The Direct to Video Connoisseur

I'm a huge fan of action, horror, sci-fi, and comedy, especially of the Direct to Video variety. In this blog I review some of my favorites and not so favorites, and encourage people to comment and add to the discussion. If you click on an image, it will take you to that post's image page, which includes many more pics from the film and other goodies I couldn't fit in the actual review. For announcements and updates, don't forget to Follow us on Twitter and Like our Facebook page. If you're the director, producer, distributor, etc. of a low-budget feature length film and you'd like to send me a copy to review, you can contact me at dtvconnoisseur[at]yahoo.com. I'd love to check out what you got.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Shootfighter: Fight to the Death (1992)

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There was a post a while back where someone hit me with a comment saying something to the effect of "dude, you gotta get Shootfighter up here. Bolo Yeung, William Zabka, it's all good." I can't remember when, or what post, or even the actual comment, I just know it was a long time ago. Anyway, I finally tracked it down after a long time of searching, so here it is.

Shootfighter has Bolo Yeung as a former underground shootfighting great, who retires as a champ after seeing his buddy's throat ripped out in another fight by Martin Kove. In LA, he trains William Zabka in the world of legitimate fighting, while Zabka runs a dojo teaching kids martial arts to make ends meet. He gets into some trouble with a loan shark, and at the same time, his best friend and girlfriend's brother comes back into town. The best friend is more of a streetfighter, and he reminds Zabka that Zabka only knows how to fight for sport. These money issues and pride issues come to a head when Kove's men come calling, roping Zabka into fighting in their dangerous shootfighting circuit in Tijuana. Can Bolo Yeung get down there in time to save the day?

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Hell, if he can swim to Hong Kong to escape communist China, he can get down to TJ, and when he does, it's pure awesome. Everything here is pure awesome. It is a little brutal, in a zombie movie kind of sense, with people having hearts ripped out, throats ripped out, and the skin on forearms bitten off. But it's done in that B-zombie movie kind of way that's more funny than sick-- it's just important to note that it's also R rated. Beyond that, the film really sets itself up as the film The Karate Kid should have been, i.e. totally awesome. Sure, Pat Morita is great, but he's no Bolo Yeung. Kove is still stellar as the head baddie, but then they cut out the Macchio role, allowing us to root for Zabka, which just works out so much better. Then you have all the great martial arts, the blood and gore, and a cameo from John Barrett. This is one of the best of the decade, and that's saying a lot considering it's a 90s movie.

And a huge part of that is Bolo Yeung. Whether he's putting mustard on French fries in Tiger Claws II, dressing like a woman in Breathing Fire, or throwing a crushed Alka Seltzer tablet in Jean-Claude Van Damme's face in Bloodsport, he's always great to watch. It's funny, because of his size and fierce scowl, he's usually cast as the baddie, when he actually makes a great good guy, as evidenced by his role here in Shootfighter.

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Anyone who grew up in the 80s has to love William Zabka, right? On some levels, though he is on the side of the good guys here, he does channel that heel element that marked the early part of his career. This will be his third tag, the first two being Gale Force and Interceptor Force, but it won't be his last, because he does have some other DTV films to his credit, including the sequel to Shootfighter. As an aside, he has a cameo in Hot Tub Time Machine, a surprisingly great movie.

John Barrett is in this with a short cameo. I've never gotten why they don't use him in films like this for more than the cameo. I think he's great, a great actor, a great fighter. His one scene is kind of brutal, and it doesn't end well, but I loved the pants he had on. This was one of those early 90s "did he have to wear those pants?" kind of films, but Barrett's worked. I might be out on a limb on that one though.

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I had two places I wanted to go with this paragraph. First, I wanted to lament the fact that I'd been to San Diego before, and didn't make it down to Tijuana, and this film reminded me of that regret. The other was a personal story based on Zabka's character's name, Ruben. I knew a kid named Ruben back in college. He was an interesting cat, he could tightrope walk, hitchhiked home from school-- which was over an hour away-- all sorts of crazy shit. Anyway, he told us this story about how he met this girl at a party, went back to her place, and hoped to hook up, but she wasn't ready to move that fast, so he slept on her couch. He's kind of disappointed, but thinking he has an in with this chick, only to be woken up by her gay male roommate trying to do him! He freaked and split from there in only his boxers. About three days after he tells us the story, a girl remarks to his roommate that she saw flowers in his room, and asked who his secret admirer was. "How do you know they weren't Ruben's?" he says, to which she replies "I don't think Ruben would get anything like that..." and one of my buddies jumps in and says "Oh, you'd be surprised what Ruben gets!" I told that story to some friends when I got home for the summer, and that became our catch all phrase, "you'd be surprised what Ruben gets!"

