Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Bloodsport (The Series)

Bloodsport (1988) * * *

Cast: Jean-Claude Van Damme, Donald Gibb, Bolo Yeung, Roy Chiao, Leah Ayres, Forrest Whitaker, Norman Burton

Directed by Newt Arnold

Jean-Claude stars as Frank Dux, the real life martial arts champion (although this is debatable) who goes A.W.O.L to fight in the kumite, an outlawed tournament in which the best competitors from all over go to compete to be the best. Bloodsport for the most part represents an important staple of the martial arts genre, as this movie basically reworked Enter The Dragon, took away the secret agent angle, and gave us non-stop (very well choreographed) fight sequences with little in way of plot or story, and yet despite all this, Bloodsport works every time. There’s no doubt that Bloodsport is an underground classic and probably one of the last signature movies for Cannon’s Golan and Globus, not to mention the fact that this launched Jean-Claude Van Damme into stardom, and made Bolo Yeung a genre favorite to American audiences again however the appeal to Bloodsport is that it’s merely pumped up chop-socky, and that it succeeds on this undemanding level. The fight sequences are of course the main story here, and these are probably the best American fight sequences of its time. Martial arts movies then don’t always have to follow the case of required character development or intelligent stories to connect the action to, as long as the action sequences are good enough, it doesn’t matter, such as the case with Bloodsport and why it’s worth seeing.

Bloodsport II: The Next Kumite (1996) * *

Cast: Daniel Bernhardt, Pat Morita, James Hong, Donald Gibb, Ong Soo Han, Phillip Tan
Directed by Alan Mehrez

Van Damme-Look-a-like Bernhardt stars as Alex Cardo, a martial arts expert thief who is set up by his partner (Tan) and sent to prison for stealing the priceless kumite sword, while in prison he learns the iron fist technique from Master Sun (James Hong) and competes in the kumite to regain his honor and give back the sword to Millionaire Leung (A slumming Pat Morita) while battling kumite favorite The Demon (Han) Bloodsport II isn’t nearly as good as the original, it even has less plot and worse acting, but it does have decent fight sequences that space out the running time, and ergo will prove satisfying to most fans of kickboxing movies. Donald Gibb reprises his role, but this is more of an extended cameo and there is no connection whatsoever to the original aside from the plentiful fight sequences and the tournament in question. Once again Bloodsport II is adequate as these things go, though the charisma-less Bernhardt is a major liability, Bloodsport II barely rises above.

Bloodsport III (1997) *

Cast: Daniel Bernhardt, Pat Morita, James Hong, John Rhys Davies, Nicholas R. Oleson

Directed by Alan Mehrez

This time Bernhardt reprises his role of Alex Cardo who tells his (boring) story to his son about how he avenged his master (Hong) at the hands of kumite promoter (Davies) and the fight against “The Beast” that took place, as well as how he trained with a new master to learn how to defeat the crowd favorite. Bloodsport was an underground classic with some excellent fight sequences, Bloodsport II at least had decent fights, However the very tedious Bloodsport III doesn’t even have that in its favor. The story involves revenge but there is no conviction in the plot, we don’t care about any of the characters and the training montage is very, very boring, (usually the highlight of a martial arts film, next to the fights) in other words Bloodsport III is a complete dud.

Bloodsport 4:The Dark Kumite (1999) 0*

Cast: Daniel Bernhardt, Ivan Ivanoff, Derek McGrath

Directed by Elvis Restraino

Bernhardt plays John Keller (not Alex Cardo, which was the character in Bloodsport 2-3 ) a martial artist/cop who goes undercover in a prison to stop a dishonorable kumite taking place in a prison where inmates fight to the death. Bloodsport 4 is the nadir of the series, the fight sequences are lame, infrequent and ineptly edited. Also the movie is more Death Warrant than Bloodsport, but the worst thing of all is the absolute bottom drawer quality that this film is made with. The film is visually one of the most ugly movies I’ve ever seen, and the movie’s prison is obviously a warehouse in some European country. Bloodsport 4 has nothing to do with any of its predecessors and the film will no doubt disappoint fans of this series. If Bloodsport 1 had the best fight sequences of its time, this one has the absolute worst of its time. Bernhardt once again is just as awful as he usually is but even he seems a victim to the circumstance around him. Bloodsport 4 is lifeless, dreary, ugly to look at, and ineptly made on all levels. If this doesn’t kill the series, nothing will.


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