Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Blood and Bone (Ben Ramsey, 2009)

Now, I know I did a Michael Jai White post earlier, but it led me to watch 2009's Blood and Bone.

Now, I have to tell you, despite White's awesomeness I was not expecting much here. Happily, I was not disappointed. It is not the greatest action film ever, but it is pretty damn good. What we expect from an action film, particularly a martial arts film, is a lot of fighting, a repulsive bad guy, and a woman to save. This is all there, but with a bit of a difference. It is a slight Blaxploitation film in many ways, and has a solid "hero's journey" angle.

Michael Jai White plays "Isiah Bone", a convict we meet in prison. After his release he rents a seemingly random room and falls in with a small-time underground fight promoter, "Pinball" (Dante Basco, who many will remember as "Rufio" from Hook). The big fish in this particular pond is James (Eamonn Walker, aka "Kareem Said" from Oz). Bone wants to know how to get a fight with James' big fighter, and who James' girlfriend is. This sets the stage for a not-too-complicated, yet not-too-standard plot that leads Bone through the ranks of fighters until he can afford a fight with James' champ.

If you were a fan of Black Dynamite, you'll recognize White's skill at mixing silent menace with understated humor. Eamonn Walker is excellent as "Jedi turning to the Dark Side" if you will. The fight scenes are classic in brand with a bit of the less common Muy Thai style that is working its way into American film. It is at least superficially smarter than most martial arts/action films. It is not a "I have to be the best fighter" film. Both Bones and James have higher priorities, though different understandings of how to get there. Despite their superficial similarities they never once resort to the "we are more alike than you know" cliché, though it is fairly evident. The Blaxploitation staples are there without it being purely genre in that regard.

If you dig action films and like some interesting martial arts, this is well worth your time. I caught it streaming on Netflix.

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