By Ed Sum (The Vintage Tempest)
Lady Bloodfight is finally getting an American release and fans of Bloodsport, its spiritual predecessor, can finally see what the fuss is about. This film is due out in select outlets in North America beginning May 5th and the R rating is earned for the bloodshed found in this movie moreso than the obligatory locker room scowls and hisses. They easily could have been left out without disrupting the film, but this detail is expected when you have men producing the film. While the fights do not hit the same tones as Van Damme’s voraciousness on the mat, the narrative tone is similar to what World Wrestling Entertainment pumps out on a weekly basis. There’s plenty of secondary plots, backstabbing and bets going on.
Fans of martial arts fighting video games will find a bit of familiarity in the screenplay by writers Bey Logan and Judd Bloch. This movie has the feel of DOA: Dead or Alive than Street Fighter — including the obligatory Russian — and although the locales are never exotic, the rooftop battles and fights by the seaside suggests that if only this movie had a bigger budget, the producers would love to go all out and travel part of Polynesia.
In this film, Jane (Amy Johnston) is a tough as nails American girl looking for what happened to her father; he left her when she was young to fight in this bloodsport. He never came home and it’s assumed he died in the ring. Jane goes to Hong Kong in search for answers.
However, in what she stumbles into and how she becomes part of this dark underworld of mixed martial arts freestyle fighting. The actress is as agile, showing her prowess in the art (she’s a stunt performer by profession), and I found myself drawn not to her good looks, but in her ability to make the fights look convincing!
Of course, there’s a rivalry between the masters, Shu (Muriel Hofmann) and Wai (Kathy Wu). This film begins with these two willing to fight until hell freezes over, but apparently, they are too evenly matched. Although I found it strange the judges declared a draw (in Kumite, you keep on going until one goes down), perhaps they did not want to stay on top of the rooftop forever. After all, it gets extremely cold up there when night falls. Not everyone has the patience to see which one of the two will fall, so the organizers declared their fight will continue in the next match — with their next padawans. This backstory is at the heart of this film than Amy’s quest to find her father. As any screenwriter can tell you, the first act often sets the tone for the rest of the product. Eventually, Amy crosses path with Shu, and their training begins. Miyagi-san from Karate Kid has to be proud because the familiar tones remind those training in these arts why discipline is important. Is it about developing one’s spiritual core (i.e. finding focus in life) or domination? More could have been done to explore this theme, but as a film about ladies going Highlander on each other, only one can win and the prize is too good to pass up.
After all, Ling (Jenny Wu) is Amy’s rival and the story shows she necessarily a bad girl. She’s lost her way, and I quickly see who the true antagonist is. There’s a deeper story to appreciate and this film certainly shows it is worthy of the Bloodsport name.
3½ Stars out of 5