The Last Kumite (2024)

 The Last Kumite Review

 The Last Kumite

The Last Kumite was created by Sean David Lowe, a music producer turned YouTube host known for his NBA videos. It is a nostalgic tribute to movies like Bloodsport and Kickboxer as well as the many direct-to-video releases that followed the success of Van Damme’s tournament fighter action films. After raising money through crowdfunding, Lowe produced the movie in an impressively short amount of time. He even managed to get several stars from 80s and 90s video action flicks on board, including Cynthia Rothrock, Matthias Hues, the Qissi brothers (who frequently played bad guys opposite Jean-Claude Van Damme), Billy Blanks and Kurt McKinney. Every member of this dream team has either headlined or been the main villain in an Enter The Dragon-style martial arts film from the late 80s/early 90s this territory is more than familiar.

But does it deliver? The story is pretty basic elite fighters are forced into an underground fight to the death tournament where if they lose their loved ones will be killed but I never expected anything else from this type of film. The characters are introduced quickly and efficiently with minimal backstory, which allows us to get straight into the action. There are some nice moments of levity scattered throughout what is otherwise a very dark movie however these lighter scenes don’t detract from its overall tone too much because they’re all so well done. A lot happens over two hours but rarely does it feel rushed or confusing simply because every scene serves a purpose and moves the plot forward at a steady pace.

Landwehr gives a committed performance as Rivers which helps anchor the whole film while McKinney brings some much needed charisma to proceedings as Michael’s right hand man Tommy. Hues has always excelled at playing villains and here he gets another chance to chew scenery as Hall with his deep voice booming out threats left right and centre it’s pure 80s cheese but great fun nonetheless. There are some nice fight scenes scattered throughout which make good use of the various martial arts disciplines showcased by the cast however these sequences are few and far between meaning that when they do happen, they really pack a punch.

Kickboxing legend Rothrock is wasted in a small role as Anna but makes the most of her limited screen time during an intense one-on-one battle with Derudder who plays Dracko this is easily one of the movie’s highlights. Another standout moment occurs when McKinney takes on Qissi (who never actually fights Van Damme on screen) and manages to deliver a knockout blow using nothing more than his legs. There’s also a satisfying subplot involving two female fighters who reluctantly team up to take down a common enemy however their friendship feels rushed and underdeveloped so it doesn’t land quite as strongly as it could have done.

Overall, The Last Kumite may not be the best film ever made but it’s certainly nowhere near being the worst either. It knows exactly what kind of movie it wants to be and delivers on those expectations without feeling too derivative or clichéd. It’s clear that everyone involved had a blast making this, which only adds to its charm if you’re after an old school martial arts flick with plenty of heart then give The Last Kumite a watch.

To say I am a very receptive audience for this movie would be an understatement. These were my staple diet in the days when ma-and-pa video stores lined the streets. My friend’s big brother and his VHS-fueled collection of tournament brawlers introduced me to blanks, Rothrock, Mckinney et al. But beyond that, I’m also a sucker for old-school 80s soundtracks and cheesy rock. Paul Hertzog scores and Stan Bush rock anthems are woven into my DNA at this point. So one of the many strengths of Lover Letter is that Lowe gets Hertzog to dust off his synths and score it like it’s 1985 all over again, and Bush conjures a great title track that doesn’t just feel like it came from the era but actually did (and there’s a difference). When I’m writing my own films I usually have Hertzog and Bush along with me.

The legends come in and do their thing. Blanks may actually give his best performance here while McKinney was always better than most of his contemporaries on that front and shines once again as expected. Hues has fun as the villain, chewing scenery left right center every chance he gets even now his imposing presence can’t be overlooked or denied. As for the new kids on the block Landwehr’s physicality is impressive though he lacks some screen charisma compared with some vintage genre specialists still does enough to make us route for him though.

Elsewhere, Youtuber David Kurzhal aka Viking Samurai has never been one to mince words about anything whether defiantly praising Steven Seagal or decrying today’s action movies (and rightly so) so stepping in front of the camera means he finally has to put his money where his mouth is. He’s already done that in the ring with a boxing exhibition so now it’s time to put himself on the firing line. The guy definitely has the physical goods (nailing the fight scenes and busting out some Van Damme-inspired 360 kicks) and does a solid job with his character too with more films on the immediate horizon it’s a promising start, all rose-tinted throwbacks to early ’90s video action which will hopefully deliver what so many modern DTVs lack fun.

Ross W. Clarkson has been around the block himself, most notably as one of the best cinematographers in the straight-to-video action arena, not to mention a dynamic camera op. He does a solid job of capturing energy through fights and montages injecting dynamism into proceedings (also helped by Oliver Harper editing the film). But that’s not what this film’s biggest strength is its biggest strength is passion bloodsport levels of passion. There’s love for this type of movie behind every frame and it shows. Some parts feel rushed compared to others but that’s just how low budget filmmaking goes sometimes. Clarkson’s eye makes sure those better moments count though with more elaborate light setups etc.

At the end of the day, it’s the sincerity that matters most because you don’t get it from those copy-and-paste movies by companies like Emmett and Furla. That’s what makes The Last Kumite so much fun. If you‘re not into old school fighting tournament flicks, this might not be for you but genre fans will have a blast. It was great I can’t wait for the next one!.

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