theOneliner's mascot Don 'The Dragon' Wilson vows to avenge his brother's death in this insanely original kickboxing flick.

Released in 1989, certified UK-15. Reviewed on 22 Apr 2003 by Craig Eastman
Bloodfist image

Ah, kickboxing movies. Ever since Bloodsport back in the heady year of '88, many a movie has tried to capture the pugilistic beauty of sweaty men kicking each other in the face with extreme prejudice, but that movie remains to this day very much the low-rent landmark. One man to have benefited greatly (depending on how you look at it) from the surge in interest surrounding kickboxing at this point is theOneliner favourite and mascot, Don 'The Dragon' Wilson. You know Don; he's the star and producer of many a sci-fi and martial arts flick, our most recent review of his work being the seminal Terminator/RoboCop rip-off Cyber Tracker 2. Capitalising on the success of Bloodsport, Wilson appeared in his own kickboxing movie shortly afterwards, Bloodfist (spotting any similarities already?), a film which shall we say 'shares' some of the themes of Van Damme's masterpiece.

So, you want to know about the plot, do ya? Well, one hopes you studied English literature closely at school, for the script is an immensely well crafted thing of beauty. Jake Raye (Wilson) is somewhat aggrieved to learn that his half-brother has been killed following a martial arts tournament in Manila (where else). Jake himself is merely a boxer, having given up fighting after donating his brother a kidney after a motorcycle accident. "Fighting with only one kidney is suicide!" he tells some young kids, and so we expect this to play a dramatic part later in the movie when he really, honestly, totally unexpectedly ups sticks to Manila to avenge his bro's death.

Bloodfist image

Upon arrival he meets a strange old man painting pictures next to a bandstand who just happens to be his brother's coach, Kwong (Joe Mari Avellana). He offers to train Jake to the required standards so he might enter the tournament and exact the necessary retribution, something he achieves by making him 'race' the sun to the top of a very steep mountain repeatedly in a montage of scenes not entirely unlike Rocky IV. He also happens across a fellow American expatriate by the name of Baby Davies (Michael Shaner) in a bar, rescuing him from a tricky situation and forever ingratiating himself into his home. Lo and behold, Davies is also a fighter (is it just me, or is there a lot of this going on in Manila?) and intends to enter the tournament as well, and so the pair train with Kwong in preparation for the Big Fight.

Now obviously, as original as all this enlightening social drama is, it still needs a little extra oomph, and hence a radically new narrative approach is employed by introducing Davies' sister Nancy (Riley Bowman), with whom Jake falls in love. Now the scene is truly set for an emotional drama of epic proportions as Nancy must cope with seeing both her brother and her lover being smacked heavily in the chops, spilling claret all over the place and making heroic 'last minute comeback' manoeuvres.

If you hadn't already guessed by now, Bloodfist is something of a hastily put together shambles. Certainly the print my DVD transfer is taken from looks like a second generation VHS copy, and this is unfortunately indicative of the production value as a whole. It's the kind of film where you absolutely will not have seen any of the actors before (except maybe Michael Shaner, who I'm sure popped up as the suicidal jumper in Lethal Weapon), and where martial arts tournaments frequently end in the death of their contestants, a point which nobody seems to care about much, least of all the authorities.

My favourite scene, and a masterclass in character development. For anyone who doubted how hard Chin Woo was, we cut from an unrelated fight to him in the dressing room where he spies a bug, picks it up and eats it. Sheer madness. Sheer genius.

Shamelessly aping Bloodsport at every available opportunity, Bloodfist looks, sounds and feels like a very bad photocopy of an already questionable movie. It even goes so far as to include a 'drugged' sequence in the final fight, much like Van Damme's blindness-inducing assault in the last bout of that film. Perhaps it's only saving grace is that it spares us any of the pseudo-religious fight preparation that peppers Van Damme's flicks such as burning incense sticks and little Phillipino men dropping coconuts out of trees onto people's hardened stomachs.

Of course no kickboxing flick would be complete without a motley band of evil-doing fighters for our hero to incapacitate and here we have a comical plethora of them, bizarrely training together in the same gym, affording Wilson and the viewer opportunity to witness their 'mad skillz' in a cunningly stage pre-tournament showcase; there's the big Chinese bloke Chin Woo (Chris Aguilar), Jake's brother's killer, and purveyor of the 'snap your opponent in half when he's down' technique - not at all stolen from Bolo Yeung; the tall German bloke, a bit of a Lundgren lookalike, who uses his knees to finish them off in the sinisterly titled 'dance of death'; and not forgetting everyone's favourite Tae-Bo instructor and ex-World Karate Champ Billy Blanks as the stupendously camply titled Black Rose.

I'll leave it to you, dear reader, to ponder the outcome of this movie. Could there be a betrayal in the camp? Could Davies bite the big one, causing relationship troubles between Jake and Nancy? Could Jake kick Woo's arse to kingdom come and ultimately avenge his brother? Oh dear, I've gone and given it all away after all. Still, if you had any intention of watching this you probably won't care anyway; like me you'll only be taking pleasure in seeing people being tremendously beaten up. Yay! One point worth mentioning is that Jake's previous exposition regarding his missing kidney has no relevance at all later in the film, begging the question "why was it mentioned in the first place?". A cunning red herring? I think not.

I've said it once and I'll say it again; Don Wilson is infinitely more endearing than any number of Van Dammes, but as long as he keeps churning out pish like this nobody is going to care. He obviously remains in the Hollywood loop, having recently appeared in a small cameo role for Stealing Harvard, but whether or not anyone's going to give him the chance to do any decent action material remains doubtful. Perhaps he'll agree to come onboard for my own Land Shark project? Don't worry Don, we here at theOneliner will always love you.

Craig Disko has awarded this film 1 out of 5 Sly Disko Winks.

Terence H. Winkless
Cast list:
Don "The Dragon" Wilson (Jake Raye)
Riley Bowman (Nancy)
Michael Shaner (Baby Davies)
Rob Kaman (Raton)
Joe Mari Avellana (Kwong)
Kenneth Peerless (Hal)
Ned Hourani (Michael Raye)
Billy Blanks (Black Rose)
Chris Aguilar (Chin Woo)