Ladies and gentlemen, the SUPREME WINNER of The Super-Kumite

sk-finals

Who you got? (read the rest of this shit…)

The Super-Kumite Finals: The Kumite (2003)

tn_Super-Kumitetn_kumiteTHE KUMITE is the stupid American title for the 2003 Hong Kong film also known as STAR RUNNER. Thankfully there is a tournament in it, but if you’re wondering, it’s called “Star Runner,” not “The Kumite.” The word “kumite” is never used in the movie, unless you count the BLOODSPORT trailer they included on the DVD. Also, the guy in the cover is not the hero, that’s the guy he has to beat at the tournament. And the tagline “To die is an honor” has nothing to do with the movie at all. Nobody dies.
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The Super-Kumite finals: Bare Knuckles

tn_bareknucklestn_Super-Kumite“I’m not interested in champions of the ring. I’m interested in champions of the heart.”

When I found BARE KNUCKLES I wasn’t sure it would even be watchable. It’s recent (2010), I’d never heard of it, it’s not from an established action star or director, and the box mentions serious matters: “Women will go to extreme lengths for those they love, and single mother Samantha Rogers is no exception, being the sole provider for her daughter Mila, a child in need of special care.” That kinda sounds like a recipe for an indie drama about a fighter that’s not really about fights. Then I put it in and the menu and opening credits both of terrible fonts and music, and they put the obviously bogus claim “inspired by a true story” right after the title. This just looks like amateur hour from the get go.

What I’m saying is BARE KNUCKLES was an underdog. A Cinderella story. Cinderella Man, but with a lady… and it makes us all proud. It’s a little ragged and cheesy at times, but it’s a really likable take on alot of the genre tropes, feeling a little different without ever reinventing anything. (read the rest of this shit…)

The Super-Kumite, Round 2, Bout 2 results

tn_Super-KumiteThe final bout of Round 2 is another close match. In fact, I thought I had a decision, then I changed my mind. Both DRAGON FIRE (Red Fist Club) and EXTREME CHALLENGE (The Men From Hong Kong) are kinda crappy, and yet kinda good, and in totally different ways from each other. Please join with me to consider their merits.

 

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The Super-Kumite: Extreme Challenge

tn_extremechallengeEXTREME CHALLENGE (2001) is a movie that didn’t come up in any of my extensive internet searches for fighting tournament movies, but I happened to come across it in the Hong Kong section of the video store. Another victory for human browsing. This is a Hong Kong production, a Golden Harvest presentation even, but it’s in English (non sync). Director Tung Wei was usually more of a stuntman and choreographer. He did action direction for HERO and appeared onscreen in HARD BOILED (which character is “Foxy”?) (read the rest of this shit…)

The Super-Kumite: Dragon Fire

tn_dragonfiretn_Super-KumiteRound 2, Bout 2, Red Fist Club vs. The Men From Hong Kong

When I started The Super-Kumite I was alot greener than I realized, a soft-handed hayseed fresh off the turnip truck, walking through the streets of Manila wearing my Hard Rock Cafe t-shirt, just askin to get my bag stolen. It was naive, but I assumed at least this BLOODFIST series, which always impressed me by having 8 installments on the shelf, was gonna stick with being about fighting tournaments. They have this whole mythology of the Red Fist Club and their Ta-Chang tournament, they have a star who was a real life kickboxing champion, of course they’re gonna keep exploring that, is what I figured. But that’s not how it works in the real world.

BLOODFIST 2 (which I will review separately) continues the story of Jake and his treacherous mentor (or actually the same guy playing basically the same character but with a different name because I think maybe he died at the end of part 1), and it has a great premise where the best fighters of various styles are tricked into coming to Manila, then abducted and forced to fight on an exotic private island. It should be a tournament – his own reworking of the Ta-Chang – but instead it’s just gladiator-style matches. Fun movie, but not eligible for The Super-Kumite. And from what I’ve read it looks like none of the other BLOODFISTs have tournaments until the last one, the Dragon-less BLOODFIST 2050. So that’ll be the round 3 movie if we get that far. In searching for a round 2 substitute I found out that in 1993 director Rick Jacobson (BLOODFIST VI and VIII) directed two different BLOODFIST rehashes (both using basically the same script?). I ordered the one starring Jerry Trimble (FULL CONTACT) but it hasn’t shown up yet, and I was able to rent the other one, DRAGON FIRE. (read the rest of this shit…)

The Super-Kumite, Round 2, Bout 1 Results

tn_Super-KumiteTHE SUPER-KUMITE continues to be a rewarding viewing experience. In this battle between TEAM BOLO and THE WOMEN I was able to see two fairly ridiculous movies, both loosely based on the BLOODFIST template, and by watching them in such proximity I’m really able to properly appreciate them as valid variations on an American-ish artform. So which will it be: the MBA who goes to Hong Kong and enters a tournament after his brother dies of a drug overdose, or the cop who goes to Manila and enters a tournament after her sister is killed for knowing too much about an assassination?

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The Super-Kumite: Angelfist

tn_angelfisttn_Super-KumiteRound 2, Bout 1

Team Bolo vs. The Women

ANGELFIST is kind of a rehash of FIRECRACKER, an earlier Cirio H. Santiago joint I tried to use for the Super-Kumite, but this one has an actual tournament in it, so I didn’t have to disqualify it. It’s also kind of the same plot as BLOODFIST, but with ladies. A competitive martial artist in Manila (Cat Sassoon) gets murdered. Her sister Kat in L.A. (also Cat Sassoon) gets the news, flies in and joins the Kubate International Women’s World Karate Championship tournament in order to get closer to everybody and figure out who did it. The guy who vouches for her, stickfight-spars with her and acts as her cornerman (Roland Dantes) is not as intimately involved in her training as Xian in BLOODFIST, but ends up having the same purpose in the story if you know what I mean, spoiler spoiler. (read the rest of this shit…)

The Wolverine

tn_thewolverineRemember Darren Aranofsky was gonna do this new Wolverine movie? He’d done THE WRESTLER and he was the original director on THE FIGHTER and then he named it THE WOLVERINE, but he had to drop out to deal with The Child Custody. From the roll he was on I bet he would’ve made a hell of a movie, but his replacement James Mangold (COPLAND, 3:10 TO YUMA) came up with something pretty interesting too. For his movie the title is representative of the whole approach: strip away the convoluted series-connecting business indicated in the title of the last one (X-MEN ORIGINS: WOLVERINE) and just focus everything on this character, this Wolverine. The Wolverine.
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The Super-Kumite: Fearless Tiger

tn_fearlesstigertn_Super-KumiteRound 2, Bout 1: Team Bolo vs. The Women

Jalal Merhi (who we previously saw in the similarly animal-titled TALONS OF THE EAGLE) stars as Lyle Camille, a dorky Canadian martial artist who chooses to go into business instead of pursuing life as a true warrior. He’s just graduated with his MBA, he’s engaged to get married to Ashley (model Monika Schnarre) and his dad (Jamie Farr!) got him a job as VP at his credit card company. This moment of achievement and potential could set him up to get the Goose-in-TOP-GUN treatment, the ol’ one-last-job-before-I-retire curse. Instead it’s his brother Lance (Laurent Hazout, whose only other role is “Interzone Boy” in NAKED LUNCH) who bites it, overdosing on a new opium-based “more addictive than crack” drug called “fish food” or “nirvana” (often pronounced “ner-VAN-uh.”) (read the rest of this shit…)