Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Bloodfist II

Don "The Dragon" Wilson returned to the BLOODFIST franchise almost exactly one year after the original film for the imaginatively titled BLOODFIST II. Believe it or not, the sequel received an even larger release, hitting 92 screens in the fall of 1990. Even though this type of independently financed action movie was much more often seen on cable television and videocassette, Concorde managed to squeeze this one into theaters, so studio head Roger Corman must have seen potential in the series' premise or its star.

Two years after the accidental death of an opponent spurred him to retire from professional fighting, undefeated light heavyweight kickboxing champion Jake Raye (Wilson) receives a phone call from his good friend and former trainer Vinnie (Maurice Smith), who's in trouble and needs Jake to fly to Manila to help him out of a jam.

Jake is just off the plane when he is lured by beautiful Mariella (Rina Reyes) to an abandoned warehouse, where he is waylaid and abducted to Paradise, a private island owned by megalomaniac Su (Joe Mari Avellana). Su has arranged a modern-day, but just as corrupt, version of ancient Roman gladiator battles. He has kidnapped professional fighters—boxing, karate, kickboxing and other martial-arts champions—from all over the world to compete in his games for the enjoyment of his wealthy friends. Jake and his companions are to be pitted against Su's private army, which have been artificially enhanced with a new super-steroid developed by German mad scientist Dieter (Robert Marius).

Readers of BLACKBELT and THE DEADLY HANDS OF KUNG FU magazines should get a real (ahem) kick out of BLOODFIST II, which offers a lot of fighting. A lot of fighting. I doubt more than five or six minutes ever pass without Wilson or one of his friends getting into a battle with somebody, usually using their bare hands and feet, but sometimes grabbing a handy knife, staff, spear or sword. Since much of the cast, including "The Dragon" (Wilson's homage to Bruce Lee extends to scripter Catherine Cyran's swiping of ENTER THE DRAGON's storyline), are actual martial-arts champions, the frequent fight scenes have an air of authenticity about them that help ground the comic-book plot in some sort of reality.

Not that you should take BLOODFIST II seriously, especially with Marius' diabolically campy performance screaming for attention, but for 84 minutes of straight-on martial-arts action, it fits the bill quite well. Cyran didn't seem especially proud of it or her other screenplays for Concorde when she was interviewed in the documentary SOME NUDITY REQUIRED. Director Andy Blumenthal, who handles the brisk pace and Wilson's thesping limitations rather well, doesn't seem to have directed another film, though he did return to his "day job" as a film editor. The oddest thing about this movie is that director Wes Craven and character actor Stephen Tobolowsky are created as "advisors."

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