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The Last Kumite (2024) Review

As you can probably tell just from the title, The Last Kumite was inspired by 80s action films, the iconic Bloodsport in particular. And it opens like it stepped out of a time warp from the 1980s with an old school pop song playing over a montage of scenes shot on the streets of New York City before taking us to the dojo where Michael Rivers (Mathis Landwehr, Snowflake, Raven’s Hollow) is teaching his daughter Bree (Kira Kortenbach).

After an inspirational speech at the end of her training, it’s time to go see mom. If you guessed that means a trip to the cemetery, you’ve seen as many of these films as I have.

The next day, Michael fights in what he says is his last tournament. Fighting in front of a crowd that number in the dozens, he easily wins. Among that crowd is Ron Hall (Matthias Hues, I Come in Peace, Maximum Impact) who offers him a chance to go to Eastern Europe and fight for a chance at a million dollar prize. Michael turns him down, which, according to The Bad Guys’ Code of Conduct, leaves Ron no choice but to kidnap Bree to force her father to compete.

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The closest Ross W. Clarkson has previously come to directing an action film was the Steven Segal snoozefest General Commander, but he’s worked in the camera department on plenty of them. That includes Isaac Florentine’s collaboration with Scott Adkins, from both the Ninja and Undisputed franchises, so he should understand the mechanics of this kind of film and be able to deliver at least a reasonable copy of the real thing.

Unfortunately, the script which he co-wrote with Sean David Lowe, whose background is YouTube videos about basketball, falls short, both in terms of logic and delivering action. Ron has not only the local cops, but the diplomats at all the embassies under his thumb. But he can’t get Loren (Billy Blanks, The King of the Kickboxers, Lionheart), the only man who knows how to defeat his champion Dracko (Mike Derudder), and his crew killed or at least tossed out of town?

He also doesn’t seem to be able to stop Michael from training with them. And with Lightning, played by The Last Kumite’s fight coordinator Mike Möller (Plan B, Jack Walker) as a sparring partner and Julie Jackson (Cynthia Rothrock, Fyre Rises, No Retreat, No Surrender 2) who was Dracko’s sensei as a trainer, he quickly becomes a Force to be reckoned with. Good thing they just happened to be hanging out there

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But for most of the film, sparring is all we get. That and a subplot about Damon (Kurt McKinney, General Hospital, Guiding Light), another fighter whose wife was abducted to get him to compete, take up most of the first part of the film. It makes for a less than exciting hour to get through before the kumite itself begins. And while it opens with a callback to Bloodsport with Dracko breaking his opponent’s neck, he can’t fill the shoes of Bolo Yeung’s Chong Li. Bolo’s son, billed as David “Bolo Jr” Yeung, makes an appearance in the film, but it amounts to little more than stunt casting.

There are however three people from Bloodsport who were involved with The Last Kumite, actor Michel Qissi (Terminator Woman, Kickboxer: Vengeance) who played one of the fighters turns up as one of Hall’s goons. The other two actually provide more of what nostalgia value the film has than everyone else combined, composer Paul Hertzog (Kickboxer, My Chauffeur) and singer/songwriter Stan Bush who has contributed songs to everything from The Wraith and Phantom of the Mall: Eric’s Revenge to Bumblebee and The Intergalactic Adventures of Max Cloud. The synth score and songs are on point, even if little else is.

Once we get to the tournament that gives The Last Kumite its name, things do pick up somewhat. They also get fairly bloody, one of the fighters goes as far as ripping an opponent’s eye out and eating it. Unfortunately, since we only know a couple of the fighters, the preliminary matches are mostly disposable strangers beating on each other. If it wasn’t for the ring girls holding up cards with their names, we wouldn’t even know who most of them were, let alone care if they live or die.

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It’s only in the last fifteen or so minutes that The Last Kumite becomes genuinely exciting, and in a film that runs an hour and forty-five minutes, that’s way too long to wait. And even then, it makes the questionable decision not to give the film’s hero the final fight.

Overall, there’s little to recommend The Last Kumite, there’s way too little action and the script gives us little reason to stick around until the fists and feet start flying. The Last Kumite unfortunately turned into The Lost Opportunity.

The Last Kumite is available on Digital Platforms via MPI. It will be available on Blu-ray and DVD on June 11th.

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