Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Bloodfist II

As you may recall, Bloodfist was a cookie-cutter tournament/revenge flick in the Bloodsport/Kickboxer mold. Bloodfist II: Blood Fistier is more of an Enter the Dragon thing. It mostly takes place on this island fortress in the South Pacific, run by a dude named Dr. Su who has his own army of goons in orange pajamas. Su's deal is he had this wussy scientist with a phony German accent (not quite as bad as the gay Nazi in 9 Deaths of the Ninja, but worse than the white slaver from Raw Force, if that helps) create an undetectable steroid that makes motherfuckers super strong and impervious to pain. To test out the formula, Su kidnaps all of these champion fighters in a variety of disciplines, from boxing to karate to Greco-Roman wrestling, and makes them fight his souped-up henchman.

But I'm getting ahead of myself. Bloodfist II gets the Truth In Advertising Award for 1990 because the very first shot is a close-up of a boxing glove dripping with blood. Take that, The Squid and the Whale. Then the camera pulls back, showing a very sweaty Don "The Dragon" Wilson, looking more like a Eurasian Dean Cain than ever. He looks slightly more badass than he did in BF1 but still not all that impressive. He's not very big or muscular or anything. It's amazing that this regular-looking guy was light heavyweight kickboxing champion of the world for 12 straight years. His arms aren't even very well defined. Then again, I guess he's a kickboxer, not a punchboxer, so fuck arms. Arms are for gaylords.

This is a movie that gets right to the good stuff. The very first scene is a kickboxing match. Don (apparently playing the same character as the first one, although the events of that film are never mentioned) is fighting this mustached chump who won't go down, no matter how many times Don kicks him. I've been trying to figure out if he got dosed with Dr. Su's steroid, but I don't see how that's possible, since it won't be invented for another three years, according to the timeline I gleaned from the opening credits montage of newspaper clippings. Either way, this dickrag won't stay down, until Don jumpkicks him in the neck and kills him. Everybody else acts like this shit happens all the time, but Don feels so terrible about it that he vows never to fight again.

And so he devotes his life to non-violence, growing a long ponytail and teaching at-risk kids to deal with their anger issues through positive activities like gardening and basket-weaving. After winning the love of a blind kindergarten teacher, he is eventually rewarded for his charity work and pacifist agenda by Readers Digest, who publish a cover story about him entitled "A Warrior's Peace: How A Champion Fighter Kicked The Kicking Habit." The final scene shows him quietly nursing an injured fawn back to health and releasing it into the wild, where it is reunited with its mother.

Nah, I'm just fucking with you. He doesn't do any of that shit. He just starts whoring and doesn't stop for three years until his old cornerman calls him up from Manila and says he's gotten himself into debt with Dr. Su, so he needs Don to come help him out. So Don hops on the next plane to the Philippines. He isn't in town for five minutes before badly dressed henchmen are coming out of the woodwork. Wherever he goes, there's another dude in a flannel shirt and jeans, just dying to let Don kick him in the head. The movie's about 15 minutes long at this point, and only three or four of them didn't have fighting in them. And of those three or four, one of them had tits. So already you gotta appreciate where this movie's head is at.
Then one of the bad guys gets the bright idea to not engage the world-champion kickboxer in foot-to-face combat, so he pulls a gun instead. Don gets captured and thrown on a boat with a bunch of other badasses, most of whom are played by real-life fighting experts, except for this one dude who looks like Freddy Mercury who's played by the original Deathstalker. Real all-star cast on this one.
Most of these dudes aren't actors, and that's why I like them. Their line readings are pretty flat, but they seem like real people, because they are. It makes you kind of give a shit when they start getting killed off.

So they go out to Dr. Su's island, and Don escapes and runs around for a while, kicking every henchman he meets. Then he finds out that his old cornerman has betrayed him and set him up, and he gets recaptured. Then the movie does this amazing thing where it skips the dreaded Part Where It Drags In The Middle. I don't know why more movies don't do this. There's almost always that section around the 45, 50 minute mark where the characters are sitting around, talking about what just happened and trying to predict what's gonna happen. Maybe one of them tells a story from their childhood that elucidates their motivation in the third act. Maybe the male and female leads finally get over their initial antagonism and share some smoochies in a storage closet. Or maybe, if you're really lucky, there'll be a montage in which the hero's long, dark night of the soul is illustrated through shots of him walking down the street with his hands in his pockets or standing on a small bridge, watching the ripples in the water below, thus mentally preparing himself for the battle ahead. Mostly, though, the Part Where It Drags In The Middle is just the movie trying to stretch itself out to 90 minutes by any means necessary.

That's why Bloodfist II is such a model of narrative economy. It just cuts that part out completely, then fills in the missing time with more fights. It goes from the fight where Don gets captured straight to the big showdown, which means that the concluding 35 minutes of the movie (approximately 40% of the total running time) is all fighting. Thank you, Roger Corman's Concorde Pictures, for respecting my intelligence.

The fights are pretty damned good, too, because of all the different styles involved. The first one has a heavyweight boxer hammering the ribcage of a beefy goon in red pants, but come on, dude, boxing is for pussies. Kicking is where it's at. He gets his ass handed to him, then Dr. Su gives him the thumbs-down and has him speared to death in front of the others.

Next up is Deathstalker, who's playing an Army hand-to-hand combat instructor. I like this character. I'm not sure he actually talks at all, but he says all there is to say with his cocky body language and well-timed Skoal spitting. His moves are precise and elegant, which pleases the crowd, so Dr. Su lets him off with just a broken arm. The great part about that is, after he escapes at the end of the movie (Spoiler), he takes on all these goons literally one-handed.

Then the next guy is a balding Greco-Roman wrestler who just sits in the middle of the ring and blocks every move his opponent tries. I've never seen this style of fighting on film before, and it reminded me of the fact that the dudes who always win in the Ultimate Fighting and whatnot are the grapplers. You can have fists of steel, but they're not gonna help you if somebody puts his knee on your neck and doesn't let up until you pass out. This guy actually wins his fight with a devastating series of nut punches, but Dr. Su is a jerk and has him speared anyway. Sore fuckin' loser, you ask me.

Then some karate dude gets easily dispatched, and then this lanky, saggy-faced white tae kwon do master wins his fight. I love seeing tall white guys do kung fu, because their feet are so huge. It looks like they could take somebody's head off with their big, bony ankles.

This displeases Dr. Su, so he sends in Don's old friend, who's all hopped up on go-juice. Then Don himself jumps in, and the remaining good guys escape and run around knocking over furniture and kicking ass. Don himself takes out Dr. Su by kicking him off of a balcony right in front of his daughter. Boy, I'll tell you, life ain't easy for a dude named Su.

Then all the surviving good guys cluster around Dr. Su's corpse. They look down at it pensively for a moment, like it's a shoe somebody left on the sidewalk and they're trying to figure out how the fuck somebody leaves behind a shoe, I mean, wouldn't you notice you only had one shoe on? The fuck? Then they just walk away. And that's end of the movie. Thanks for coming everybody, you've been a great crowd, we're Bloodfist II, check out the merch table, goodnight!

And that's how you make a shitty low-budget action movie: You get the fuck in and you get the fuck out. That's the Tao of Roger Corman.

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