This can be tough to get at, but it's so worth it. In my mind, one of the best of the 1990s, and it's to bad it's taken me this long to get at it, but here we are now, better late than never. Also, have you noticed I write less on the ones that are really awesome than I do on the ones that I didn't like? Maybe I need to fix that in future posts.

For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0105395/

15 comments:

  1. This looks fantastic. I have the sequel which is out here in the two dollar bins but not the original. The sequel also has Bolo in it so I'm sure it will be great.

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  2. I really don't think you can go wrong with Martin Kove in Steele Justice. He actually uses a frying pan to close a poison dart wound after he cuts and sucks out the poison. Steele Justice is really something special, a true camp classic with tons of dumb action and ridiculous moments.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=94LpccojXuE

    Project Shadowchaser is laughable though and Firehawk with Captain America Matt Salinger was actually just bizarre.

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  3. I thought I was the only one who found 'Hot Tub Time Machine' actually really good! I'd have never admitted it until now, though. As for 'Shootfighter'- I've always considered this and the sequel as classics; I mean, like Bolo making police officers hot dogs and putting on the hat and apron classic.

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  4. Loved Shootfighter and its sequel. It was one of our first punch (shoot)-fighting movies we've seen. Bolo and Zabka were at their best.

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  5. Yeah, this really is a great one, and I was hesitant to review it on a Saturday post, for fear it might fall under the radar. It worked out all right though.

    I can't wait to do the sequel too. I just have to track it down. Steele Justice sounds like a good time. What about To Be the Best? It's looking like a Martin Kove HOF induction is overdue, huh?

    For me the thing with Hot Tub Time Machine, was the ads did it a disservice by making it look too much like a Hangover rip-off, when it actually wasn't. Even the jokes that in the commercials looked lame, worked in the context of the film itself. No shame in admitting that it was good, it's just one of those ones people have to see to believe you.

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  6. To Be The Best is a fun early PM Punchfighting flick. Worth watching and very ridiculous at times. In a good way. Need to find a copy!

    Also thought Hot Tub Time Machine was really funny.

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  7. Damn, I might have to move Shootfighter up in the order on my roadmap. The fact it has so much gore makes it all the more enticing.

    I'm seeing that To Be the Best also has Steven Vincent Leigh and one half of the brothers Yuan, so you know the heads are gonna roll. That, and it's directed by Joseph Merhi so I'd imagine it's completely inept as well.

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  8. If this helps, To Be the Best is available at Netflix. That might be where I end up copping it eventually.

    Joseph Merhi is a guy who tends to get lost in the shuffle here at the DTVC, which is something I always try to rectify. Add that to my desire to get more Kove up here as well, and To Be the Best is one I might need to consider sooner rather than later.

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  9. I rewatched it and I gotta say not to be contrarian but this and the sequel didn't do it for me. Zabka was okay, Yeung wasn't given enough screen time (Nor was Barrett) Kove and Albert weren't given enough matertial to work with. My main problem was the that the action sequences were edited so lamely and the choreography was so slow and filmed in such a routine way. The film of course was heavily cliched and such with Maryam D'Abo (completely out of place) but it was mainly that I was bored with it. I hate to be to the contrary but that's how I saw it. I did like the Kano inspired moment but I could've used more ridiculousness. This was very low budget and really not very funny to watch. It was competently made enough that you can't watch it but just so unexciting. It reminded me of Fearless Tiger with Jalal Merhi and Bolo Yeung as the good guy. (Jamie Farr was the dad in that) I wasn't impressed.

    The biggest minus though is Michael Bernado and his love interest, that is serious bad acting on that end. I don't know I can see this maybe being hilarious amongst a crowd but it was difficult to sit through it.

    Part of it is that i've seen so many movies like this done better. Although the numerous mullet guys (in particular the loan shark) were hilarious. In fact I started counting mullets afterawhile.

    I've never actually seen To Be The Best. I've heard of it though. I don't know, Kove rarely got that starring role where he could just kick ass like in Steele Justice.

    He's kinda like Carl Weathers on that front.

