Bloodsport 2 (1996)- * * *
Directed by: Alan Mehrez
Starring: Daniel Bernhardt, Pat Morita, James Hong, Nicolas Hill, Ron Hall, Ong Soo Han, Chad Stahelski, and Donald Gibb
Alex Cardo (Bernhardt) is what Michael Jackson might have called a "smooth criminal". He's suave with the ladies, but he travels to Thailand so he can steal an ancient and valuable sword. He gets caught and thrown in the pokey, where he makes a lot of enemies, including Demon (Ong), but he makes at least one friend: Master Sun (Hong).
Sun tells Cardo about The Kumite, and trains him mercilessly so he can enter into it. This includes teaching him The Iron Hand, a secret Martial Arts technique that is quite powerful. After all this sword business is behind him, having dealt with antiquities enthusiast David Leung (Morita), Cardo concentrates fully on The Kumite. Thanks to the charismatic Tiny (Gibb), Cardo gets in.
While there, he meets other competitors such as Sergio (Hill) and Cliff (Hall), but the toughest contender is, darn the luck, Demon. That's right, his old nemesis from Thai prison. The stage is set for the ultimate battle. Well, maybe not the ultimate battle, because both Bloodsport movies and Punchfighters continue until the present day, but you know what we mean. Who will be victorious in this, THE NEXT KUMITE?
Here we have the first appearance out of two for the Alex Cardo character in the Bloodsport series. Daniel Bernhardt was the natural choice to replace Van Damme if the series was going to continue without JCVD. They share an uncanny physical similarity and European background. Bernhardt seems very much up for the challenge as he trains his heart out and gets involved in near-constant Martial Arts fights.
Thankfully, Donald Gibb is back as Tiny from the first film, and he always adds a lot. Gibb has "It" - a magnetic screen presence that makes him watchable. This is also one of the best roles we've seen to date for James Hong. Out of his massive filmography, which is 439 credits and counting, he usually doesn't get a role this meaty, where he starts the film by narrating the tale of Alex Cardo to a Karate school filled with tots, and appearing throughout as Cardo's trusty trainer. It's a better showcase for his talents than his usual bit roles, so that was nice to see.
Sun and Cardo - and everyone else in the Thai prison - must wear pink outfits because that's the jailhouse garb. Is it possible that former Maricopa County, Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio watched Bloodsport 2? Because that's what he made is inmates wear, much to the chagrin of rapper and sometime action star DMX.
Luckily for us, Bloodsport 2 delivers all the Bloodsport 2iness that we could possibly want. While it came out in 1996, it feels more like 1990. Director Mehrez shot this entry in the series and Bloodsport III both in '96. Still, it was a cable and video store staple and easily accessible to anyone who wanted to see it.
It's well-shot and you can always see what's going on. This separates it from many Punchfighters of today, which skimp on the lighting and you can't discern who is who. Back in the 90's, not only was everything much clearer visually, but the fighters had well-defined personalities. We always use the example of the Shootfighter films, but it's equally true here. We as the audience definitely know who is going up against who in The Kumite. Of course, that's a good thing.
Unfortunately, an almost-insurmountable obstacle for any tournament fighting movie is that, at the very least, the final third of the film becomes quite repetitive. You have to show many shirtless men punching and kicking each other - over and over - so, that's what you do. But, to be fair, not all the men are shirtless. Some are in wrestling singlets.
But, presumably the reason why you sought out Bloodsport 2 is for the punching and kicking, and that's certainly what you get. Adding to the win column, there are several non-tournament action scenes that also really liven things up. So, because it's well-lit, well-shot, and features a strong cast of many favorite faces (and clocks in at a reasonable 86 minutes), Bloodsport 2 is a more than worthy follow-up to the classic original.
Released in America on VHS on the CFP video label, Bloodsport 2 is a video store classic and would make a good addition to any 90's action or Punchfighting collection.
Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty
Also check out a write-up from our buddy, DTVC!