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Bloodfist 3: Forced to Fight
(a.k.a. Forced to Fight)
(1991)
 

Director: Oley Sassone      
Cast:
Don "The Dragon" Wilson, Richard Roundtree, Richard Paul


One of the hardest working actors in show-biz, Don Wilson is also one of the few Asian-Americans to have significant success in motion pictures. For several years, he has made a name for himself in the direct-to-video market with action movies produced primarily by Roger Corman. Unfortunately, Roger Corman in recent years has been aiming more at making a quick buck instead of making anything else besides assembly-line exploitationers. This has resulted in most of Wilson's movies being tired copies of very familiar formulas. For example, though Bloodfist and Bloodfist II  were technically competent, they were rip-offs of Bloodsport and Enter The Dragon, respectively. But something happened with Bloodfist 3; though the setting (maximum security prison) is a familiar action setting, it uses an original story. And although it does have the minimum amount of action to satisfy people demanding martial-arts action, it's clear that the focus of this movie is on the story, characters, and - incredibly - messages. In fact, the action scenes come across more as an afterthought, as if the writer wasn't originally thinking of placing any action.

Jimmy Boland (Wilson) is in a south California maximum-security prison for murder (naturally, he's really innocent). At the beginning of the movie, he stumbles upon some black inmates sodomizing and killing his inmate friend. In a rage, he attacks the leader of the group, resulting in his killing of the leader (in self-defense, of course). This is witnessed via the security cameras by some reporters visiting the warden, who is entering politics. Greatly embarrassed, and worried about any further threat by Jimmy to his ambitions, the warden transfers Jimmy from his old cell block to the block which is populated by black inmates - figuring logically that Jimmy won't last long there. Especially since the man Jimmy killed was the drug supplier to "Blue", the leader of a black-power group in the block.

Meantime, Jimmy's action has caught the eye of "Wheelhead", a white inmate who is the leader of an Aryan-like group of white prisoners. Wheelhead offers Jimmy support and an opportunity to be protected by the gang if he joins. Jimmy refuses, wanting to stay neutral. But he's reminded constantly that "this is no place to be alone". Back in the new cell block, Jimmy is put in a cell with Stark (Richard Roundtree, in an excellent performance), a self-taught jailhouse lawyer who is a reader of Malcolm X's teachings. Stark initially ignores Jimmy, thinking he's something of a thug, and not wanting to jeopardize his own upcoming release. Eventually, Stark realizes from observing that Jimmy is not a bad person, and invites him to join a peaceful multi-racial group of prisoners who work on the rooftop garden. However, Jimmy's problems are far from over, having been earlier targeted for elimination by Blue and Wheelhead.

Naturally, this leads to several scenes of Jimmy being pounced on by the goons of Blue and Wheelhead, in order to fill the genre's minimum quota of fights. Surprisingly, these fights are more realistic than usual, and are introduced in the plot believably. People get weakened easily by one or two hits and almost immediately afterwards are defeated, instead of the standard several minutes of screen time taken by fighters taking enough punishment that would kill several people in real life. It actually makes the fights more exciting, because we are convinced that Jimmy is actually fighting for his life. And the martial arts choreography is well planned and directed.

I mentioned earlier that the focus wasn't on these fights. In fact, there is one theme that is focused on throughout the movie: power. That is, how people are determined to get power, and use it. Stark is a firm believer that "knowledge is power", and tries hard to convince Jimmy of this. The multi-racial group has the not-quite-subtle message that power and harmony comes from people of all types putting aside their differences and working together for a common goal. This "common goal" is brought up in a great monologue that has Roundtree, lecturing the goons trying to kill Jimmy, that the enemy that they all share is not people of a different color but of the prison system itself. Not long after the goons wise up and break away from their gangs to join the multi-racial prisoners, there is a fascinating scene when bitter enemies Blue and Wheelhead meet in secret to make plans how they can regain their lost power. Which brings up another point; that many of these extremist groups in our society were not formed because of the ideals that they spout out, but because these groups provide power.

Bloodfist 3 is a "message" movie dressed up in exploitation clothing. And it's a skillful exercise, wisely choosing to mostly delivering its message in a subtle fashion. Action fans expecting wall-to-wall action might be let down (though there's plenty of violence and blood), but people wanting something a little different and intelligent will find it here. It's hard to believe it works. But it does.

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See also: Bloodfist 4, Mission Of Justice, Slaughterhouse Rock

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