Director: Patrick Allen                                 
Bolo Yeung, Martin Kove, William Zabka

The movie Shootfighter contains this, and similar, dialogue:

"Only the strong survive."

"Let me explain the rules. In the ring, there are no rules."

"There can be only one champion."

"You! It's time to fight!"

"I hope you brought your body bag!"

"It's destiny! You can't avoid it any longer."

In other words, Shootfighter is really the same old martial arts tournament movie that you've seen before. The difference between this entry and others of this genre is that it is worse in every department that you can think of. Acting, directing, editing - you name it.

It could have worked. Even if a movie has to follow a basic plotline, it can work if it's overall well made. But Shootfigher is so badly done, there doesn't seem to be any clues that the filmmakers were trying to as least make a passable actioner. In fact, it is so incompetent that you'd almost swear that they were intentionally trying to make this so cliché and badly made. Look at the first few minutes of the movie, where Shingo (Yeung) is participating in a Shootfighter tournament. The opening shot is a pan from the Hong Kong harbor to the city itself when we hear that "tooooo-tooo-ooo" Asian music that's always played when we see Hong Kong or something else Asian in a movie. Shingo defeats his opponent, kicking him in the head which leads his opponent to let out a gigantic spray of saliva from his mouth. Shingo's friend fights in the next bout, and gets killed by Lee, who delivers a final blow to Shingo's friend that sounds like, "WHACKWhackwhack...". Lee is banned from Shootfighting forever, and shouts to Shingo something like, "Someday, I'll get you!" Now, anyone who claims he isn't familiar with all of the above sights and sounds is either a liar or has lived in the mountains for the past twenty years or so.

We then cut to L.A. after a period of...actually, we're never told how much time has passed. Shingo is now a martial arts teacher and has been changed into an incidental character. What? Yes, though Bolo Yeung is topped billed, for pretty much the rest of the movie he only appears seconds at a time as a silent character in the background. When he does speak, almost all of his dialogue is in Chinese! Paying for a big star in the martial arts world and barely using him at all is a really low way to get customers to hand over their rental dollars. Anyway...Shingo is the martial arts teacher of couple Reuben and Sherly, who run their own martial arts school. Sherly's brother Nick (a former student of Shingo) returns home after a two year absence from murky circumstances that are alluded to, but never properly explained anytime. Reuben is under pressure from a loanshark's "persuaders" to pay off a debt, which leads to Nick and Reuben getting into the inevitable fight in a bar. I'm getting so tired of barroom brawls. The pressure also leads to a sequence when Reuben beats up a collector and pushes and pulls back the poor guy's bloody face in and out of the camera lens. This might have been watchable in a better-made movie, but here it comes across as being desperate.

So things aren't good; Reuben and Sherly are in debt, Shingo has nothing to do but look sternly in the camera, and I'm stuck watching this terrible movie.  Then Reuben and Nick are approached by some sleazy Shootfighter organizers from Mexico, who give them a tape of a sample tournament that was not only shot by film, but by the changing angles by more than 10 film cameras on at the same time. It seems easy, high paying work for both guys, so they head over the border, not telling Sherly. Now, guess who is running this tournament? Wow, you really should be working for Kreskin. Lee is really running the tournament and inviting the guys to take part in order to find a way to confront Shingo again. This is evident by Lee stabbing a knife in a group photo of the protagonists. How the filmmakers managed to constantly find such originality is beyond me.

Shootfighter is not only a waste of time, but you'll unlikely find a longer way to spend 90 minutes. It's one endless fight after another; all poorly choreographed and lacking excitement. The story is a joke. The acting is what you expect it to be (though at least Yeung has the excuse of having little to do, and not having English as a first language.) But the award for most incompetence goes to the editing department. Never have I seen such brainless editing in any motion picture before. Example one: Sherly and Singo are at a Chinese restaurant, then suddenly the movie cuts to them helping students back at the gym for fifteen seconds or so. Then they are back at the restaurant, where it seems that this sequence in the restaurant is connected to the previous restaurant scene. Example two: At one point in the tournament, Reuben is told he's fighting next. But the next fight doesn't involve him at all!  I happened to only have access to the "R" version of Shootfighter, which is made worse by editing out several onscreen deaths so badly, we have to guess what happened. Actually, there is one way that this "R" edit is superior than the unrated edit: it's two minutes shorter.

Check for availability on Amazon (VHS)

See also: Expect No Mercy, Overkill, Best Of The Best 4