Most English language martial arts films usually aren’t that good. Wait – I’ll take that back. If you never watched martial arts films from, say, Hong Kong and have only watched English language films you may think they are very good. But when you compare them to their Eastern counterparts they lack. Why? I think I’ll chalk it up to Hong Kong films will take weeks fighting martial arts sequences making sure they are absolutely perfect for the films. The martial arts in the films always feels faster and more real. It’s not just the editing or speeding up the film to look faster. It really looks like these people are beating the shit out of each other. In fact most of my favorite English language martial arts films usually aren’t “martial arts films” by description like The Matrix or Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World. Are all English martial arts film bad? No – there’s some great ones from Bruce Lee’s Enter the Dragon (filmed in Hong Kong, just saying) to Jean Claude’s Bloodsport (um…..also filmed in Hong Kong).
Now Lady Bloodfight? It had me right from the first trailer. A blonde American female fighter enters the Kumite in what is billed as “the female Bloodsport.” Female Bloodsport? An all female remake of perhaps my first or second favorite Jean-Claude Van Damme movie (Bloodsport goes back and forth with JCVD)!?!?!?! And a trailer that just looked amazing? All you had to do was make a decent movie and you’d have me. Guess what?
This film kicks major ass.
Lady Bloodfight is a remake of Bloodsport but I would say its screenplay brings elements of both Bloodsport and Van Damme’s Kickboxer. The title here is pretty apt. It may sound a bit strange but there is a lady who fights and does get her opponents pretty bloody…and herself as well. It seems the original title of the film was Lady Bloodsport to make it more pronounced that it is a remake of Bloodsport. I think that Lady Bloodfight just sounds a bit more badass.
The first thing you notice about star Amy Johnston is that she is stunningly beautiful. Gorgeous. As the movie starts out she is working at some diner and some country hicks are giving her some trouble. She ends up beating the crap out of them. Now out of a job she goes to her car and the men jump her. She then beats the crap out of them AGAIN. You watch the footage and it is her – it is Amy Johnston – and she is the one fighting while moving with a great amount of speed.
Turns out Amy Johnston is no stranger to this line of work. While she might not be a household name she’s done stunt work for huge films like Deadpool and Suicide Squad. It is easy to see why. She is very adept at moving quickly on the big screen. I’m watching her kick these guys’ asses and I’m not thinking, “It’s all movie magic.” I’m thinking it is some movie magic and some awesome fighting ability rolled right into one.
Now the trailer makes you think that Jane (Johnston) arrives in Hong Kong, can’t fight, gets the crap beat out of her, finds a master, learns to fight, and goes to fight in the Kumite. LIES! LIES I TELL YOU! As you already read Jane is a badass who really can already take care of herself. She leaves for Hong Kong in hopes of fighting in the Kumite and winning. Win the Kumite and win prize money! Prize money her poor mother can use. And you can use poor either way like, “Oh poor mommy” and/or “I don’t have any damn money.”
Immediately I thought to myself, “How the hell does she know there’s an underground fight called the Kumite?” The girl is from Texas. It’s not like you just walk around town and see a flyer on a telephone pole saying, “Wanna fight in the Kumite?” Maybe she watched the Van Damme movie and was like, “YEAH! KUMITE!” No worries – this isn’t a plot hole. I just had to be patient and wait to get the actual plot.
Jane’s in Hong Kong for about three seconds when some guy approaches her. She asks where the local hostel is and the very nice guy says he’ll show her. Just step through this dingy alley and follow me. Yup…Jane’s never been out of Texas before, I guess. But she follows this guy to a clearing where a bunch of other guys are hanging out. Then they beat the crap out of her. Well that may not be entirely correct. Jane actually holds her own against like 4 dudes but the main dude, I’ll call him Badass McPunchface, is one hell of a fighter. Jane beats the crap out of the others but Badass McPunchface just wallops her. They probably would have killed her except someone comes along and saves her life. When Jane wakes up she finds herself in Shu’s home – the woman who saved her. Shu (Muriel Hofmann) sees something in Jane and when Jane expresses that she came to Hong Kong to fight in the Kumite, Shu is…sort of happy.
Let me backtrack. In the beginning Shu was fighting in the Kumite against Wai (Kathy Wu). The two just continue to knock the crap out of each other but it seems that the duo are too evenly matched. The council presiding over the fight actually stops the fight and calls in a draw. NOW – I called bullshit on this one. There’s no draws in the Kumite! You beat someone’s ass until the fight is over! Chong Li didn’t bring no one to no draw! Frank Dux never had a draw! He made that dude say matte! What is then decided is that since the two can’t beat each other they will come back in three months with proteges who will fight it out. If your protege wins the Kumite you are then the badass.
There is mad animosity between Shu and Wai. It has something to do with some guy they both know but at first you don’t know what was going on. Love triangle? Stole her man? It is what it is. But Wai is really super pissed and right away she starts looking for the student who will kick all of the asses in the Kumite. Her student actually finds her when a totally banging pierced girl named Ling (Jenny Wu) walks into Wai’s studio and beats the crap out of Wai’s best student. She really doesn’t want to study under Wai but Wai kinda convinces Ling to do it. Some respect, learn some kicks ass kung-fu, and maybe get rich from the Kumite.
And Wai is a bad motherfucker. She knows the Dim Mak. Don’t know what the Dim Mak is? Don’t even finish reading this. Seriously. Just walk away. Click on something else.
