Director: Partick Alan
Starring: William Aabka, Michael Bernardo, Maryam d’Abo, Martin Kove, Bolo Yeung, Edward Albert. USA. 1h 40m
Slightly lesser known but wildly loved, Shootfighters plays on a few fight to the death tournament tropes but there’s a lot of genuine talent, not much love interest based distraction and tongues of sweaty muscles and heart, just like it should be!
Starting out with a disgraced fighter being kicked out of a legal fighting ring, Mr Lee (Kove) then travels from the Far East to Tiuana and starts up a similar righting ring but the winner of each match is only crowned when one man is unconscious or dead. Mr C (Albert) is a sly fox sidekick to Mr Lee and his job is to entice down and out fighters with bills to pay into the tournament with the promise of winning big, he manages to rope Ruben (Zabka) into the next tournament and his best friend Nick (Bernardo) tags along to keep an eye on his friend during this dangerous fight game. Somewhere back home there’s a couple of love interests but they really don’t add anything to the guy action packed adventure.
For the glory, the money and to the death
“You disgraced the art of shoot fighting…” -Shingo
Martin Kove and William Zabka starred together in The Karate Kid and Cobra Kai, and it seems the pair were the two who jump into the fighting films of the era and keep their fighting spirit dreams alive as well as the wild rumors of Frank Dux. Frank is responsible for this entire genre after having kidded gullible people into believing that these underground fights to the death happened all over the world and he topped the tables in those games (so admitting to several murders) but all this was then poo pooed by common sense but the dream stays alive in a cinematic fashion and has lead to great titles such s Bloodsport and probably Mortal Kombat as each fighter has a unique style, be it “monkey claw” or Capoeira.
In terms of action it’s nothing to really write home about, there’s a ton of Hong Kong movies of the same era that would wipe the floor with its Americnaized, slower choreography and repeat shots to make it look like opponents are taking more damage.
Between the friendly bar banter, sweaty locker rooms and deadly ring, there’s a lot to hold dear to your 80’s nostalgia heart and these days the DVD is pretty cheap, has Shootfighters stood the test of time?
Related: BloodSport (1989), Kickboxer (1989), American Ninja (1985), Lionheart (1996),Shootfighters 2 (1996), Best of the Best (1989), Tiger Claws (1992), Death Warrant (1990)
Lists: Tournament Films Vol 1 Tournament Films Vol 2
Spotlight: Bolo Yeung, William Zabka