Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Bloodfist III: Forced To Fight

Don “The Dragon” Wilson once asked producer Roger Corman what “BLOODFIST” meant. Corman’s reply: “It’s a martial arts movie, and you’re in it.” So it is that a prison picture titled FORCED TO FIGHT saw release under the Concorde/New Horizons banner as BLOODFIST III: FORCED TO FIGHT. It has nothing to do with the previous BLOODFIST movies, and Wilson plays a different character, an inmate named Jimmy Boland. The film stands up on its own quite well and is not only better than the first two BLOODFISTs, but also better than the five entries that followed.

Boland is in hot water after killing a rapist and murderer named Luther in self-defense. That his assailant was African-American makes the situation even worse for the half-Asian Boland in a concrete world where racism is a way of life. Out for revenge against Boland is Blue (Gregory McKinney), whose drug trade is diminished by his supplier’s death. Boland makes another enemy when he rebuffs an invitation by white supremacist Wheelhead (Rick Dean) to join a prison gang.

Alone and awaiting a shiv in his back at any time, Boland finds a friend in the middle-aged Stark (SHAFT star Richard Roundtree). A jailhouse lawyer of intelligence and quiet dignity, Stark has earned an elder statesman reputation among the inmates because of his age and his skills beating the appellate courts. Don’t scoff because he’s in a movie titled BLOODFIST III. Roundtree is outstanding in his role as a mentor, priest, father figure, and voice of reason to his fellow convicts.

Everyone seems to have upped his game in BLOODFIST III, perhaps because the multi-layered screenplay by Allison Burnett (UNDERWORLD: AWAKENING) and Charles Mattera (GENTLEMAN B.) addresses racial issues in an exploitation setting and creates characters with more depth than usual in a Roger Corman film. BLOODFIST III is no art film, but much is happening below the surface, and the actors appear to be relishing the opportunity. The wooden Wilson seems more assured than usual, and Dean, a limited actor, adds a dash of charm to his Aryan brute.

If you’re thinking, “Sure, but what about the kickboxing,” rest assured director Oley Sassone (Corman’s unreleased THE FANTASTIC FOUR) delivers a good dose of fighting and kicking choreographed by Paul Maslak, who worked as a stuntman, writer, and producer on other Wilson vehicles. Care was taken to provide The Dragon with worthy opponents, including Peter “Sugarfoot” Cunningham, who were authentic martial arts champions like Wilson. While the fight scenes are about as good as they could be — and Corman throws in clips of Jeanne Bell’s topless scenes from TNT JACKSON to spice up the sexual content — it’s the care and intelligence displayed in other parts of the production that give BLOODFIST III its real meat. Corman liked it so much he remade it one year later (!) as LIVE BY THE FIST starring Jerry Trimble.

No comments: