26 June 2013

+JMJ+

Twelve Things about Bloodfist II

12. Although the first Bloodfist movie made and lent its name to the Final Four of one of my legendary smackdowns (See Round 3A--and vote while you can!), I was in no hurry to watch the first of its sequels-in-name-only. I expected that it would have nothing that I really liked about its predecessor . . . and well, I was right. =P

But what I didn't guess was that Bloodfist II would have its own unique and sometimes superior charms!

11. These two films actually have a lot of stray elements in common: Don "The Dragon" Wilson . . . supporting actors Joe Mari Avellana, Kris Aguilar and Ned Hourani (Blink and you won't recognise him!) . . . the Philippines as a setting . . . the gladiatorial kickboxing trope . . . and of course, the tiled alley in Binondo that producer Roger Corman makes all his characters do a chase scene in. It's hard to say that there is no continuity when cast and crew obviously had a reunion party at an old Chinatown haunt before they started shooting.

10. It's easier to say that there is no plot. While the bare skeleton of a story is there, it's also true that a lot of things just happen. It's a serious storytelling flaw, yes, but it becomes forgivable as soon as the real jewels in this lackluster setting get their chance to sparkle.

9. But before we get to those, let's take the scenic route ourselves, starting from the beginning. By "beginning," I mean the first Bloodfist movie . . .

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I wish I could say that Jake Raye's fashion sense has improved since the last time he came to Manila, but this franchise being as disjointed as it is, he can claim it was his doppelganger who showed up one year earlier in that tacky Hard Rock Cafe t-shirt.

8. Now, any producer can set up an "authentic" airplane or airport scene and say he has done his duty by whichever distant location he is trying to sell, but it seems that Corman productions do not stop at the wallpaper. In Bloodfist II, you get a real sense of Manila not from the airport full of Filipino extras but from the scene with the sneaky taxi drivers trying to overcharge foreign fares. I can tell that whoever wrote it has been through it, and that the white actor playing one of the cabbies worked really hard to pull off a convincing Tagalog accent. (He almost nailed it, too.)

7. But my favourite Manila moment, hands down, was this glorious gem . . .


That's Raye on the bank kicking a henchman into a Manila canal and sending me into hysterics. I don't know how much they paid the stuntman to take a dip in Manila's waters of doom, but I wouldn't be surprised if his fee (and the health insurance) made up 80% of the total budget.

6. The character on the right plays The Girl. I'm really not crazy about her character and couldn't stand to look when she started holding her own alongside the fighters. There is only so much disbelief I can suspend for one movie.

5. As much as I wish I could say that Bloodfist II is all about mayhem in Manila, most of the story takes place elsewhere, on a private island called Paradise, which is also a megalomaniac's personal playground. His favourite game is high-stakes gambling and his favourite toys are championship fighters.

The premise is as implausible as it is indulgent--and that's what makes it perfect. You see, the point is not necessarily to tell a good story. It is to showcase several surprisingly good fight sequences. Now note that it is utterly implausible that seven international fighters, from very different martial arts backgrounds, would be fighting in the same tournament . . . and utterly indulgent that they would all be in the same Action movie. The only way this could be more meta is if the villain were also filming the fights and were played by Corman himself. 

4. Or to paraphrase my favourite professor yet again, every good movie is about its own making. Even the B-grade stuff.

3. So now we come to the fights, which are freaking good. Although I'm no expert, even I could tell that each one had its own special character, choreographed according to the featured fighter's preferred style. (My favourite is the Greco-Roman wrestling.)

Of course, it's the good guys who are all quirky and individual, while the big baddies have been rendered totally interchangeable by all those steroids. (Just say no, kids!)

2. There don't seem to be individual clips of each fight--or else I would have totally embedded them all--but we do have the last bout between Raye and the only one of the antagonist fighters who has a personality of his own . . .  