    Meanwhile with Shootfighter, a review should follow relatively soon but I gotta say guys, this is going in our disagreement pile.

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  10. I totally agree about Michael Bernado, because he came off as a poor man's Mark-Paul Gosselaar; and I agree about his love interest, but I kind of liked her. She was hot in the Mediterranean kind of way-- but again, that's just me, and I can see what you mean there.

    As far as not enough Bolo Yeung though, I'm curious how much you need. There was more here than in Bloodsport. I will agree with you on movies like this done better-- King of the Kickboxers comes to mind-- but I guess I didn't hold that against it, because it didn't commit any egregious errors that would turn me off too much.

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  11. Bolo Yeung didn't even speak many lines. It was mainly about Bernardo and Zabka, as all the drama circled around them. Bolo did have a great moment of when he amused the kids in the karate class and it was pretty cool to see him duke it out at the end with Kove as a good guy, but let's face it, Bolo was sort of like the police captain or the mentor role. I expected the first time I saw it to see him do more than just the final fight with Kove and the beginning, when Kove kills Yeung's best friend. I would've been fine with Zabka (he's actually not a bad actor) but Bernardo was just rough. I mean not fun to laugh at, just a charisma-less mess of muscle and part of it is he totally came off as a dumb jock. What the movie really needed was inventiveness, make Martin Kove more of a heavyweight.

    Shootfighter is not on par of course with Hong Kong product, or King Of The Kickboxers, Kickboxer 1,2 and 4, Bloodsport and so on...I knew that going in. The big surprise at least to me was that it wasn't even on par with Final Impact with Lorenzo Lamas, or Fist Of Honor with Sam J. Jones. Indeed I read your review wondering if maybe I had been wrong and you didn't talk a lot about the camp element so maybe it just caught me on a bad day, but no it was so lifeless.

    I should point out, I did like the Kano fatality, I laughed when I saw the guy with a snake. I also laughed at the mulleted cardshark.

    I think what the film really needed was a truly balls to the wall villain like Tong Po, Billy Blanks from King Of The Kickboxer or Professor Toru Tanaka from The Perfect Weapon. Martin Kove was a decent villain but he isn't the right type of villain, he's more the guy behind the big bad-ass. I mean Zabka ends up going up against Bernado. I think that was an element detrimental to Shootfighter's success.

    I actually haven't seen 2 for awhile. I saw the first one on you tube. I do remember this one having a police investigation, with Zabka, Yeung and Bernardo going undercover to squash such circuit.

    As for the mediterrian chick, being middle eastern myself (as well as Asian, and white on my mom's side. Don't ask how my dad is a quarter Taiwanese) I gotta say I wasn't really attracted to her. I did like the blonde D`Abo though.

    Speaking of which, I think Bolo Yeung is ripe for introduction to the hall of fame.

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  12. I agree about the Bolo Yeung, probably next year with Martin Kove.

    I think I'm going to split the difference with you on this one Kenner, in that while I'm adamant about my Capital Punishment review, I'm coming over to your side on this one. I was good with the amount of Bolo Yeung, and with Kove as the baddie, and pretty much everything else, but being good with it isn't enough to say I don't agree with what you're saying are it's shortcomings, nor that it shouldn't be called to the carpet for that. I had trouble with Bernado as much as you did, and I can't make a case that his love interest was great just because I have my own personal set of attributes I find attractive in a woman.

    I had a a lot of fun with this, but some of your concerns, especially that some other films did this paradigm better, are valid points. What I would say is, there wasn't a lot of fluff here, and I did like the fights, and I love William Zabka. Maybe those elements in combination with the zombie film gore, glossed over the things that you couldn't forgive.

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  13. I just recently reviewd it, and i saw the complete unrated version. The american was was R-rated , if im not mistaken, the laserdisc is unrated, but costs you around 50 bucks these days.. you can look at movie-censorship.com, in all detail.
    Im a bit sad, that the unrated is so hard to come by, in english language, as i wanted to provide robotGeek with a copy. Back then, i was excited about this brutal martial arts movie..these days i think its unnecessary, really, to add that much violence. And if you take a way the bloody bits, its not a very memorable movie.

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  14. The one I watched was a burned DVD copy from a friend's, if I'm not mistaken, and though I'm not sure which version he had, I know it was pretty gory, what with bones coming out of people's skin and whatnot. I don't know though, if that was only rated R, I can only imagine how great the unrated version is.

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