Every action hero has a movie series in their (black) belt and for Don “The Dragon” Wilson his is the Bloodfist series.
8 films of face punching, high kicking, action-packed goodness with Wilson in the lead but strangely not always playing the same character.
In the first two Bloodfist movies he plays Jake Raye and it’s essentially a continuation of the same story whereas in Bloodfist 3 he plays a felon named Jimmy Boland.
In part IV his name is Danny Holt, part V he’s called Jim Stanton, part VI he’s Nick Corrigan, part VII he’s Jim Trudell and in part VIII he plays Rick Cowan / George ‘Mac’ MacReady.
There is another movie entitled Bloodfist 2050 but that doesn’t star Don Wilson so we’ll leave that one out of it.
The series is produced by the legendary Roger Corman and features real life fighters who get the opportunity to show off their skills on screen.
So let’s take a look through all 8 of the Don Wilson Bloodfist movies through the years.
ot: Don Wilson plays retired kickboxer Jake Raye, who travels to Manila, where his brother is favored to win a kickboxing competition. His brother is killed, and Jake realizes he must enter the competition himself to flush out his brother’s killer.
The first Bloodfist has a noticeably lower budget than other entries in the series but is a fine introduction to the world of Don “The Dragon” Wilson.
We also get an early role from Billy Blanks as a villain so it’s worth watching for some of the fights alone. They are well edited for the most part although you can see the odd hit not making contact.
Some of the supporting cast aren’t the greatest actors in the world however, the majority of them are real life fighters so it’s essentially a showcase for their talents.
Although not the best in the series, the original Bloodfist is a fun introduction with Wilson making a likable lead.
There are of course some quality training sequences too which are essential for genre movies.
Bloodfist II (1990)
Plot: Kickboxing champion Jake Raye thought his fighting days were over, until a call from an old friend draws him to the Far East and into the hands of a madman. This time Jake’s fighting for his life!
It’s a battle between this and Bloodfist III as to which are my favourites in the series; I think this one has some fantastic fight scenes and although it’s nothing new plot wise, I loved the whole idea of Jake’s friend Vinny Petrello (Maurice Smith) turning bad and being the villain.
There are fights every few minutes and at 80 minutes long it’s a quick watch and never less than entertaining.
Bloodfist II also has real fighters in the cast once again so like the first one we get to see their talents which makes for a hugely enjoyable fighting tournament movie. What really stands out is the different styles of fighting which makes every one feel unique.
Bloodfist III: Forced to Fight (1992)
Plot: Jimmy Boland is a man unjustly accused of a brutal crime. Within the prison he must fight for survival, freedom and justice.
Upon rewatching this recently I’m pretty sure this is the best movie in the series; it has a genuinely interesting plot and it’s also the most gritty and hardcore of the series.
A dude even gets raped in prison during the opening scene which pretty much sets the tone for this movie. This has a very different tone from the “fun” martial arts flicks that were the first two Bloodfist movies whereas this is more serious and frankly disturbing.
It’s well acted by the majority of the cast and has plenty of decent fight scenes too; the addition of Richard Roundtree (Shaft) is a huge bonus as his character provides the moral compass of the story.
It feels pretty authentic with the supporting cast all looking like genuine criminals, giving it an extra air of grittiness.
It’s unpredictable with the plot not going where you’d maybe expect and Don Wilson’s character Jimmy Boland makes some questionable decisions. When he’s asked to join a group of essentially rednecks he turns them down but personally out of self-preservation he probably would have been better off with them, but what do I know.
Anyway, Bloodfist III still stands out as one of the better prison action movies and although not an easy watch at times it’s still entertaining as Hell.
Bloodfist IV: Die Trying (1992)
Plot: A kickboxer (Don “The Dragon” Wilson) takes on the FBI, the CIA and an arms cartel to avenge slayings and rescue his daughter.
The fourth entry of the series has a pretty standard 90’s action movie plot which is just fine in my book. Wilson plays Danny Holt, a repo man framed for the murder of his co-workers and he ends up on the run with bad guys and government agencies on his trail.
As with the other movies in the series it’s well paced and doesn’t go more than a few minutes before faces are punched and asses are kicked. This also has the added bonus of one Gary Daniels as the villainous Scarface. The climactic fight scene between Scarface and Danny is the action highlight of the movie and one of my favourites from the series.
Not only that but we also get James Tolkan as FBI agent Sterling who is surprisingly one of Tolkan’s nicest characters. It’s funny, as a kid Tolkan always really intimidated me especially in the Back to the Future films. It’s amazing I made it out of high school really…
Bloodfist IV starred Catya Sassoon as a villain named Lisa and managed to show off some of her rather fancy fighting skills. She would also return for Bloodfist VI: Ground Zero as Tori. Sadly however, Catya passed away in 2002.
The movie may be nothing new but it sure is entertaining and I still watch it regularly.
Bloodfist V: Human Target (1994)
Plot: Don “The Dragon” Wilson struggles to regain his memory, not knowing who to trust, or even which side he’s fighting on.
In this fifth entry of the series the story is a mixture of Bourne and Total Recall; there are plenty of twists so you never see which way it’s going. What I love about this series in general is that each of the stories is well thought out so none of them feel like a retread of the previous entry.