"When you fight on drugs, you don't win anything!"
(And now you know this is an 80s movie)

It's not perfect, and the "finishing move" leaves much to be desired, but it's still better than CGI. =P

1. As mentioned, the reason it took me so long (like, you know, a week) to watch Bloodfist II was that I genuinely enjoyed the characters of the first movie (STALKER FILIPINA FOR THE WIN!!!) and wanted some time to grieve their disappearance. It's one thing for a character to die in a movie or even off-screen between sequels; it's another thing for a sequel-in-name-only to wipe his very memory from the world.

The last thing I didn't expect about Bloodfist II was that its own ending would make me feel the same way. If this is the last Bloodfist film I ever watch, I'll remain warm and happy with the fact. 


Image Source: Bloodfist II poster

9 comments:

Christopher Yurkanin said...

Can't believe how you've taken to these movies lol!

Regarding the dip in the canal, I'm "in the know" about it also, having seen my share of incredible diving acts during my trips to Olongapo many - many - years ago.

Enbrethiliel said...

+JMJ+

Like a duck to water, right? (But not that water . . .) I'm surprised, too! =D

Now, is "in the know" a euphemism for "in the canal"? Or were you The Dragon in those scenarios rather than the henchman, Mr. Shackleford?

DMS said...

I have never seen these movies- but after reading your posts I am most curious!
~Jess

cyurkanin said...

Sadly, just "in the canal", my Dragon identity had not yet been summoned for service.

Enbrethiliel said...

+JMJ+

Jess -- One last warning (or teaser--depending on how you see it!): Eighties kickboxing movies seem to be an acquired taste. ;-)

Christopher -- #speechless

NoelCT said...

Kris Aguilar and Ned Hourani (Blink and you won't recognise him!)

I must have blinked because no, I didn't catch their return. :)

While the bare skeleton of a story is there, it's also true that a lot of things just happen.

Another review I read says this is the start of the "Don 'The Dragon' formula", where he's contractually obligated to be ambushed by random thugs every five minutes.

Now note that it is utterly implausible that seven international fighters, from very different martial arts backgrounds, would be fighting in the same tournament... and utterly indulgent that they would all be in the same Action movie.

I'll admit, I was so hooked by the film that I never even stopped to consider this. It's completely ridiculous, yes, but executed with such zeal that that it never bugged me.

(My favourite is the Greco-Roman wrestling.)

Same here. The judo expert battle (he's the one who ripped out part of the arena to use as a club) blew me away in its speed and choreography, and I figured it couldn't be topped. But then the wrestler dropped into the lotus and proceeded to wipe the floor with his opponent. Loved it. Absolutely loved it. :D

The last thing I didn't expect about Bloodfist II was that its own ending would make me feel the same way. If this is the last Bloodfist film I ever watch, I'll remain warm and happy with the fact.

I've been avoiding full reviews, but I do hear from fans that part 3 is considered the best of the franchise, so I'm definitely looking forward to my next outing. As for the remaining 6... we'll see. ;)

Enbrethiliel said...

+JMJ+

Hey, Noel! =D

Kris Aguilar is one of the henchmen. I recognised him immediately. Ned Hourani is the guy who dies at the beginning, and I was surprised to see his name in the credits because I didn't recognise him either. (By the way, this marks the second time that Hourani dies at the start of a Bloodfist movie: a rare, never-to-be topped honour!)

I think we both read that other review you've mentioned. =) I liked this movie so much after I saw it, that I wanted to find other bloggers who appreciated it as well.

As for Bloodfist 3, I really wasn't intending to watch it, because a Don "The Dragon" Wilson movie not set in the Philippines is just wrong ;-) . . . but I'll do it for you, Noel!

NoelCT said...

I wonder if there's some thematic symbolism in the man Jake kills in the ring being the same actor who played his brother being killed in the ring. :)

Yeah, we're going to be stuck squarely in LA for most of the series' shooting locales. Until! Part 8 was shot entirely in Ireland, then 2050 returns to the Philippines!

Enbrethiliel said...

+JMJ+

I think it's fair to say that you have given the thematic symbolism of the casting much more thought than the filmmakers have. ;-)

And believe it or not, I hadn't known that about Bloodfist 2050! Now I have something new to look forward to! LOL!