Bloodsport 4: The Dark Kumite (1998)

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After two installments as Alex Cardo, Daniel Bernhardt plays a brand new character in this final installment of the martial arts action franchise.

John Keller is an undercover cop who has been competing in underground fight rings as part of his operation. He has been tracking down nemesis Max Schrek and when he finally catches up to him, John finds himself at a crossroads when a fellow cop is held hostage but ultimately killed by Schrek. When Max is taken in, Keller nearly crosses the line. However, redemption is coming to him when his captain offers him a new assignment.

Prisoners from Fuego Penal Correctional Facility have been mysteriously disappearing. Keller is to go undercover as a criminal with the intent to find out what is going on. Keller soon learns the warden has been setting up fights within the prison for something even more astounding. A mysterious man named Caesar is holding the tournament known as the Kumite and the prisoners’ disappearances are connected. To complicate matters, Schrek is at Fuego Penal as well. When both Keller and Schrek are chosen for Caesar’s Kumite, all hell is going to break loose.

When Daniel Bernhardt took over for Jean-Claude Van Damme with Bloodsport 2 as Alex Cardo, that and the following film, Bloodsport 3, offered a fresh take by the use of flashbacks meshed in with the martial arts action and brings a fresh take into the story. However, what happens after just takes away the story with this final installment. While the fights are pretty good, they are perhaps the only good thing about the film and it’s not the actors’ faults. It’s the story.

The film can be best described as Bloodsport meshed with Death Warrant. Bernhardt, sporting a bit longer hair, now is a new character in John Keller, who goes undercover to investigate the disappearances of prisoners. Sounds like Death Warrant but the big difference involves the very reason why this is Bloodsport. It involves a Kumite and when Keller finds himself worthy of the mysterious Caesar, played by Ivan Ivanov, therein lies another issue, but more on that in a bit. Bernhardt does his best and as mentioned, the issue lies in the screenplay. It is as if they wanted to make Bernhardt’s Keller as Jean-Claude Van Damme’s Louis Burke with Stefanos Miltsakakis’ Max Schrek as The Sandman, only Miltsakakis brings more as he is a martial artist himself.

The action choreography this time is done by the late Jeff Moldovan, who also plays Keller’s superior Captain Anderson. Moldovan lets Bernhardt loose with his impeccable kicking skills and for the most part the action is exciting to watch. The only issue lies within the Kumite fights themselves. And it’s not the choreography that’s a problem. It is actually the involvement of the space used as the Kumite stage. While the previous three films had more than enough space for the fighters to move around and showcase their skills, the Kumite stage here is a bit more constricted. Granted, this does allow some more grounded and close quarters moves which can be an asset, for someone like Bernhardt, whose repertoire involves more kicking with his height, they could have added a bit more spacing.

Bloodsport: The Dark Kumite is not a complete waste of time, but its meshing of what made the franchise what it is and the likes of Death Warrant takes this one down a few notches when compared to the previous installments. However, the fights are worth checking out.

WFG RATING: C+

A FM Entertainment production. Director: Elvis Restaino. Producer: Alan Mehrez. Writer: George Saunders. Cinematography: George Mooradian. Editing: Frank Sacco.

Cast: Daniel Bernhardt, Stefanos Miltsakakis, Michael Krawic, Lisa Stothard, Derek McGrath, Ivan Ivanov, David Rowe, Elvis Restaino, Jeffrey Moldovan, Dennis LaValle, Christine Marais.

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