Monday, February 8, 2010

Blood and Bone (2009) - by Mark Oswald

"I want you to tell every mother fucker behind these walls, that if they get the notion to fuck with me—don’t."

What two things do the following films have in common?

Universal Soldier: The Return
Exit Wounds

Give up? Ok.

1 – They’re all pretty crappy action movies
2 – They all feature Actor/Martial Artist, Michael Jai White

Now this is not a dig at Mr. Jai White, but rather an example of how a truly talented ass-kicker can go from sub-standard junk like the aforementioned films above to the realm of top shelf awesomeness like Undisputed II: Last Man Standing and the subject of today’s column, Blood and Bone, in just over a decade. It might have something to do with the fact that before, he was playing smaller roles in other action stars' films (US: The Return and Exit Wounds), and he was bogged down by a terrible script and even worse CGI in Spawn. The good news though? All that is behind us now…

MJW vs. Adkins in Undisputed II

I had heard some really good things about Undisputed II, so despite having never seen the first one (which apparently doesn’t have much to do with its sequel anyways) I checked it out; and boy was I glad I did. It was a gritty, action-packed testosterone fest from beginning to end that wasn’t without a little bit of heart either. MJW was a charismatic and fun-to-watch lead who was sent to a Russian prison, only to butt heads with the equally impressive Scott Adkins, who played the institution’s top fighter. Adkins is also making a nice little name for himself these days after playing smaller roles in The Bourne Ultimatum and Van-Damme’s The Shepherd: Border Patrol, as well as filling in for Ryan Reynolds as Weapon XI in X-Men Origins: Wolverine. He’s got the film Ninja coming soon to DVD, as well as Undisputed III: Redemption shortly after that, where his character from the second is given the lead treatment.

But back to the topic at hand…Blood and Bone, like Undisputed II, features a plethora of rock solid ass beatings, the majority of which are delivered by MJW himself. He plays a character named Bone (hence the title) who is damn near untouchable in these fights. There’s even an impromptu shoot-out where he proves himself just as deadly with a gun as he is with his fists, which is pointed out by his Manager, Pinball, played by Dante Basco, or “Rufio” from Hook.


There’s a lot to appreciate in this movie for fans of martial arts and action films. The camera work is not overly stylized or showy (i.e., you can actually tell what the hell is going on). The direction in general is fairly minimalistic. Most scenes are kept to just a few angles, which tells me that the director wanted to present people with an entertaining movie without flash getting in the way of telling the story. That last observation is also a good way to look at this entire film. Nothing contained within is more complicated than it needs to be. I could go into more detail, but I recommend watching it for yourself instead.

I also enjoyed the villain, James (Eamonn Walker), who was played as a reasonably complex character instead of a one-dimensional A-hole or cartoonish wacko. He doesn’t like swearing in his home, he is a seemingly well-educated lover of animals and classical art, and all he really wants is to get into the big leagues of the underground street fighting elite, populated by snobby old white guys who would rather keep him as a second tier gangster than except him as one of their brethren. So James would be a pretty stand-up character if not for the fact that underneath all his posturing and panache, he is truly a cold-blooded killer.

Six against one? Not a problem.

So I would definitely recommend this to old school action fans as well as anybody else looking for quality badass entertainment. It’s got an honorable lead, great fight scenes, a few interesting touches reminiscent of 70’s Blaxploitation films, and an ending that reminded me a little of Eastwood’s High Plains Drifter. Feel free to disagree however, that’s just the feeling I got. Now all I have to do is find myself a copy of MJW’s forthcoming Blaxploitation spoof, Black Dynamite, which Ben has told me is quite good.

Body Count – 9 (The lucky few)

Times MJW "destroys his enemy" – Any chance he gets.

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