Bloodfight (1989)

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Capitalizing on the 1987 Hollywood film Bloodsport, villain actor Bolo Yeung recreates his character in this well-made tournament film that showcases the talents of producer/actor Yasuaki Kurata and future Hong Kong superstar Simon Yam.

At the 1989 World Championship of Free Fighting, Masahiko Kai awaits the challenger who he will face in the finals. Kai, a former champion years ago, begins to remember an incident that happened two years ago. Kai, who operates a gym, continues to watch his glory days on tape much to the chagrin of his wife Suzie. Ultimately, Suzie leaves Kai as it is too much for her.

With the 1987 tournament coming up, Kai looks for someone to take under his wing. He finds John, a local thug whose gang terrorizes the local shopkeepers. When John and his gang cross a young Japanese fighter named Ryu Tenmei and his girlfriend Milly, Kai sees the true nature of John and decides not to take him as a student anymore. However, when he tries to take Ryu under his wing, the young fighter refuses.

That is, until one night, Ryu is viciously beaten up by John and his gang. When Ryu wants to train under Kai, it is Kai who refuses because he feels Ryu only wants revenge. Eventually, Kai does take Ryu in perhaps as a way to get his aggression out and forget revenge. Ryu forgoes revenge and trains for the tournament. At the tournament, Ryu uses a special kick to take out all comers until the finals, when he faces Vietnamese champion Chong Lee. Chong Lee pummels Ryu and ultimately kills him.

Ryu’s death prompts Kai to become a drunken recluse. However, when Milly and Suzie convince Kai to make a comeback, Kai seeks help. He finds it in the form of old friend and trainer Jack. For the next few years, Kai trains hard in an effort to enter the 1989 tournament and perhaps, avenge the death of his student.

For many years, Yasuaki Kurata has established himself as one of the most respectable Japanese martial artists to hit the screens of Hong Kong. His prolific on-screen duels with Chan Sing and Bruce Leung and his performance in Lau Kar-Leung’s Heroes of the East solidified his career. With his knowledge of filmmaking and martial arts, Kurata established his own production company in Japan. One of his first films under his company is this very established tournament film.

With the success of Bloodsport, the tournament film that launched Jean-Claude Van Damme, Kurata decided to make this not only an international film, but capitalize on Bloodsport by casting the lead villain from that film, Bolo Yeung in a virtual rehash of his character Chong Li. In fact, his character’s name in this is…Chong Lee.

Kurata truly made this an international film. Casting includes Hong Kong stars Yeung, Meg Lam, and Simon Yam; Filipina-American actress Cristina Lawson; American-born Hong Kong actor John Ladalski and Australian-born Hong Kong actor Stuart Smith. What is even more outstanding is that the entire cast speaks English in the film. We are not talking about dubbed English like the old kung fu films of yore. Rather, they speak English themselves and done well.

The film is truly a well-made combination of tournament film and revenge film. Kurata’s performance is truly the key to success here. Kurata even took charge of the fight scenes here, showcasing some tremendous talent. One of the shockingly impressive fighters in the tournament is a 7-foot tall Indian fighter who takes on the likes of a monkey kung fu expert and then Yeung in the semi-finals. A sumo wrestler also makes a bit of an impact in the film in what can be described as one of two comic scenes. In one scene, the sumo stomps the floor shaking the lights and scaffolding and when Yeung attempts to do the same, nothing happens.

Bloodfight is a delightful film that melds slick Japanese photography with Hong Kong style action and visuals. The cast is pretty well and this could be hailed as an international martial arts film.

WFG RATING: B+

A Kurata Promotion Limited production. Director: Shuji Goto. Producers: Yasuaki Kurata and Hiroaki Tokano. Writer: Yoshiaki Kashigawa. Cinematography: Nobuaki Murano. Editing: Nobutake Kamiya.

Cast: Yasuaki Kurata, Simon Yam, Meg Lam, Cristina Lawson, John Ladalski, Shinya Ono, Bolo Yeung, Stuart Smith, Ken Boyle, Takaaki Nakamura, Richard Foo, Sindy Lim, Masanari Nasu, Tadashi Sato, Masaru Yamashita, Kazuya Shimizu, Strong Kongo, Raja Lion, Tatsuro Koike.

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