Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Film Review: BLOODSPORT III (1996, Alan Mehrez)

Stars: 3.5 of 5.
Running Time: 91 minutes.
Tag-line: "Beyond honor there is a fight for justice and the truth..."
Best One-liner:  "You're ten years old now, Jason––I think it's time you learned the real meaning about martial arts... and about me.  Have you ever heard about a championship called a Kumite?"

Two down-on-their-luck cineastes in a familiar, darkened alleyway:

"All good things must come to an end.  Even good things that come in 3's."
–"Oh, thank God.  Haven't you inflicted enough suffering?  First, it was undead bird attacks in ZOMBI 3, then Ambrose Bierce fan-fic in FROM DUSK TILL DAWN 3, then poor man's Paul Walker in TOKYO DRIFT, waterski carnage in JAWS 3-D, V8 foreplay in NINJA III, and werewolf nuns in HOWLING III.  And, that's not even counting the time you made me watch Stallone play a hippie in SPY KIDS 3-D, or when you forced me to read the entire novelization of HALLOWEEN III: SEASON OF THE WITCH!"
"I won't have you speaking ill of HALLOWEEN III on my watch.  But, regardless, I have brought you a gift.  Don't you think it's a lovely day for a... Kumite?"
–"Oh, no. Not the third BLOODSPORT.  It has a reputation."
"Trust me, a wise man once said, 'nothing with a Kumite in it can be all bad.'  You can print that in the paper."
–"I must be going."
"Aw, come on, remember how much you loved BLOODSPORT 2: THE NEXT KUMITE?"
–"I guess it was pretty good."
"You're goddamned right it was good.  And BLOODSPORT III naturally brings back part 2's Jean-Faux Van Damme: Swiss martial artist Daniel Bernhardt, whom actual Van Damme cherry-picked as his replacement after they met on a photo shoot for Versace jeans."
–"It's not Versace, it's Ver-sayce."
"Oh, hush.  So the film begins with a montage of scenes from BLOODSPORT 2's Kumite, probably to pad the run-time.  Then, Daniel Bernhardt (as Kumite champion Alex Cardo) wakes up from the flashback––which was actually a sweaty Kumite nightmare."

–"'Kumite Nightmare' would be a good name for a band."
"We then sweep into a frame story.  Remember, how BLOODSPORT 2 had that wraparound with James Hong telling the tale of Alex Cardo to his kiddie dojo?  Well, this continues that tradition, only now it's even more PRINCESS BRIDE, with Bernhardt telling the story of the movie to his ten-year old son.  According to the IMDb trivia section, the age of Bernhardt's son would place this frame story in 2007."
–"I don't care."
"Hey, remember when JCVD dressed up as a street clown to save a bunch of Dickensian urchins in THE QUEST?  Like his illustrious forbear, Jean-Faux Van Bernhardt really cares about the kids, delivering pathos-filled expressions of concern.  (Did I mention that I'm starting to like Jean-Faux Van Bernhardt almost as much as the real JCVD?) And so begins one of the greatest father-son conversations of all time:

"You're ten years old now, Jason––I think it's time you learned the real meaning about martial arts... and about me.  Have you ever heard about a championship called a Kumite?"
It's one of those universal rites of fatherhood; you know, you gotta to tell your kid about the birds n' the bees, about the concept of death, about that time you won two Kumites...  Honestly, though, he should probably be a little more concerned about that George Jetson blow-up doll in the background."
"So we travel back eleven years to Bernhardt looking spiffy in a white tux, like James Bond.

He fights some generic ninja dudes in a casino, and it's like they're lifted from a typical Cannon actioner, or the film-within-a-film at the end of PEE WEE'S BIG ADVENTURE.  Dudes in the background randomly shout things like 'That guy's LETHAL!' and there's a MacGuffin of some kind that's not actually important and here the movie spins its wheels for a bit.  Jean-Faux Van Bernhardt becomes involved with a shady businessman played by John Rhys-Davies..."

 –"Aw, man.  Poor guy."
"Hey, dude's gotta eat.  Jean-Faux Van Bernhardt starts dating Rhys-Davies' daughter (Amber Van Lent), who curdles our collective blood during an excruciatingly atonal song 'sesh where she tries to do her best Julee Cruise-in-TWIN PEAKS impersonation,

Note blue dress and red velvet curtain.

but why they thought letting her sing on camera was a good idea is anybody's guess.  It's genuinely and splendidly terrible."
–"You're not really doing a good job of selling me on this movie, are you?"
"Oh, just you wait.  There's a nice bit when Bernhardt and Rhys-Davies admire a truly terrible painting
There's no 'subtitle' for BLOODSPORT III.  Might I submit, for your consideration, BLOODSPORT III: TUXEDO JUNCTION?

and Rhys-Davies says, 'Have you ever seen a painting this exquisite?'

