Friday, 7 October 2011
Bloodfist II (1990)
Apparently after winning the Red Fist tournament Jake (Don "The Dragon" Wilson, World Kickboxing Association Light Heavyweight World Champion) returned to America and became a professional kickboxer. I guess he got over that whole missing kidney thing. During his championship bout he accidentally kills his opponent so he vows to never fight again, complete with a cry of "NEVER!" and the ceremonial tossing of his championship belt into the crowd. Two years later he's living in a crappy apartment and sleeping with convincing-looking skeezy prostitutes. He gets a phone call from his old friend Vinny Petrello (Maurice Smith, World Kickboxing Association World Heavyweight Champion) who has gotten himself into a few money problems in the Phillipines. Naturally it's up to Jake to pack his bags and head off to Manila. Again.
In typical Don "The Dragon" Wilson fashion, Jake heads straight from the airport to an attempted mugging. I do like that the thugs attempt a surprise attack by kicking a soccer ball at his head. That's some weak-ass shit, muggers. Jake shows them up in the next scene, at the gym where Vinny was last spotted. One of the guys there says to Jake that he "only talks with fighters, you dig?", so Jake kicks the punching ball so hard that it breaks off it's chain and hits a guy in the boxing ring in the back of the head, knocking him unconscious. He was wearing headgear too. That's a move both baller and off the chain.
Afterwards Jake confronts the owner of the gym, a weasely German nerd named Dieter. It's pretty clear where this movie's sympathies lie on the jocks vs nerds continuum, because everybody, including the other bad guys, treat Dieter with open contempt. At one point Jake even shouts "Fuck you, geek!" with the same venom you'd reserve for child molesting racists. Dieter calls in his goons and Jake fights and runs and fights and runs, but eventually finds himself drugged and put on a boat with the rest of the gym rats to compete in a high-stakes baking competition where only the most skilled with a piping bag will survive. Nah, just kidding. It's a secret underground fighting tournament.
While the first film was a Bloodsport rip-off, the second does a low-budget riff on Enter the Dragon. The tournament takes place on a secret island which is ironically named Paradise, although thanks to Black Dynamite I can't think think of it as anything other than Kung Fu Island. Joe Mari Avellana returns as the main villain, although he's playing a different character, a Bond-like villain named Su. Cris Aguilar also returns as one of Su's henchmen. If Jake notices all these villainous doppelgangers running around he doesn't say anything.
The other competitors are mostly real-life martial artists, including Timothy Baker (International Karate Champion World Karate Champ), James Warring (World Kickboxing Association World Cruiserweight Champion) and Richard Hill (International Sport Karate Association World Welterweight Champion). I really liked these guys. They aren't actors or pretty-boys but they're likable and there's a cheerful, ramshackle charm to their performances.
Jake manages to escape pretty early on, busting his way out of the most pathetic shackles ever, and spends a good chunk of the movie Die Harding his way around Su's mansion. He's helped out by a hot girl named Mariella (Rina Reyes), who is in league with Su at first but eventually falls for Jake's wooden charms. When he first meets her she is demonstrating her flexibility in a shiny leotard, just like his love interest in the first film. He's got a type, I guess. She turns out to be Su's daughter, which dumps all sorts of subtext onto an earlier whipping scene that I don't want to think about.
There are some pretty funny cartoonish touches to this film. Jake is able to get the drop on the guards over and over again, usually by tiptoeing a couple of steps behind them like Wile E. Coyote. My favourite part is where Vinny, who is working for Su as it turns out, comes up with an ingenious "plan" to stop Jake. He lures Jake down a hallway and around a blind corner and then, hidden off-screen, swings out with a plank of wood and knocks Jake unconscious. Ah, the old plank-to-the-face trick.
It turns out that Su and Dieter have developed a super-steroid which turns his fighters into grunting, indestructable death machines. Su intends to force the fighters into death matches with his 'roid-monkeys, providing entertainment for the standard assortment of rich fucks as well as giving a demonstration of the super-steroid to his investors. Su is very traditional about his deathmatches, with uniformed, spear-wielding guards and the whole thumbs-up, thumbs-down death signal. Of course it's the black guy who gets the thumbs down.
I always like watching the crowd in these death arena fight movies. It's mostly businessmen in suits, as you'd expect, but there's always a few old women and middle aged tourists mixed in among them. It's always funny watching some middle-aged accountant-looking dude screaming insanely as a muscleman dispatches his opponent with a Bolo-style neck stomp. I'd like to think it's a commentary on exploitative tourist culture, but really I think it comes down to whatever extras they could rustle up on the day.
Jake's final showdown with Vinny seems to mirror the kickboxing match that opens the film, with Vinny ultimately badly beaten and barely on his feet. You might assume that the residual guilt would make Jake pull his punch or otherwise hesitate in killing his friend, but instead he executes a lethal flying kick that snaps Vinny's neck. It's pretty weird. I suppose he assumed that Vinny was going to do that whole "you showed me mercy and now I shall reward you by stabbing you in the back" thing.
Afterwards Jake has a fight with Su that goes through his laboratory, right through his house and onto the balcony. There's a pretty funny part where Jake goes apeshit and tosses aside a table that is clearly made of rubber. Su actually does do the whole "you showed me mercy and now I shall reward you by stabbing you in the back" thing, so Jake kicks him over the balcony ledge. If only he had some rubber lawn furniture down there he might have survived. I did like how all the good guys silently stand over Su's dead body for about three seconds before leaving. These Bloodfist films are less than 85 minutes long, so there's no time for dénouement.
Actually there's barely time for anything in this film except for fighting. From start to finish I don't think the film goes more than ten minutes without a fight. I like the way they separate Jake and the other fighters so they can cut to one of the deathmatches after each chunk of exposition or embarrassing romance scene. Usually in these films they have one long string of fights at the end, which gets dull quickly. The choreography is much improved over the first film too, with some cool techniques and a nice sense of rhythm.
I liked this movie better than the first, mostly because it had a similar setup but ditched everything non-fight related. No more boring crime-solving where Jake tries to solve a mystery that we already know the answer to. No more boring training montages where we watch Jake spend five minutes running up a hill in high-waisted pants. Just more of what we came to see 1) blood and 2) fists. If you like both of these things and you've got a high-tolerance for direct-to-video crappiness, then check out Bloodfist II.