Bloodsport 4 – The Dark Kumite (1999, USA)

Bloodsport 4 - The Dark Kumite - Michael Krawick as Winston, Daniel Bernhardt as Keller, Elvis Restaino as Dr Rosenbloom and David Rowe as Billings

“I have one rule in my prison: There are no rules.”  So says Warden Preston (Derek McGrath), but he’s not telling the truth; there are quite a few rules, including one which says that if you are in a fight-to-the-death you are not permitted to refuse to kill your opponent.

This is a marginally better film than the similarly prison-themed Bloodsport II – The Next Kumite (1996), which also has Daniel Bernhardt in the lead role, but here he plays an excitable cop, John Keller, who goes undercover into one of those prisons with a lucrative underground fight scene. Luckily, he can fight. He enters the prison to find out how his nemesis, Max Shreck (Stefanos Miltsakakis), managed to kill several cops in a bar after having supposedly been executed a month earlier, and how he managed to escape from a prison escort, killing three guards and the driver in the process. Oh, and why there are other unexplained deaths at the Fuego jail and four other nearby prisons.

The authorities set up a scenario where Keller is seen to shoot and kill two Police who try to prevent him from dishing out a bit of summary justice to Shreck… following which he is intriguingly placed in the same wing not only as Shreck, but also an armed robber named Billings (David Rowe) whom he put away six years previously, and other assorted nasties.

The real boss of the prison is a Mr Big named Justin Caesar (Ivan Ivanov), whose every moment is seemingly draped with partially-clad girls, and who runs death fights for a strangely well-heeled audience. Keller is already aware of Caesar, having fought in his black-market fights on the outside… where he refused to kill his opponent despite the expectations of the crowd. Maybe as a cop he should have been more professionally curious about what those expectations (“Kill! Kill! Kill!”) suggested about the outcomes of other bouts, but no, apparently not. The prison clearly functions solely to satisfy Caesar’s appetites; Warden Preston is tremblingly afraid of him, and there is a willing army of prison officials (who look vaguely like camp Cossacks in leather costumes), always on hand to carry out Caesar’s instructions.

On Keller’s side is nobody. Except, of course, his beautiful Police partner – and poorly concealed love interest – Christy Blaire (Lisa Stothard), who dresses as a nun in order to visit him – and pass on no useful information. And a weedy US Marshal, Winston (Michael Krawic), also under deep cover investigating the same mysteries… but Winston’s cover has been blown and he is waiting for the prison to kill him off: dead man talking.

The killing-off is to take place in a tournament (I had thought that the kumite was an exclusive tournament involving the world’s best fighters, but here it’s just a last-man-standing affair comprising Keller, Winston, Shreck, Billings and a couple of extras) at Caesar’s mansion. Billings and Shreck want Keller dead. Caesar wants Winston dead. Keller wants no-one dead, just truth and justice… and perhaps Shreck a little bit dead. He refuses to kill Winston, confirming the limited life-expectancy of both men. Happily, the final bout comes down to Keller v Shreck and Keller’s capacity to innovate with writing implements; his coup de grâce requires him to kick a pen into Shreck’s temple.

There are plenty of undercover cop in prison movies, and a sufficiency of undercover cop investigating mysterious deaths inside prison movies [see, for example, Death Warrant (1990), Broken Bars (1995), and the subsequent Ring of Death (2008)]. This might not be the worst of them, even though the acting is at times awful and the fighting ho-hum; at least it doesn’t seem to take itself as seriously as some others. It was filmed largely in Bulgaria with Bulgarian actors, so if nothing else of any worth has come from it, one hopes that it was a boon to a flagging local economy.

Bloodsport 4 - Lisa Stothard as Blaire in the guise of a visiting nun Bloodsport 4 - Stefanos Miltsakakis as Schrek, having been stabbed in the head with a pen

Posted on May 27th, 2012 at 8:11 pm. Updated on May 27th, 2012 at 8:12 pm.

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