I can't even tell what it's a painting of––a jar of eyeballs?  Baby heads?  Pickled lemons?  Peaches?"
–"Hot damn!"
"Then Rhys-Davies starts tossing around all this talk about a new Kumite, and therefore lines like "I am sponsoring a new Kumite" and "I see you're going into business with my father––something to do with a... Kumite?" are spoken.  I approve of this.  For reasons that aren't properly telegraphed, they bring back Bernhardt's old master James Hong
Good to see you, Mr. Hong.  I last glimpsed your stern visage in NINJA III: THE DOMINATION.

just to kill him off five minutes later with an exploding telephone planted by evil John Rhys-Davies.  Never mind that this negates the frame story of BLOODSPORT 2 where an elderly Hong reminisced about his life.  Thirsting for revenge, Bernhardt looks up Pat Morita (also briefly reprising his BLOODSPORT 2 role)
Morita: 'Thank God I'm only on set for two hours.'

who sends him to train with a new Kumite master, Master Hee Il Cho.  And so Jean-Faux Van Bernhardt embarks on an epic training montage that seems culled almost exactly from another JCVD film: KICKBOXER.
Workin' on the ol' leg extension...

...for the big payoff: the splits!

Naturally this is replete with HELLRAISER-style torture and balanced with TOP GUN-ish homoerotica:

And finally, like Christopher Cross, he learns how to 'charm that snake.'  Unlike JCVD, who simply punches them, Bernhardt waves his hands around and mesmerizes the little fellow.
–"Wow.  'Indiana Jones' much?"
"Definitely.  In fact, this whole movie feels a little 'Indiana Jones' to me, between John Rhys-Davies, the Sri Lankan locales (as in TEMPLE OF DOOM), the elephant rides, the white tuxedos, the snake stuff, et cetera."
"No.  I would not say that.  So finally we get to the main event.  Rhys-Davies has bet his entire fortune on the big bad fighter named 'Beast,' who kinda looks like a poor man's Mayor Mike Haggar (from FINAL FIGHT).
Mayor Mike Haggar...

...and his low rent counterpart, sans bitchin' one-strapped overall, but with the same forest green pants!

Rhys-Davies has also done his damnedest to keep Bernhardt out of the Kumite, an endeavor at which, naturally, he does not succeed."
–"Lay down some Kumite highlights for me."
"Most of the fighters have splendid names, like 'Camacho Supe,' 'Bruce Burly,' 'Chai' (like the tea, I guess), 'JJ Tucker,' and 'Sparx.'  I could go on.  I will go on.

That fight there involves 'Stellio,' which is pronounced like 'Steel-Leo.'
This one features freakin' 'MAX OMEGA.'  Whoever was naming these background fighters deserves a raise."
–"Those are pretty good.  You're beginning to pique my interest."
"Yeah.  And speaking of Max Omega, he's played by kickboxer Chad Stahelski, who is a returning fighter––he played 'clown makeup guy' in BLOODSPORT 2, who is totally the same character––he just switched favorite bands from KISS to Cinderella:
Max Omega in BLOODSPORT 2...


There's also a fighter who's allowed to use a whip for some reason
and then there's my personal favorite, the aforementioned 'Stellio.'  Played by UFC fighter Erik Paulson, Stellio kinda dresses in an unlikely fusion between 'Burning Man refugee' and 'roadie for Lynyrd Skynyrd.' 
His acting choices are brilliantly inconsistent (though the blame probably lies with the editor)––for instance, after winning a fight against a throwaway character, he stares down Bernhardt, points at him, and screams, 'YOU'RE DEAD!!!'  

The next time we see him, he's sitting next to Bernhardt in the Kumite waiting area and he throws him a head nod, as if to say, 'Nice job, bro.  We should hang out sometime.'

This is demonstrably fantastic.  Also, later he bites Bernhardt's calves."

