MOVIE #1,360 • 🍿🍿🍿🍿🍿🍿🍿🍿🍿 • 02.08.24 This is the intro I wrote before I settled into this one: the kumites in the first three Blood...


Bloodsport 4: The Dark Kumite

MOVIE #1,360 • 🍿🍿🍿🍿🍿🍿🍿🍿🍿 • 02.08.24
This is the intro I wrote before I settled into this one: the kumites in the first three Bloodsports were all shady underground MMA competitions. But were they “dark” enough for you? Well, luckily they made a fourth one two years later that doesn't have James Hong in it (I mean, he wasn't really in Part 3 either) and I watched it for some reason. It's Bloodsport 4: The DARK Kumite. Daniel Bernhardt has a ponytail now and he’s not playing the character from Parts 2 and 3 (Alex Cardo) but a cop named John Keller who does sketchy MMA as a hobby for some reason. Oh, and the villain is named Shrek (spelt Shreck but it’s still hilarious hearing him referred to as “Shrek” countless times). Alex, I mean John, is no fan of these “dark” kumites. Title drop…

It's very funny because the last one looked like it was trapped in the 80s but this one (1999) looks extremely 90s. This is also supposed to be America but they filmed it in Bulgaria and — not sure the last time you’ve been, dear reader — but Bulgaria does NOT look like America. A fun nugget:
“The prison sequences were shot at a real prison in Bulgaria and actual prisoners were extras in the scenes. Although the film was shot in Bulgaria, Bloodsport 4 is set in the United States. This not only makes it the only Bloodsport movie set there, but the only Bloodsport movie to not be set where it was shot.”


The “plot” here involves a fight-to-the-death tournament at an underground prison (“Fuego Peno”) which Agent Keller infiltrates undercover by — get this — murdering two police officers! There’s only one rule, folks. There are no rules…


If the bad actor playing the warden wasn’t kooky enough for you, don’t worry. There’s a shady wacko funding this endeavor who looks exactly like Ben Franklin and is constantly surrounded by a large harem of women and this scene ends with the bozo warden breathing on the camera lens (??)...


Twas at this point in the proceedings, about a half-hour in, that I realized I was watching a special film. This is a bonafide So Bad It’s Good affair from top to bottom. From the bad acting and overdubs, to the glorious disconnect of the Bulgarian prison setting (apparently REAL inmates were used as extras), to the many, MANY head-scratching stylistic choices, for example: this is one way to shoot a no-nudity sex scene…


The fights are still pretty boring but the added chaos of everything else makes it much more interesting and entertaining. The camera is constantly zooming in and out, on almost every shot it's doing something, even subtly. The problem, it turns out, is that Bloodsports 1-3 were just too competent. In a plot twist, they lethal-injection our hero as we get a good look at his cavities…


But he’s not dead. He was just drugged so they could sneak him out of the prison, which is right on the other side of a ski slope from where the dark kumite is being held. His insane jail buddy (director Elvis Restaino as the prisoner, Dr. Rosenbloom) gives his lady cop partner a secret message…


Unaware that John is still alive, she accidentally uncovers the location of the kumite which was written on invisible ink on the napkin she was handed…


Very convenient! Then there is a Renaissance Faire style song and dance to mark the introduction of the fighting competition. What on earth?!...


This is gold. Thank you James Hong. As I would never in a million years watched this without you. They start the dark kumite. To the death! Shrek kills first and smears the blood of his opponent on the mouth of one of the girls watching? Every choice in this movie is beyond ridiculous…


Cut to his partner alone riding on a ski lift…


He's introduced as John “the cop killer” Keller. Lest you forget that he killed two cops to get into prison to go undercover in the first place. The guards are seemingly decked out in 1920s gangster attire while the audience members are all wearing a mix of, I don’t know exactly, 16th century dresses??…


Somehow, the ski lift drops off his partner right by this building that’s clearly in the middle of a city. Keller has to kill a scrawny US Marshal (who was also working undercover in the prison lol) to survive. There's no way he's gonna do it, right? So the boss man who looks like Ben Franklin (the character is named “Justin Caesar”) figures out that he's an undercover agent by his refusal to kill and tells him that, win or lose vs. Shrek, he's a dead man (he also shoots the nerdy Marshal dude).

Keller is losing pretty badly to Shrek but he manages to steal the warden’s pen and stab Shrek in the ear with it. There’s so many dramatic zooms. Elvis Restaino is basically Stanley Kubrick…


Then there's a big shootout when the lady agent shows up and the good guys win easily even though they’re outnumbered BY A LOT. RIP Ben Franklin. It ends perfectly with Keller shooting Ben and the skinny friend still alive before dropping into the stupidest, most late 90s end credits song you've ever heard…


Fuck it: 9/10. I was cackling by myself through much of this, and that’s not nothing. Also: These are the best kind of Z-grade SBIG films because seemingly nobody is talking about them in this way (it has a 2.8/10 rating on IMDB where I only found a single review that even hinted at its potential as unintentionally comedic). It's rare I get to be at the forefront of a reassessment such as this and I cherish it every time.

CHRONOLOGICALLY
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Bloodsport 4: The Dark Kumite is a 1999 direct-to-video martial arts sports action film directed by Elvis Restaino, from a script written by George Saunders, while Alan Mehrez once again serves as producer. It is the direct sequel to Bloodsport III, and the fourth installment overall in the titular film series. Daniel Bernhardt returns to the series, albeit in the new role of John Keller. It was released on February 15, 1999.

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