Bloodsport 4: The Dark Kumite (1999)

If your first thought from reading this title is, “Wait, they made four Bloodsport movies,” congratulations, your brain is in perfect working order. Jean-Claude Van Damme had long since stopped appearing in them (he only did the first), so it was up to Daniel Bernhardt to suffer through these movies as the lead. The best part? Bernhardt plays a totally different character in Bloodsport 4 than he did in either Bloodsport 2 or Bloodsport 3. The only continuity at all is that there is a Kumite in the first place! And at the start of the film, Berhardt’s character decides to quit because the fights have literally just become a bloodsport (harhar) to the death.

Unfortunately Bernhardt’s partner is then killed by a psycho killer, and evil Ben Franklin really wants Bernhardt to fight in his own special prison Kumite, so things get maneuvered so that Bernhardt must go to prison “undercover” as himself, a super cop whom the inmates all recognize. Fights break out, a squirelly fellow prisoner reveals he is also a cop working undercover, and then Bernhardt, the other cop, and a bunch of prisoners including psycho killer end up being taken into evil Ben Franklin’s weird pastel ’90s mansion by a bunch of evil prison guards dressed in leather bondage gear.

What follows involves a bunch of guys wearing spandex or parts of gis and bathrobes while they fight and hang out in cages under green lighting because…look, at this point, just stop asking why anything is happening. The important thing is the kumite proceeds, Bernhardt saves the day, and evil Ben Franklin, the bondage guards, and the psycho killer all get theirs in the end. And we have the death of the franchise people, which enables Daniel Bernhardt to go off and appear in significantly better movies like John Wick. You’re welcome.

This isn’t exactly Oscar-winning material here.  In fact, it’s not even anywhere near the best of Daniel Bernhardt’s work, even discounting his awesome villainous turn in John Wick.  However, full credit should be given to the movie for its impact on Bernhardt’s life; Bloodsport 4 was where he met actress Lisa Stothard, and they have since married and had a daughter.  Even if I don’t think highly of this particular film, it sounds like it had a happy ending.

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