Thursday, August 25, 2011

August 13 - Bloodsport 2: The Next Kumite (1996)

The cover of my VHS copy of Bloodsport 2

Bloodsport 2: The Next Kumite (1996)
Director: Alan Mehrez
Format: VHS (Palace)

Can't afford to get Jean Claude Van Damme to come back for a sequel? No problem, just find another martial artist with a wacky European accent who kind of looks like the Muscles from Brussels.

That's just what the producers of this movie did. Bloodsport was a cult favourite (and a personal favourite of mine in my teenage years), but by the time this sequel was released 8 years later, Van Damme was commanding big money and probably unattainable. They found a handy replacement in Daniel Bernhardt, a Swiss martial artist with minimal acting experience (this was his first feature film).

The only connection to the first film is the kumite tournament, and the returning Ray Jackson (Donald Gibb), who is no longer a fighter but is involved as a handler.

Petty thief Alex Cardo (Bernhardt) steals a valuable katana sword and ends up in a Thai prison, where he meets Master Sun (James Hong, BIG TROUBLE IN LITTLE CHINA). Sun teaches a brand of martial arts called Iron Hand to Alex, who gets on the bad side of a ruthless prison guard called Demon (Ong Soo Han).

Released from prison, Alex enters the Kumite tournament with the help of Ray Jackson. Just like in the first movie, the tournament has a mix of fighting styles. To nobody's surprise, it comes down to Alex and Demon for the tournament title.

The acting is good across the board. Hong is always excellent, Gibb is the comic relief and there's a few brief-but-nice scenes involving good ol' Mr Miyagi, Pat Morita. Bernhardt's acting is also better than could be expected, considering this was his debut.

It's also the debut for director Alan Mehrez and writer Jeff Schechter. The plot is nothing special, but these movies are all about the action, and the fighting starts early (the first fight is on screen inside the first five minutes) and doesn't let up until the final credits. If you've seen the first movie you'll know what to expect, but in fact the fighting might actually be better in this sequel. Demon is no Chong Li in terms of size or meanness, but he's a better fighter.

In between the awesome fights there is some cheesiness to enjoy. Some of the training footage is pretty corny, especially the bits involving punching and kicking out candle flames. The romance scenes involving Bernhardt and Lori Lynn Dickerson have about as much chemistry as two rocks, mainly due to Dickerson's appalling acting. It's also quite humorous to hear Mr Miyagi talking with a British accent. And there's a funny scene where a guy walks in with a long, sword-shaped carry-bag, yet Alex asks "where's the sword?". Oh, and check out the Mortal Kombat-ripoff song that plays during the closing credits.

If you enjoyed the first Bloodsport you need to check out this sequel. The other two sequels featuring Bernhardt? I haven't seen them, but I do have the 4th movie on VHS, so will be reviewing that one sometime soon.

Previews on my VHS: The Scarlet Letter, Captives, Johnny Mnemonic, The Basketball Diaries, Mortal Kombat, National Lampoon's Senior Trip,

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