I Guess I'm Never Going to Name This Smackdown!!!
(Revisit Round 1, Round 2 and the Intermission)
There's no mini face-off this week because although there is at least one other pairing I could put before you, I'd rather ask you to do something else. If you've voted in one of my smackdowns before, then you already know what it is. ;-) Keep reading to the end for the inevitable interactive element, and of course, the Annual Giveaway Rafflecopter! (UPDATE: The Rafflecopter is okay now!)
As always, thanks to some law of numbers the mathematicians haven't found yet, the Final Four bring the heart and soul and blood and guts to the entire tournament bracket. I had a lot of fun watching the first two movies which make up the Bloodfist Four and hope that the following reviews reflect that. =)
The Bloodfist Four
Bloodfist . . .
Kickboxing movies have never been my preferred genre, so I wasn't sure what to expect from this one. I started watching with the impression that Manila had been selected as a setting because the producers found it cheap and knew the target audience would find it exotic, but that any other Southeast Asian (or Eastern European) city would have done in a pinch. It soon became clear, however, that there was real and deep affection behind the camera for the city chosen to be before it--most apparent every time Manila Bay makes it into a frame.
There's also surprising artistry here. Take the scene in which Jake Raye first arrives in the city and notices some locals gathered around the lid of a pot on the sidewalk. He watches as they lay money down, drum on the lid, then lift it to watch a bug scuttle out. It turns out they were making bets on the direction it would run! Done entirely without dialogue, it serves the story in two ways: by foreshadowing the gambling subplot and by weaving in some local atmosphere. Impressive, yes? And so it hurts me a little to admit now that that sort of thing is actually not a form of Philippine street gambling. =P It would have been more accurate (not to mention a better parallel) if Jake had come across a cockfight or a spider fight; but the former is awfully controversial and the latter would be tricky to film.
And yet the bug under the lid is plausible--as is the live volcano which replaced the Buddhist temple from the original script. Although there are no smoking craters within walking distance of Manila (or you know, any major metropolis), even I buy it when Jake's new trainer Kwong takes him outside the city gym and shows him a great view of Taal Volcano. Never mind that the two would be at least 100 kilometres apart. But really, I don't want to nitpick!
Even the oddball premise of a gladiatorial competition as a gambling pastime for the richest of the rich gets some artistic license, despite featuring international kickboxers rather than gamecocks. While the local culture is even further away from that scenario than Taal is distant from Manila, it's still not completely out there: I, for one, can imagine Chinatown leveraging 1975's Thrilla in Manila and coming up with something a little like the Bloodfist club by the late 1980s. Besides, expats can always be counted on to have weird pursuits. So stop arguing with imagination and just enjoy the movie!
. . . Enter the Ninja
Speaking of weird expats and fighting cocks, there is also Enter the Ninja to consider.
If this movie did half as much with its "Philippine swag" as it did with its ninja weaponry, it would be cooler. But I'll admit that it takes the local pastime of cockfighting and does unprecedented things with it that Bloodfist would never have dared to. Heck, the final ninja showdown takes place in a large cockfighting arena--in the pit. I can't make this stuff up, though I can wonder whether the filmmakers understood what parallel they were drawing.
It also turns out that it doesn't matter that ninjitsu has nothing to do with the Philippines, for it is our funny expat friends who are responsible for importing it! They also responsible for pretty much everything that happens in this movie, begging the question of what a Philippine setting really does for the story. Couldn't this have been set (and shot?) anywhere else with wealthy land grabbers, poor peasants, and genteel landlords who oh-so-feudally stand between them? (Whispers: Yes! There's cockfighting in Mexico, Peru, and even India!) But apparently, back in the 1980s, nothing beat the Philippines when it comes to posing as a playground for rich Westerners. (Prove me wrong, anyone?)
Not that I'm bitter or anything! =P It was fun to recognise some of the filming locations as places I myself have been to--notably Fort Santiago and the Manila Polo Club. And I had to laugh with the small-time entrepreneur who sold porn out of the left side of his jacket and crucifixes out of the right: for that is likely how a bunch of foreigners see the country. (LOL!) To be fair, it's also likely that the villain, whose office includes a full-sized swimming pool filled with bathing beauties right next to the clerks' desks, is a spot-on representative of the way the the locals saw the expats. =P In fact, the only offbeat element that can't be said to make some sense is . . . you guessed it . . . the ninjitsu.
Now, I understand the conventions of ninja cinema even less than I get the kickboxing genre, but I can respect the former's premise that the presence of ninjas must be taken in stride no matter where in the world--and someday, no matter where in the galaxy--they happen to pop up. If that place happens to be the Philippines, then one perfectly acceptable response is, "But of course . . . "
Bloodfist vs. Enter the Ninja
Winner: Bloodfist--because the beauty of Taal Volcano beats the tackiness of the Valenzuela Cockpit Arena any day, and that's just the first of the reasons.
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Whether you agree that Bloodfist is an underrated flick with some real heart (exactly like my favourite character in it, whom I call "Stalker Filipina"!) or want to avenge Enter the Ninja with all the awkward ruthlessness of its hero, now is another chance to make yourself heard! Two weeks ago, in the first mini face-off, Sweet Revenge and the cheesy 80s beat Impasse and the Bond-esque 60s--an outcome that does not at all surprise me. But what happens when 80s movie goes up against 80s movie?
Let me know in the combox which Roger Corman production (Yes, he was behind both!) you think should make it all the way to the finals! Remember that every vote in the smackdown earns you another giveaway entry!
For some buggy reason, I can't edit the Rafflecopter for this round at the moment. After you vote, please continue to check back here, on the Giveaways page, or at the end of any new contest-related posts so that you can claim your point. (UPDATE: You may now claim your point for this entry!)
I've also noticed that a couple of entrants who voted in last week's Intermission haven't claimed their extra points yet--and that part still works. So here's a reminder to do so now!
a Rafflecopter giveaway
Image Sources: a) Bloodfist DVD, b) Enter the Ninja poster, c) Sweet Revenge poster