Shu takes Jane on as a student and she starts preparing Jane for the Kumite. Yeah it is your basic Mr. Miyagi training sequences but I’ll say that these training sequences are at least a lot of fun to watch. Luckily the training sequences aren’t that long because what does the audience really want? That’s right…KUMITE!
When they finally arrive at the Kumite I was happy to see that the competitors were all women. It really is a breath of fresh air because it is good to see a film where you don’t need some dudes fighting as well. All of the women here are “top competitors” and it feels very pro-woman. I liked that.
NOW – what I didn’t like in a movie that felt very pro-woman is they have a couple of gratuitous locker room scenes. No one is like bouncing around naked or anything, but they do have these women in the locker room in various states of undress with their cute little panties. It felt out of place and even after the movie was done I continued thinking the scenes did not fit in. Why? Because you have a film here that features women being tough. Women being smart. Women being masters of martial arts being able to take anyone down whether they be man or woman. So did we really need to throw in some bra and panties scenes? It really just felt like it took away from the film for me. Like, “Hey! Let’s throw something in for the guys! Butt shots with cute panties!!!”
Jane ends up meeting an Aussie named Stephanie (Jet Tranter) who is really talkative. The two become buddies – sort of. They aren’t out drinking beers or playing Karate Champ or anything – but if anyone is an analogue here for Ray Jackson it’s Stephanie.
There is also this really crazy looking woman who is pretty much an uber badass. She totally reminded me of Chong Li and Tong Po together.
You see the film makes it out to be that you are rooting for Jane because she is our protagonist – a fish out of water fighting against a bunch of Asians in the Kumite. She fights for herself but also for Shu. So, on the flip side, Wai and her student Ling should be the antagonists. They pretty much are. But Svietta (Mayling Ng) is a ruthless bad ass that is also an antagonist. She may be more of an antagonist than our actual antagonists. Ling’s fight scenes are pretty on the spot but as you watch Svietta in action you really think that not only will she beat everyone in the Kumite but she might actually kill every single person she’s fighting to do it.
Once the fighting starts and Jane starts moving “up the ladder” I have to say I was pretty impressed. In terms of acting ability and martial arts put together, Amy Johnston really has it all. She is the whole picture. Watching her onscreen is the most fun I’ve had since watching Cynthia Rothrock flicks back in the late 80s/early 90s. Rothrock was one hell of a martial artist thought her acting wasn’t the greatest. What she lacked in acting ability she made up in charisma. Comparing Johnston to Rothrock may be the best compliment I can ever come up with. But, honestly, I look at Johnston and can’t believe how unbelievable she is.
I had some slight problems with the fight scenes when we got to the Kumite. There seemed to be a lot of cuts as they pieced the flick together. I tend to like when my martial art sequences play out a little bit. I’m not sure if they did this because some of the actors aren’t true martial artists so they needed the quick cuts…or if it was just an editing decision. Whatever it was they should have just made the fighting sequences longer with less cuts. On the flip side they do that thing where they are fighting and then they just slow up the action. I have no clue why they do this. Like the martial artists are moving too quick so they really slllooooowwwww iiiiitttttt doooooowwwwwnnnnn. It is completely unneeded and unnecessary.
I’m not really sure why this was. Maybe they just wanted the audience to REALLY enjoy the martial art sequences? The flick’s action director is legendary stuntman Hung Yan-yan so there’s no slouch here. They hired someone who has acted for years, done stunts for years, and has been an action coordinator for many, many, many films. He’s the real deal – it is like when the Wachowskis brought Yuen Woo-ping here to the States to train the actors for The Matrix and do its choreography. You want the best, you hire the best. But just like The Matrix had that slow down bullet time so did Lady Bloodfight have slow down as well. Maybe it is because the film had a French director (Chris Nahon) and not a Chinese director?
So is the action bad? Not at all. I know I just griped a lot but the martial arts and all of the fights are really well done. For me it comes down to preference but it really doesn’t take away from the film. The slow down might but that’s about it. As you watch these women duke it out I seriously just thought to myself, “There’s no way I’d personally ever want to fight them.”
Especially Svietta. Man she was one bad motherfucker.
If you’ve seen The Karate Kid, Bloodsport, Rocky, or basically any sports movie where you have a student learn, grow, and go off to fight then you know how the movie is going to end. I won’t tell you that this movie totally ends with Jane winning. I will just say that these type of films tend to end the same way. But hey – people went to see Titanic and everyone knew the boat was going to sink. You watch the film for the adventure. And you watch Jane because you want to see her succeed. And guess what? You do learn how she knows about the Kumite and that plot point makes the film a hell of a lot more interesting.
At the end of the day this is a great film that I really enjoyed. There’s several reasons. #1 I will continue to sing the Amy Johnston’s praises. She’s a hell of an actress and one hell of a martial artist. And she’s gorgeous. Looking at her eyes several times during this film I was just blown away. She’s stunning. #2 Most of the women in this film are stunning. Except for Svietta (which is just make-up and hair – because the actual actress is totally stunning) you just watch this movie saying, “Wow they are beautiful.” #3 It is not a film that you usually see. Female martial artists taking on other female martial artists. I find it very empowering. AND #4 if you are going to make a kickass English language martial arts film you can go to Hong Kong, film in Hong Kong, and find the best in Hong Kong to help you make your film. Which is the case with Lady Bloodfight.
If you like martial art films then I would seek out Lady Bloodfight. The film is a knockout and will keep you engrossed right up until the very end.