As a follow-up to my highly anticipated and acclaimed (ahem) reviews of the FRIDAY THE 13TH series some time ago, it's time to present, over the next several days, a look at Roger Corman's BLOODFIST series. You've seen them lining the shelves at your local video store for years. You've flipped across them on cable TV late at night. But you've never watched them. Should you? Let's see.
You have to hand it to Roger Corman, whose Concorde/New Horizons studio financed and distributed the BLOODFIST movies. First off, BLOODFIST…great title. Secondly, almost all of the nine films in the BLOODFIST series have nothing to do with one another. Shot and perhaps released in some areas under an unrelated title, Corman and his marketing people knew the value of a franchise and packaged a series of direct-to-video action movies with no continuing characters or storylines as BLOODFIST sequels. I have no doubt this approach was successful for Concorde, but the key to it was a professional kickboxer-turned-actor named Don "The Dragon" Wilson, who starred in the first eight BLOODFISTs.
You may recognize Wilson from his brief role as John Cusack's kickboxing instructor in SAY ANYTHING…, but the Crappy Movie lover within you is likely familiar with him as a minor action star ubiquitous in DTV movies throughout the 1990s. BLOODFIST, which Concorde released on 54 screens in the fall of 1989, was his debut as a leading man, after his brief parts in SAY ANYTHING… and BORN ON THE FOURTH OF JULY.
Don plays Jake Raye, a Los Angeles gym owner who travels to Manila to claim his half-brother Michael's corpse. Jake's only clue is a swath of red polyester found clutched in Michael's hand, cloth torn from his killer's robe. It belongs to a member of the Red Fist, a secret society of kickboxers who fight underground for the amusement of wealthy gamblers. The only way for Jake to get inside the Red Fist to identify the murderer is to compete in the ultimate round robin--a series of championship matches in which only one man, the eventual winner, will be left standing.
Writer Robert King (VERTICAL LIMIT) isn't much on creating believable human relationships or crisp dialogue, but is that really what a movie titled BLOODFIST needs? He and director Terence H. Winkless (THE NEST) know how to space the fight scenes, so that no more than, oh, seven or eight minutes ever go by without somebody punching, gouging or kicking somebody else. So it's a good thing Winkless cast his movie with an eye towards realism. Wilson and his co-stars Billy Blanks, Kris Aguilar and Rob Kaman all are the Real Deal; in fact, the opening credits list their trophies along with their names.
Wilson, one of kickboxing's greatest champions, is a competent, if not particularly interesting, leading man. Like Chuck Norris, he has an unimpressive speaking voice and is usually overwhelmed in any scene in which he has to express an emotion, but he comes across as a very likable guy. He seems a bit slight for an action star, but his real-life accomplishments obviously speak otherwise, and he handles himself well in the many fight scenes (although he is doubled for stunts like jumping off of buildings).
Wilson will return as Jake Raye…in BLOODFIST II…