Human Target also has the late legend Steve James who has the climactic fight with Wilson but there is plenty of martial arts goodness all the way through. I’ve always liked Wilson as a martial arts/action star because he uses different moves so his fights never look predictable or samey.
Denice Duff who plays Candy/Michelle is one of the best female leads of the series who is far more than just the damsel in distress and this may also be the best acted of the franchise.
Bloodfist VI: Ground Zero (1995)
Plot: Terrorists take over a nuclear weapons launch site, but don’t count on a humble military courier, who happens to be making a visit.
Bloodfist VI is basically another Die Hard clone and I have to admit may be the weakest entry in the series; it’s still lots of fun with plenty of action but it seems to have a lower budget than previous entries.
Some of the supporting cast aren’t the greatest actors ever and even the main villain Fawkes (Jonathan Fuller) was hilariously over the top; he was also the least convincing Muslim I’ve seen for some time.
General Carmichael (Wynn Irwin) kept saying and doing the most irrational things and he wasn’t particularly believable as a character. It’s funny how times change too as a lot of what he says in this film you simply wouldn’t get away with today.
The script wasn’t the greatest and lacked any truly memorable dialogue or epic one-liners.
Aside from that though I still can’t help but enjoy the movie for what it is and Don Wilson is as ever a likable hero as Nick Corrigan.
Bloodfist VII: Manhunt (1995)
Plot: A former special-forces agent (Don “The Dragon” Wilson) finds himself embroiled in police corruption and accused of murder.
Manhunt has a similar plot to Die Trying which involves our hero Jim Trudell (Wilson) going on the run and having everyone hunt him down. It has a great opening scene with Wilson taking on some metalheads in an epic bar fight. That is always essential to a great action movie and is arguably the action highlight of this film.
It’s there where he meets Stephanie Williams (Jillian McWhirter) and his evening goes pear shaped. She steals his car and he ends up looking for her; while on the hunt he ends up killing some corrupt cops which brings the entire police force after him.
In terms of action this is quite small scale and isn’t anything we haven’t seen before, however the plot has some interesting twists and I always enjoy stories of corruption in the police force. The plot is as relevant today as it’s always been and keeps you engaged.
I’ve always been a fan of Steven Williams who plays Captain Doyle in this movie; he always has an intensity on screen and is believable as a tough as nails (but good) cop.
It may be quite forgettable but Bloodfist VII: Manhunt is still entertaining and the more serious tone works in its favour.
Bloodfist VIII: Trained to Kill/Hard Way Out (1996)
Plot: To everyone who knows him, Rick Cowan (Don “The Dragon” Wilson) is a shy and reclusive math teacher; and even his son Chris (John Patrick White) thinks he’s a hopeless nerd. That is, until Rick singlehandedly defeats a team of assassins sent to kill both him and his son. Chris then discovers the truth about his father: Rick was once a CIA operative and now his past has come back to haunt him. After numerous attempts on their lives, Rick and his son learn they can trust no one while trying to untangle a spider’s web of conspiracy and betrayal.
You may think “Why does this movie have two titles?” but the reason for that is this film was apparently not part of the Bloodfist series when it was initially released in the United States. It debuted on video with the title “Hard Way Out” but was later released on video and DVD in the U.S. with the new title “Bloodfist VIII: Hard Way Out”. Thanks IMDB!
I really enjoyed this final entry in the Don Wilson Bloodfist Series; it changes up the action and is genuinely filmed on location in Ireland. Rather than having Americans attempt terrible “top o’ the mornin‘” accents we get real Irish people which is a nice change and takes the series in a different direction. You can also definitely tell that it’s filmed in Ireland because the sky is grey and it looks generally pretty depressing. I can get away with saying that because I’m Irish FYI.
Anyway, Wilson is still an invincible badass although at various points bad guys are literally yards away from him firing Uzis and still missing him, but that is standard operating procedure for action movies. This goes back to films like First Blood: Part II where soldiers are firing hundreds of bullets at our hero but they just seem to dance around him.
*Spoilers* Jillian McWhirter returns but this time she plays CIA Agent Danielle Mendelsohn and I have to admit that I didn’t see her betrayal coming. When she kills The Major (Richard Farrell), it came as a genuine surprise and I was swearing at the screen for swift (and brutal) retribution.
It was cool to see a car chase involving Garda (Police) around Ireland and due to this it stands out as one of the more daring entries to the series.
In terms of action it’s mostly shoot outs and chases and it ends with a satisfying finale on a fishing boat.
It’s funny just how the Bloodfist series started out as a martial arts tournament movie and has since developed into trying several different types of action. Wilson never fails to kick plenty of ass, although it would be cool if we got a new entry to the series with him playing a villain.
Notice that in the later entries the focus on having real life fighters isn’t there and this movie doesn’t say “WKA World Kickboxing Champion” before Don Wilson’s name in the credits.
So there were are; an entire series of action-packed martial arts goodness featuring Don “The Dragon” Wilson. It’s about time we got a Blu-ray box set featuring all the movies in the series as I’d love to see some more behind the scenes info.
To finish I want to mention that my favourite entry of the series in Part III as it has the best story, plenty of action and sticks with you long after watching.