Bloodsport II: The Next Kumite (1996)

Posted in Reviews by - February 13, 2022
Bloodsport II: The Next Kumite (1996)

Eight years after the first Bloodsport comes this indirect sequel. One of the alleged reasons for the delay was Van Damme claiming that he would like to return to the scene of his breakout film role and star in the follow-up himself. But, for whatever reason, Bloodsport 2 winds up becoming the screen debut for Swiss stud Daniel Bernhardt, a martial artist and model with more than a passing resemblance to the ‘Muscles from Brussels’. Despite the clear physical and dramatic comparison, Bernhardt plays a wholly new character, a French art thief called Alex, who winds up in a Thai jail when he’s caught stealing an ancient sword – the prize given to the winners of the deadly ‘Kumite’ martial arts tournament. While in the slammer, he learns the kooky ‘iron hand’ technique from James Hong, playing some kind of kung fu zen master, who also sets him on the straight and narrow in terms of his wellbeing and life choices. Despite being in jail, his new sensei convinces him to fight in the Kumite – which is now obviously located in Thailand, instead of Hong Kong – and through some mad contrivance, he winds up being bought out of jail by a local art dealer (Pat Morita) to take part in the tournament and return the sword.

Bernhardt really looks great with chiselled abs and sharp jawline, kicking a succession of beefy, acrobatic fighters in the face with his long legs, including people like Chad Stahelski in an early stunt role. Thanks to Philip Tan – stunt coordinator, fight choreographer and second unit director – this sequel actually does more to champion the martial arts than the original film, with nice representations of global fighting styles from monkey-style kung fu to judo, capoeira, karate and Muay Thai, plus a real-life taekwondo grandmaster in the form of Hee Il Cho (Bernhardt’s real-life instructor), playing the head of the Kumite. Stunt performer Lisa McCullough plays the Kumite’s first female competitor; it’s a nice addition to the format, and makes the film feel at least marginally more inclusive even if most of her fight scenes are seemingly played for laughs.

Aside from the Kumite elements – which make up most of the movie – the only other reference to the first film is the return of Donald Gibb’s comedic foil, Jackson. He’s as burly and obnoxious as before, but given that he’s not actually competing in the tournament, his buddy role is now entirely reduced to providing moral support. Bolo Yeung is represented by another Asian heavy, Ong Soo Han (Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story), who poses to the crowd in between bouts of breaking bones. He doesn’t have the scene-stealing menace of Bolo, but then again, who else does? The film did nothing theatrically but was a success on video, which feels like its natural home. As low-budget sequels to cult hits go, this isn’t half as bad as you might think.

AKA: Bloodsport 2.

This post was written by
Editor and creator of Kung Fu Movie Guide and the host of the Kung Fu Movie Guide Podcast. I live behind a keyboard in London, UK.

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