undergroundbloodred

This 2010 grade-Z kick-fest, just released to Redboxes on a double feature disc with the superior gangster study Blood Red Presidents, stars writer-director Wilbert Berthaud, Jr., as Mike, an urban martial artist who to his regret gets mixed up with an underground fighting ring to help pay the bills and support his little brothers. Berthaud might have done better to concentrate on his duties behind the camera, as, high kicks aside, the young man has little in the way of screen presence and could have spent more time developing his script. More interesting is his unkempt afro, which goes through mutations during the film and in one scene is displayed half-fluffed, the other half of his head subdued in cornrows, a rare (probably unintentional) piece of poetic imagery that captures Mike’s divided self, as he receives occasional visits from his own dark side. This and other elements make for a somewhat offbeat action picture, its oddity failing, however, to compensate for quality. The action scenes and comic relief are tolerably good, but with no compelling characters to cheer to a victory, Underground is an indie picture best left interred.

2 out of 5 possible stars. ICA’s advice: for a good underground fighting drama, check out Lorenzo Lamas in Night of the Warrior; or for decent kung fu mayhem with a black star, see any Jim Kelly movie.

[WARNING: SPOILERS]

Ideological Content Analysis indicates that Underground is:

6. Feminist. Jade (Sara Walsh) proves to be a worthy opponent for Mike and even beats him on one occasion.

5. Class-conscious/anti-business. A representative entrepreneur is a condescending slob. Businessmen throw away money “like it’s candy.” “You think because you can afford designer suits that you can tell me what to do?”

4. Anti-police. A goofy loser/small-time crook (Donald Foley in an amusing performance) turns out to be a goofy loser/undercover cop who forgets to load his gun for the final confrontation. Humorously, his ample flab makes him impervious to an assailant’s pressure point attacks. Police play an antagonistic role during the climactic sequence.

3. Pro-miscegenation. Mike has a mulatto girlfriend (Sara Rattigan). Black gangster Monro is intimate with blonde henchwoman Jade, who sits on his lap and calls him “Sir”. “Such a pretty face,” she says on meeting the star/screenwriter.

2. Multiculturalist. With important exceptions, the film takes place in what would appear to be a largely postracial society, with blacks, whites, Hispanics, and Asians interacting without regard for each other’s racial differences. Underground opens itself up to the charge of stereotyping, however, when Mike, channeling his inner janitor, uses a mop handle as a weapon and then, channeling his inner African cannibal, bites Monro on the ankle during their final confrontation.

1. Anti-Semitic. Mike’s exaggeratedly hook-nosed friend Jason (Mike Harb) turns out to be a Judas.

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