The stars of these sequels are Daniel Bernhardt (Bloodsport 2-4), Sasha Mitchell (Kickboxer 2-4) and Mark Dacascos (Kickboxer 5).
Let’s start off by taking a look at the Bloodsport sequels starring Daniel Bernhardt.
Bloodsport 2: The Next Kumite (1996)
Bloodsport 2 tells the story of Alex Cardo (Daniel Bernhardt), a talented street-fighter and petty thief, who is imprisoned for stealing a ceremonial sword from wealthy businessman, Leung. While in prison, Alex is strengthened by the wisdom of his mentor, who also teaches him the deadliest of fighting disciplines-known as The Iron Hand. What I really liked about this sequel is that it felt very much like a follow up to the first film; sounds like a stupid thing to say but where the Kickboxer movies come up with some ridiculous plotlines (we’ll get to that), this movie sticks to the formula of having a fighter take part in the Kumite. Bernhardt has enough charisma and fighting ability to make the fight scenes just as impressive as the first movie; sure some of the acting might not be the greatest but it’s a low-budget martial arts movie; we’re looking for plenty of fight scenes and this movie has it in spades. We also have a return of Ray ‘Tiny’ Jackson (Donald Gibb) from the first movie, but the supporting cast includes James Hong and Pat Morita who are legends of the genre. Definitely the best of the Bloodsport sequels.
Bloodsport 3 (1996)
Bloodsport III brings us back to the world of Alex Cardo. This time he must battle in a fight to end all fights – The Kumite, the most vicious warrior alive – Beast. He must not only battle for his own honor, but also avenge the death of Sun, his mentor, teacher, and spiritual “father”, when Sun is spitefully killed by crime boss Duvalier. John Rhys-Davies takes on the role of Duvalier and he’s clearly having a lot of fun playing a villain. Although not as good as part 2, we do at least have the Kumite with more stunning martial arts fight scenes and Beast (Nicholas R. Oleson) is a pretty hateful bad guy. Once again the acting isn’t the best but Bernhardt’s likeability and martial arts prowess makes it a fun time.
Bloodsport IV: The Dark Kumite (1999)
Agent John Keller (Daniel Bernhardt) goes undercover into the tough prison known as Fuego Penal to find out about the corpses of prisoners disappearing without a trace. There he gets involved in a dangerous tournament arranged by a man named Justin Caesar, where the prisoners are forced fight to death.
Easily the weakest of the series and also the weirdest; it’s unlike any of the other Bloodsport movies and involves lots of naked people lying on stairs during some fight scenes. Daniel Bernhardt returns, however not as Alex Cardo, he’s Agent Keller in one of the most bizarre character changes of all time. When I spoke to Daniel a few months ago he said he only did the movie as he was contracted to do it but didn’t really like the final product at all. It has nothing to do with the series at all and is Bloodsport really in name only. There are some decent fights in it but it’s the only film in the franchise that I have no desire to watch again.
So that’s the Bloodsport sequels, let’s take a look at the Kickboxer series.
Kickboxer 2: The Road Back (1991)
One year after his brothers’ deaths at the hands of Tong Po (Michel Qissi), David Sloane (Sasha Mitchell), the youngest and last of the great Sloane dynasty, struggles to keep the family kickboxing gym afloat. Although his will to compete has waned since the loss of his brothers, financial problems eventually force Sloane to fight again in a new organization run by a crooked promoter (Peter Boyle). His surprising comeback ultimately attracts the attention of Tong Po who, having been disgraced by Sloane’s older brothers, seeks to lure their younger sibling back into the ring.
The main problem with this film is… who the Hell is David Sloan? The brother that no one mentioned in the first film. You’d have thought when David heard that one of his brothers had been paralysed in a fight; he might y’know, contact him to see if he’s OK. Anyway, this is an argument we’ve been having since the film was first released. If you can get passed that then the film is actually pretty entertaining and Sasha Mitchell has some decent martial arts skills too. It’s great to see Michel Qissi back as Tong Po as he really is an excellent villain and provides some continuity with the story. We also see the return of Xian (Dennis Chan) who also gives us some touches of humour. Matthias Hues and Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa join the series and both are always excellent villains. There are some great fight scenes in this movie and it’s definitely a worthy follow-up to the JCVD original.
Kickboxer 3: The Art of War (1992)
David Sloan returns but this time he’s no longer a reluctant warrior; he’s an unstoppable one man army. He travels to Rio for a kickboxing exhibition where he saves two youngsters and stops a white slaver. This movie bears little resemblance to the first two movies and the tone is quite different. When Sloan was so reluctant to fight in the last film, why is it so easy for him to pretty much kill anyone in his path this time around? It really doesn’t matter as it doesn’t stop the movie from being a blast with plenty of action and a pretty spectacular finale. The kids are a bit annoying but not enough to take away any entertainment value.
Kickboxer 4: The Aggressor (1994)
David Sloan must travel to Mexico to save his wife from a savage drug lord who’s also an old nemesis.
For me, this is the weakest of the series; Tong Po returns however, it doesn’t feature Michel Qissi. Instead we have someone in arguably the worst make up I have ever seen and he now appears to have a Mexican accent. It’s not a terrible movie though and Sasha Mitchell is at his badass best as David Sloan once again. It’s got plenty of bone crunching fight scenes and some hilariously gratuitous nudity which is sadly missing from today’s action cinema. The thing which bugs me is Tong Po getting away at the end leaving you unfulfilled by the finale.
Kickboxer 5: The Redemption (1995)
After David Sloan is murdered, it’s up to kick-boxing champ Matt Reeves (Mark Dacascos) to avenge him.
So David Sloan is killed off during the opening credits of this 5th entry in the series but we don’t see his face; we just see a silhouette as he is beaten to death by a group of thugs. Sloan made the mistake of turning down an offer from the villainous Mr. Negaal (James Ryan) so he was made to “disappear”. When Matt’s friend Johnny ends up dead, he jumps on a plane to South Africa to find some retribution. As I’ve said in my review this week, although it doesn’t feel like a Kickboxer movie, it’s still a lot of fun with Dacascos displaying some incredible martial arts moves and James Ryan steals the show as the villain.
So two franchises each with their own merits and both fourth entries prove the weakest… but which series is better?
Well, personally I think I prefer the Bloodsport sequels because they stick with the original formula of having the Kumite as the main focal point. I’m also a big fan of Daniel Bernhardt who displays some spectacular martial arts skills in parts 2 and 3. Both series have huge leaps in logic in places and the Kickboxer franchise is also a lot of fun but for me, I’m a Bloodsport guy.
In terms of sequels Bloodsport 2 is my favourite of the Bloodsport Series and Kickboxer 2 is my favourite of of the Kickboxer franchise.