Bloody Ring (1974)
Reviewed by: ewaffle on 2009-02-04
A newspapaer reporter picks up an important visitor at the airport. He is the coach of a martial arts team that has just been successful in Japan, beating the Japanese in their own backyard, which is a remarkable feat. After a very long drive--the first few minutes of "Bloody Ring" could be an extended commercial for a boxy car that looks like a mid-60s Renault Dauphine--they are cut off by a car full of thugs. The six thugs attack the reporter and Mr. Lee and are being soundly beaten--Mr. Lee not only doesn't take off his suitcoat, he doesn't even loosen his tie as he lands kicks and punches--until one of them pulls a knife. Mr. Lee is stabbed but the thugs, limping and bleeding, pile into their car and leave. The first big fight is an amateurishly staged affair with more jumping around and diving than anything else. It seems a bit worse since Sammo Hung was the action director here.

While recuperating he gets a cable from the Japanese (no other identification, just generic "Japanese") challenging him to another clash. Mr. Chi, the reporter, is recruited to go to Bangkok and help train the team. They are met at Bangkok airport by Helena Law and two underlings all of whom are very happy to see them. This is followed by more driving with shots of the Thai capital--ancient and modern, Buddhist and secular, temples and office buildings. The Japanese team is already in town, invited by the local karate club who have also challenged the team.

The Japanese team has a secret weapon--or at least a fighter who they think can't lose. This fighter joins the rest of the team, along with their whiskey drinking non-fighting leader, for a film session on the Thai champion, who looks brutal and effective in Muay Thai boxing against a game but overmatched opponent.

The plot thickens--Thai champion (who, for the purposes of this review will be called Wai since that is close to what he is called in the dubbed version I watched) is in love with the daughter of the chief rival to his teacher. The girlfriend has had an accident which might leave her blind unless she has an operation. This bit of exposition is revealed in a conversation between Chi and Helen Ma as they see the sights from a rented boat. As soon as they land a group of thugs--which includes Sammo Hung--attacks them. This fight is faster paced, more professionally staged and better executed than the first--it looks brutal and realistic with much less posing and jumping. Helen Ma looks great in beating up a couple of guys using punches and elbow thrusts.

Wai is turned down for a loan to pay for his girlfriend's operation unless, he is told by the banker, he can beat the Japanese champion. He wanders the streets of Bangkok and winds up in a bar where the Japanese team is having a night out. Wai has several shots of whiskey then insults the Japanese champ and then easily beats him up. The wily Japanese team manager offers Wai a bribe to go easy on his Japanese opponent when they meet in the ring which Wai turns down. He then overhears his girlfriend's father telling her that he doesn't have the money for the operation that will save her sight. To make things even dicier, the father despises Wai. So there is a typically complicated set of relationships involving professional rivalries, filial loyalty and conjugal love along with attacks by groups of as yet unaffiliated thugs to move things along.

In addition to the three Thai boxing bouts there are large scale five set-piece action scenes: the two described above, an attack by the Japanese team on the Thai school which results in the death of one of the Thai students, the attack by the Japanese team on Wai at his girlfriend's home, in which Wai was defeating the entire team until the evil team leader grabbed his girlfriend and the defense of their hideout by the Japanese team against Chi and the Thai student played by Mars. This was the longest fight, beginning with four Japanese armed with knives, then one with a numchuck, which Wai takes from him, and the final showdown between Wai and the Japanese champion. None but the very first was really bad but none were exceptional.

The Thai boxing fights, circumscribed by the size of the ring, the rules of the sport and the conventions of boxing movies, were more coherent, action filled and exciting than any of the choreographed kung fu type action.
Reviewer Score: 5