Bloodfight (1989)- * * *
Directed by: Shuki Goto
Starring: Bolo Yeung, Simon Yam, Meg Lam, and Yasuki Kurata
Kai Masahiro (Kurata) is a champion in the art of 'Free Fighting', which, as the name implies, is a fighting tournament where all styles may compete against each other. It could be Sumo versus Judo or Karate, or whatever. The top of the Free Fighting heap is an evil baddie named Chang Lee (Bolo). He has a snake tattooed on his face, so he's nicknamed "The Vietnamese Snake". Because it's getting later on in his life and fighting career, Kai decides to retire.
But he also starts training young Ryu Tenmei (Yam) in his off hours. Ryu, his girlfriend, and the local population are constantly being menaced by the local punks, so that's why Ryu decides to learn from the best. After he enters the Free Fighting championship and tragedy strikes, Kai must come out of retirement to face the ultimate enemy - Chang Lee. Who will reign victorious in the ultimate BLOODFIGHT?
The first half of Bloodfight is a lot of upbeat, wacky fun. The characters in the Free Fighting world are a lot like E. Honda or Dhalsim, there are punks with great outfits and hair that are roaming the neighborhood stealing fruit, and the whole outing is a non-stop welter of thickly-accented broken English. (Thankfully, the MVD DVDs and Blu-rays have subtitles, which you will definitely need). One of the characters has quite the pair of jeans. The ending is a punch-and-kick fest that will definitely satisfy fans of Punchfighting. In between all that are some oddly dramatic moments. It's all a pleasant and entertaining mishmash that's easy to like.
Of course, even the font on the cover of the box for Bloodfight will remind you of Bloodsport (1988). It came out the previous year and has, let's just say, some similarities with Bloodfight. In Bloodsport, Bolo Yeung plays Chong Li. In Bloodfight he plays Chang Lee. Is there a difference? We may never know. Subtlety and nuance are clearly what Bloodfight is all about.
When you're not enjoying the lovably unintelligible dialogue, the score by Micky Oguchi will pick you up. Of course, the music is utilized during the many training sequences that happen before the final fight (incidentally, Final Fight is one of the film's alternate titles). One of the trainers/friends looks like an Asian James Lipton. You think at any moment he will pick up a blue index card and ask him about the art and craft of acting. The bulk of the acting in Bloodfight is pretty tremendous, so one day maybe we will know the secret behind it all.
Surely, in the golden year of 1989, people in video stores across the world rented Bloodfight because they mistakenly thought it was Bloodsport. That's where a lot of the joy comes in. Also, it should be noted that Lady Bloodfight (2016) is not a long-delayed sequel.
So, for the whackadoo first half alone, Bloodfight is worth seeing. Now that it's readily available on disc with Ironheart (1992) on a double feature DVD or Blu-ray, more people should get to see the un-repeatable vintage charm of Bloodfight.
Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty