directed by Shuji Goto
(Kurata, 1989)

Bloodfight has to be the most depressing martial arts film I've ever seen. This thing throws on the sackcloth and rolls around in the ashes for a while. Sure, the dramatic events that unfold set the stage for an unlikely comeback by Kai against the younger and all but invincible Chong Lee (Bolo Yeung), but you're not going to come away from Bloodfight with a smile on your face. That's not to say there's no entertainment value to the film, though. Kai's recruitment of Ryu is laughably absurd, and a good bit of unintentional humor can easily be found in the movie's dialogue -- which is filmed in bad English to begin with, thus saving Western distributors the chore of badly dubbing the film themselves.

Yasuaki Kurata plays Masahiro Kai, a former champion of the World Championship free-fighting tournament (which actually takes place in a dark and seedy gym on some back street in Hong Kong). A shadow of his former self, Kai runs a ridiculously poor excuse of a gym in hopes of finding a protege who can follow in his fading footsteps. After his wife leaves him, he seems to get pretty desperate, recruiting a mean and undisciplined local hooligan as his student. I'm not sure how a white dude comes to lead a gang in Hong Kong, especially one as incredibly gay as this one, but the bigger mystery is why Kai would watch a gang of hoodlums terrorize an innocent young lady and then offer to train the guy responsible. Not surprisingly, this little mentor relationship doesn't work out very well -- but it does lead him to another young prospect named Ryu Tenmei (Simon Yam). This young man has no desire to train and compete, and the very idea frightens his hot girlfriend to death. Of course, he does end up competing in the big tournament, and let's just say the experience ends pretty badly.

The big fight scene at the end isn't bad at all, but there's a whole lot of bad movie to wade through in order to get that far. By the midpoint of Bloodfight, I was thinking this was quite possibly the worst martial arts movie I had ever seen. The story had gone from boring to downright laughable, the film editor had seemingly thrown in bunches of short and insignificant scenes for apparently no reason, and all of the characters were pretty hard to like. The emotional intensity of the second half of the film definitely leaves an impression on the viewer, though. This isn't the kind of Saturday afternoon matinee film you pop in for 90 minutes of great fun watching crazy kung fu action. Unless you're a real martial arts fan junkie or a fan of Bolo Yeung, you and Bloodfight need never cross one another's paths.

review by
Daniel Jolley

19 February 2011

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