–"That's cool."
"I really stand by the Kumite scenes in this movie.  The sound effects are ludicrously goopy––each punch and kick sounds like heads are being squished and hearts are being ripped out of bodies.  And the whole thing is scored by what amounts to a hilariously 'action-y,' ersatz version of Hendrix's 'Foxy Lady.'  Also, despite the nonstop kick-blasting action of the Kumite, the filmmakers felt the need to stick with their frame story, so occasionally we cut to Bernhardt & son on a camping trip and the son will say something like 'Wow, were you scared?' and Bernhardt will say 'No,' and then we cut back to the Kumite."
–"I appreciate that."
"Oh, yeah–––and during one of the frame story cutaways, we learn that Bernhardt's mastery of the 'Iron Hand' technique allows him to light fires with the force of his mind. 
This magical ability is conspicuously not used at the Kumite.  If he could, why didn't he go all 'CARRIE' on their asses?"
–"Oh man, I would totally watch a movie that was like a Kumite of Stephen King characters.  Jack Torrance with his axe, Annie Wilkes with her sledgehammer, Carrie shooting fire..."
"Cujo, the Chattery Teeth, Pennywise, Randall Flagg... Yeah, I could see that working.  I'm going to file the copyright on that right away.  We can call it a 'King-itay.'  
"Annnyway, we get to see a Double-Split Slap-Battle:
If you can't appreciate the exquisite poetry of a Double-Split Slap-Battle, then there's truly nothing I can do for you.  You are lost. Awash.  Forever at sea, unmoored.  You will never know true joy."
–"No, I'm on board for that."
"Good.  So the Kumite ends up going pretty much how you would expect, and Jean-Faux Van Bernhardt gets to do his best JCVD crazyface while drooling blood,
and he's good at it, too.  This is authentic, JCVD-approved crazyface.  Finally, at the end they replay that glorious 'Rhythm of the Kumite' song that closed out BLOODSPORT 2.  And that's all she wrote."
–"I might actually have to watch this."
"I tentatively recommend.  While it commits the unforgivable mistake of not bringing back 'Jackson' (Donald Gibb) as they did in BLOODSPORT 2 (what, was he busy or something?), at the end of the day BLOODSPORT III possesses a fair number of remarkable and spit-take-inducing moments, and some of the best-ever character names of third-string Kumite competitors. I give it three and a half stars."
–"That seems like a lot."
"It's really not. And I eagerly await viewing the next installment (BLOODSPORT 4: THE DARK KUMITE), which has a batshit reputation, seems to steal liberally from DEATH WARRANT, and indeed looks completely bananas."

–Sean Gill


Mike Bradley said...

Oh yeah! Now that's the way to close out the "3's" series! In fact, this review might be the ultimate culmination of all the greatness of this whole site! What with all the names among names that put in appearances, the sheer sequel-y Cannon-iness of it all, and in particular, the random role from a respected actor bizarrely out of place. Of course, I haven't seen it yet, which is an error that I must now correct -- I can't keep up, you're doing yeoman's work on mining these gems! Thanks as always!

Sean Gill said...

Awesome––thank you for the compliments, which may contain the most enthusiasm to ever result from a discussion of BLOODSPORT III! I think I'm gonna watch #4 in the next week (for 'Merica!).

AnonyMike said...

Well I thoroughly enjoyed the review but I'm afraid I can wait no more.

As the long-aforementioned former webmaster of a Daniel Bernhardt "fan" site (the line between appreciation and irony can blur horribly sometimes), I urge you, please, please, for all that you'll never be able to comprehend, please see Bloodsport 4. It's is the most Lego-chewingly insane kaleidoscope of wood-drinking insanity you're ever likely to witness this side of mercury addiction.

To this day I'm still wandering around naked, staring up at the sky in a Kumite-induced haze, trying to comprehend what exactly it was that I witnessed that night. It's partly magnificent, partly insane and both completely and utterly... a thing that definitely exists. Somehow. But it does.

And it asks you to see it. Spread its message.

You are receiving this broadcast in order to alter the events you are seeing. Our technology has not developed a transmitter strong enough to reach your conscious state of awareness, but this is not a dream. You are seeing what is actually occurring for the purpose of causality violation.

Sean Gill said...


Good to see you again––I'm definitely pumped for #4; I wonder if I'll retain my sanity, given that I already live my life in a Kumite-induced haze.

AnonyMike said...

In retrospect I fear using the word 'magnificent' was perhaps the less than accurate term with which to describe this monstrosity of a film.

It is indeed 'magnificent' in so far as its psychedelic Eastern European lunacy is a marvel to behold; that it was made; that it was theoretically someone's artistic vision that they were proud to attach their name to.

Perhaps best desribed as an episode of New York Undercover channeled through Schindler's List via Caligula in a spiritual sequel to WMAC Masters as directed by Uwe Bol.

And yet no where near as entertaining as something with that description should be... but every bit as ridiculous.

AnonyMike said...

Of course you can also liberally splash the plot of Death Warrant into that cataclysmic comparative collection there, and naturally the Jean Claude Van Damme shadow is never far from a Daniel Bernhardt picture regardless, however that narrative framework may imply more coherence than this movie will ever provide.

Lest I not forget to mention that this not only stars but is also both written and directed by avant-garde Eastern Bloc-influenced designer Elvis Restaino (http://www.elvisr.com) - which makes one seriously wonder whether Bulgaria was a budgetary restraint or an artistic choice - in what can only be described as something of a reckless ego project. Or a temazepam project. Or most likely, both.

Sean Gill said...


Well, I watched it... and must say I've been in something of a waking "Coma-te" since. I need a few days to collect myself and properly write about BLOODSPORT 4's plane of existence.

AnonyMike said...

Your stunned response it everything I expected it to be. My prayers are with you. I look forward to your shellshocked review.

If you get a chance to rewatch the beginning, look out for a very strange sexual predator stood cheering next to our lead female cop during the opening crowd scene. In one cut he's suddenly given up acting, turned to her, looking at her straight in the face with a rapist's stare whilst he grabs her hand... its cuts again and it's as if nothing ever happened.

A still can be observed here:

Local rapist on set? Deleted subplot? Just another insane artistic decision?

I doubt we'll ever know.