Martial artist Bolo Yeung is well known to action fans as a force majeure in such films as DOUBLE IMPACT, BLOODSPORT, and TIGER CLAWS, in which he's inevitably cast as an invincible fiend of almost supernatural prowess, who dwarfs such contenders as Jean-Claude Van Damme and Don "The
Dragon" Wilson in climactic David-vs-Goliath duels but must always lose to them because they're the heroes. In SHOOTFIGHTER: FIGHT TO THE DEATH, he gets his chance to be the good guy.
SHOOTFIGHTER takes its name from yet another ultimate-secret-martial-art-form-deadlier-than-any-other. Shingo (Yeung) is a master shootfighter who's present when an evil anglo, incongruously named Lee (Martin Kove), rips out an opponent's throat during Hong Kong playoffs to demonstrate his
sports philosophy: "Only a fight to the death can determine a true champion!" Lee is exiled to Tijuana, where he holds lethal underground matches for cheering mobs of rich white folks, while Shingo becomes the mentor to LA martial-arts instructor Ruben Patterson (William Zabka), who's in debt to
loansharks over his floundering all-kiddie karate school.
Much of the tale focuses not on Shingo but his naive disciple Ruben, tempted into the world of shootfighting for the quick cash. When Lee learns his old rival Shingo was the newcomer's trainer, he drags Ruben in even deeper, feeding the young man's growing lust for mayhem in the ring.
Ultimately, Shingo has no choice but to head south and face Lee in a shootfighter showdown. It's a rather one-sided affair because the baddie's got a crippled forearm, but he keeps lunging at Shingo with knives until the hero at last strikes a fatal blow. The film ends with Shingo anguished
because Lee has made a murderer out of him.
It's hard to tell whether director Pat Alan meant to instill or escape moral ambiguity with the abrupt ending, but all that precedes it suggests that the filmmakers just wanted to get this movie in the can and out to fans as quickly as possible. The hackneyed narrative features abrupt and
dizzying switches in location and character progression, and whenever there's a lull, Ruben or Shingo battles some marauding Latino gang or bunch of rednecks. Yeung gets surprisingly little screen time; he does some charming pantomimes to amuse the children in and around the karate school, but if
he has any serious acting talent, it's hardly given a chance to shine. Kove may be remembered as a recurring heavy in the KARATE KID series, of which Zabka is also a graduate. The latter is well-cast as a meek type with a latent lust for arena carnage; compare-contrast with his best pal Nick
(Michael Bernardo), a habitual street brawler who more clearly sees the seductive danger of shootfighting and is the first to alert Shingo.
The action is impressive: martial-arts styles on display are striking in their range and diversity. The highlight is a combatant nicknamed Boa (John Agro) whose sinuous fighting technique eerily mimics the moves of a snake--imagine kung-fu choreographed by Bob Fosse. The gore quotient is high
even for this genre, and the film was released to video in both R-rated and more explicit unrated editions. (Extensive violence, profanity.)
Cast & Details See all »
- Released: 1993
- Rating: R
- Review: Martial artist Bolo Yeung is well known to action fans as a force majeure in such films as DOUBLE IMPACT, BLOODSPORT, and TIGER CLAWS, in which he's inevitably cast as an invincible fiend of almost supernatural prowess, who dwarfs such contenders as Jean-C… (more)