Youtube Film Club: Bloodsport 2 (1996)

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Fighting! Then some more fighting! And FIGHTING! Plus the greatest closing credit music in the history of film. Don’t believe me?

This could just be the fightingest martial arts movie of all time. At 82 minutes, I’d put the amount of plot at around 15 minutes, say 7 for training montages, which leaves a solid hour of people beating the crap out of each other. And I loved it!

Surrounded by one of the most pointless framing stories ever, where an elderly-looking James Hong (aka David Lo Pan from “Big Trouble In Little China”) tells the story of how Alex got his groove back to a bunch of pre-pubescent martial arts students, we’re thrown right into Alex’s story. He steals a sword from Pat Morita’s house but is double-crossed by his partner and arrested; fights his way through the prison; has to spend some time in “The Cooler”; and is taken under the wing of Sun (Hong) who, seeing that Alex is a good guy really, teaches him the Iron Hand technique and helps him back to being a good guy. This would normally be the first hour of a movie, but is dispatched with here in about 30 minutes, which is incredibly refreshing.

The one problem, to this point, is Alex just looks like a villain. Daniel Bernhardt has had a decent career of mainly playing scumbags, so it’s a bit weird seeing him as the underdog, as it is seeing the guy who was David Lo Pan play the kind old teacher. But at least we have two actors definitely playing to type – Ong Soo Han, who was the main villain in “Tiger Claws 2”, is prison guard / kumite contestant Demon, sort of a pale imitation of Bolo Yeung; and OGRE IS BACK! The great Donald Gibb, who was in the first “Bloodsport” eight years previously, returns as Ray Jackson, only this time he’s the handler for the fighters rather than getting involved himself (despite one of the contestants looking a good decade older than he is).

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Yes, “Bloodsport” means kumite, the completely fictional fighting competition dreamed up by Frank Dux to sell books. Pat Morita is in charge, and he pays for Alex to get out of prison so he can find the stolen sword and compete in the kumite (the sword, it turns out, is going to be the first place prize). I admire a man so calm about being robbed.

All this is window dressing to the fighting. Aside from some great scenes in the prison, most of the fighting takes place at the kumite – despite being a world renowned competition for the best martial artists, it’s being held in a large barn with an audience made up of poor-looking locals for some reason. The 8 years between parts 1 and 2 have meant some changes – while not getting rid of the “secret mystical art is the way to success” thing, some of the fighters incorporate grappling and submissions into their arsenal; and there’s a female fighter who isn’t treated as a figure of fun. She’s Kim, played by Lisa McCullough who’s much better known as a stunt-artist than an actress. It’s a damn shame, because she can obviously fight and looks like a strong athlete as well as easily being attractive enough to base a movie around; makes me wonder why it happens for some people and not others.

 

The variety of fighting is fun, which is handy because there’s a lot of it. Some of the outfits are truly staggering in their awfulness too (one fighter looks like he’s wearing a rainbow-themed gymnastics lycra monstrosity) but the fighting looks great – no obvious “air” between striker and strikee, simply and effectively shot. They even manage to tell a bit of story through the various fights, and give some of the secondary characters personalities, so well done movie.

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It feels a little silly wasting this many words on such a pure fighting movie. I was half tempted to put the video of the closing credits music up, ask if you were pumped, and if you answered yes tell you to watch this awesome movie. But I hope you enjoyed reading about it, and now you can watch it for nothing on Youtube:

Rating: thumbs up

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American Ninja 5 (1993)

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Well, that was a strange little series.

David Bradley, star of AN 3 and 4, filmed another, unrelated film about a guy and some ninja shenanigans. Cannon, never ones to pass up an opportunity to make a quick buck, renamed it “American Ninja 5” but didn’t do anything a person might expect, like changing the name of the main character or having it make any sense in terms of the four films that preceded it. That’s how we like em at the ISCFC! Anyway, that makes the American Ninja series perhaps the only example of the same film series having two parts that didn’t tie in to the rest, or each other. Congratulations!

Bradley is Joe (a different Joe to the one Dudikoff played in 1, 2 and 4), who’s training at Pat Morita’s gym! Morita, clearly doing this as a favour to someone, pops up at the beginning to ask Joe to look after his great-nephew Hiro, a sullen 13 year old, then sods off til the last two minutes. As well as having this annoying kid in tow, Joe meets a beautiful woman sort of by accident, only she’s the daughter of some scientist who’s being held by an evil crime fellow, and the crime fellow has a super-powerful ninja as his main enforcer…

Fabulous!

Fabulous!

In a bit of a coincidence, Tadashi Yamashita, the guy who played the bad guy from AN1 is here, as Pat Morita’s assistant trainer, but his credit is as himself? It’s a puzzler, as he doesn’t seem to be that famous. To increase your confused frown as the film goes on, Hiro is played by Lee Reyes, a genuine junior karate champion, and he did most of his own choreography. He’s one of those style of characters that films occasionally fall in love with – the extremely annoying precocious pre-teen who can do everything better than the adult cast. The scene where he’s walking through a city somewhere in Venezuela, crying and begging for random strangers to take him to the American embassy, is a low point even for this series. Anyway, clearly Cannon thought he was a star in the making, although they would seem to have been very badly mistaken on that.

David Bradley learned how to act in the intervening years, and is a decently funny, credible actor in this one. He’s no longer got that rabbit-in-the-headlights look when it comes to being the lead guy in a movie; which makes his seeming complete disappearance from cinema in 1997 slightly sadder than it would have been if you’d only seen AN3.

What did we learn with this movie? Well, we learn that baddies sometimes have their offices, complete with computers and all sorts, just in the open air, near the pool of some hotel. We learn that ninja-ism is hereditary, and you just need to unlock the potential with a short montage. We also learn that if you get bored of being the legal guardian of a kid, you can just fob him off at a moment’s notice on one of your work colleagues while you go on holiday. These are some important lessons, I think you’ll agree.

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Although this film was clearly sorry to see us viewers go, feeling like it lasted for 4 hours, this is the end of the series. Cannon Films are now the subject of a couple of different documentaries which I’ll try and review for you soon; and the world is a bit sadder for having fewer racist lunatics making cheap crappy films to fill up video shops.

Rating: thumbs down