimmy is sent to Cell Block C, which is apparently even worse. From here I expected this film to turn into an underground prison fighting movie, like the Undisputed series, but it's a little more serious minded than that. In fact there's only two other names in the credits with martial arts bonafides, Stan Longinidis (K.I.C.K. World Heavyweight Kickboxing Champion) and Pete "Sugarfoot" Cunningham (World Kickboxing Association World Super Lightweight Champion) and both have fairly minor henchmen roles despite their top billing. It actually has actors and seems like it took longer to write than it did to watch. Like I said, it's an anomaly.

Apparently killing Luther cut off drug supplies for the cell block, so Jimmy doesn't exactly get a warm welcome. A friend of Luther named Blue (Gregory McKinney) is out for revenge and Jimmy earns the ire of a white power gang when he rejects an offer of friendship from their leader Wheelhead (Rick Dean). The only person who gives Jimmy the time of day is a creepy sex-offender called Diddler, whom Jimmy casually calls by his nickname as if he has no idea what it means. Under the protection of the warden, Luther and Blue join forces against Jimmy. Consequently Jimmy is coerced to skirmish and we all learn a few lessons about race. For instance, I learned that black people think that white people "smell like dogs after they get out of the shower". And also that dogs shower.

What I liked about this film is that the bad guys are little more nuanced out than usual. I liked the part where Wheelhead relates a childhood story of his mother making him grilled-cheese sandwiches, and even though Diddler is an unabashed pedophile (there's even a scene where he ogles a little girl in the visiting room while creepy music plays) he's treated with an unusual amount of sympathy and even allowed a little redemption arc. How often does that happen in a genre film, let alone in a Bloodfist film?

Jimmy kinda lucks out in that his cellmate is Stark, a Malcom-X-loving, self-taught lawyer who is greatly respected by the other prisoners. He's played by Richard Roundtree, which is awesome, and he gives what is maybe the best performance in the whole Bloodfist series. Stark introduces Jimmy to a multi-racial group of peaceful prisoners who hang out in a rooftop garden utopia. Somehow they have access to gardening equipment, deckchairs, televisions and enough cooking materials for the goofy Italian stereotype to make them baked ziti every day. It makes prison life look pretty cool. They even get to watch Corman's own TNT Jackson on movie night.

I don't think this movie is a particularly realistic depiction of prison life, to be honest. It seems to be some sort of "Free Range" prison, where inmates are free to roam anywhere they please. They have unfettered access to gasoline and sharpened tools and they are even allowed to start small fires in their cells. Everyone seems to be armed with a shiv, sometimes two. There's maybe two prison guards in the whole complex and although the warden claims that the place is automated to the point that "one man does the job of a dozen" it all seems pretty low tech and more like two men doing the job of nobody.

Like all protagonists of prison movies, Jimmy is innocent of his crime. Apparently he was involved in a bar-room brawl that got out of hand, and the police blamed him because of his mixed-race heritage. You know those half-Japanese guys, always stirring up trouble. When Jimmy complains to Stark about being a victim of racial prejudice I think Stark displays surprising restraint in not telling Jimmy to go cry him a fucking river.

Even though it's full of prison movie cliches (is there a riot at the end? Maybe. Okay, yes) I kind of liked this one. The fighting is infrequent and not particularly well choreographed, but it didn't bother me too much since that clearly wasn't the priority. That makes it pretty unusual as a Bloodfist film, and so unfortunately Roger Corman's cunning ruse to slip this film in under the Bloodfist banner backfired. The film did poorly and Don "The Dragon" Wilson was sentenced to Direct-to-Video prison for a minimum of five Bloodfist sequels. A harsh sentence, but fair. The Bloodfist movies never really belonged in the cinema.

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