Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Movie Review: Blood and Bone

Blood and Bone

USA, 2009

Genre: Dramatic Action, Gangster

93 minutes

Michael Jai White stars as an ex-convict fighting his way through the underground martial arts circuit, hoping to fulfill a deathbed promise.

“Blood and Bone” markets itself as a gritty MMA movie for the next generation of fighters, billing popular stars like Bob Sapp and Gina Carano. However, it fails to live up its own hype, and presents the same flashy kung fu choreography we have seen time and time again with some flashy groundwork thrown in as an afterthought. By the climactic fights, the pretense is dropped completely to make way for spinning jump kicks and a katana vs. Chinese jian battle. The fights themselves aren’t too bad, although only the last two really last long enough for any satisfaction.

The film is mostly well-shot and edited, although it feels like it’s trying very hard to come off as edgy and street bred, hoping to identify with the no-nonsense-tough-guy-raised-on-the-streets-but-is-still-a-good-person demographic out there. Sarcasm aside, it becomes difficult to identify with White’s hero, who is an amalgam of characters played by David Carradine, Steven Seagal, and Jet Li; cool and in control under all circumstances, capable of playing with the mom and kids one minute, then breaking a man’s arm with no regrets in the next. White does have some chemistry with Dante Basco’s Pinball, an underground fight promoter, manager, and announcer rolled into one very fashionable street thug. Still, White seems to only display his acting skills when, ironically, his character is acting in a role of his own. The talented Eamonn Walker, on the other hand, does extremely well portraying the bushido-obsessed villain James, who demonstrates a very discernible character arc throughout the film. Gina Carano and Kimbo Slice, who became selling points for the film, are present for only one scene each and Carano speaks only one line, which is to be expected for an MMA-sploitation film as this. Bob Sapp, however, plays a thick-headed villain through most of the film. As in his fights, he plays a two-dimensional heel perfectly, and is subsequently vanquished by our hero during the rising action.

“Blood and Bone” doesn’t really present us with anything new, but it is a quick and entertaining romp through the tough and dirty streets and pit fights. If you don’t expect too much from the story, action, or acting, you’ll be pleasantly surprised by the above-average quality of production put into the film. The decision to go straight to DVD was probably a smart one, and makes for great pre-UFC entertainment with popcorn and a good group of friends.

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