Earlier this year, we lost the action star and director Leo Fong at the age of 93. Fong gained some notoriety over the last handful of years due to RedLetterMedia’s coverage of some of his films on their show Best of the Worst. A lot of it is that Fong always looked like a guy who is almost the opposite of what you’d expect an action star to look like. But, he was a pretty accomplished martial artist and friend of Bruce Lee.
Leo Fong would appear in Filipino martial arts films in the 70s. He then got into making his own films through the 80s and that’s where we would really know him best. Waaay back in 2016, I covered his Low Blow film. This week, I’m going to cover not the next film he made after Low Blow, but the actual direct sequel to Low Blow, Blood Street.
But what happened in Low Blow?
Oh shit! That’s right! He smashed a guy’s head like it was made out of butter!
But wait… That’s not all. Leo Fong played Joe Wong, a private eye who gets hired by a guy to get his daughter out of a weirdo religious cult led by a blind Cameron Mitchell. He hires a crew of guys to help him in his mission and they ultimately kick the shit out of everyone and save the girl. There’s a running joke through the movie that Wong had a shitty, broken down car that wouldn’t start reliably and he also parked very poorly and often ended up on curbs. It was fun times.
I don’t really have much more to add to get us ready for Blood Street, so why don’t I just dive right in?
Ooh, this movie has a scrolling exposition dump to get us up to speed with what is going on. It’s 1990 (oh my this might actually be Science Fiction as it is taking place in the near future), and San Francisco has gone from beautiful tourist destination to a shithole criminal landscape. The drug war has two main players – the new drug lord Aldo MacDonald and Australian Malcom Boyd. Caught in the middle are two “pawns” – our boy Joe Wong and the beautiful, yet mysterious, Vanna.
Malcom has just put a hit on Aldo…
The movie opens with what appears to be a bunch of hookers or chicks hanging out doing drugs and getting laid by rich white dudes. You know, as would be the case in 80s action movies. Guys come in and start blow everyone away. The gunmen kill quite a few people, but they didn’t get everyone, and they were killed.
We then meet Joe Wong. We get a look around his office while he narrates how his job isn’t all that great and it’s actually pretty not nice. After all, he’s gotta spy on cheating husbands. He’s tracking down hussies who are messing around behind their husbands’ backs. You get it. He thinks today is going to be like any other day.
However… Today is going to be different. A long, tall blonde named Vanna has come in to talk to Joe about her husband. Joe is immediately turned on by Vanna, but also isn’t all that interested in getting in the middle of messy marital problems. But she’s going to convince her otherwise. You see, she says her husband is missing. He thinks, since she says her husband has been involved in questionable activities, that he’s probably just on the run.
She asks if he’d run from a body like hers.
By the way, Vanna is played by Kymberly Paige. She was a Playboy Playmate in 1987. After a cursory examination of her body of work, it checks out. I would not run from a body like that. She wants to hire Joe, but can’t pay him right now. She’s not got access to her husband’s money, but when he finds him, he’ll get paid big time. She does offer a down payment of her titties, but he declines…
Like an asshole.
He goes to a bar and asks for a Shirley Temple and gets belittled by Dollar Store Eddie Murphy. The guy and his buddy get their asses kicked by Joe for their trouble. One of the guys gets his throat slit by a broken bottle. So… Yup. Low Blow is back at it with killing people.
We then meet Malcom Boyd. This is Richard Norton. Norton is one of the tops in 80s martial arts action heroes. He’s been in movies like Gymkata, Force: Five, The Octagon, and more. More recently, Norton appeared in Mad Max: Fury Road. He is pretty much a beast. A guy brings in a new sparring partner who Boyd destroys very quickly. We cut over to MacDonald and he tells his lieutenant, Solomon, that it is now all out war. Aldo is going to make it very clear that nobody is going to fuck with them. Aldo sends the Eddie Murphy lookalike out to find one of the drug dealers on the street. Eddie and the guy he’s with kills the drug dealer saying it is a message from Aldo.
Joe’s reading the paper. He does say that maybe the best thing he can do is try to set himself up as bait. He says that he thinks that all the carnage as of late in San Francisco is somehow related to Vanna’s missing husband. Joe stops by the crime scene from the opening of the movie. He goes to take a piss, he finds a matchbook from a massage parlor.
Outside, Joe finds the guy Eddie was with earlier sneaking around. He asks how much dope costs, the guy says he doesn’t know anything about him and he might be a cop. So Joe punches the guy to find out if he knows Aldo. He goes to a bar looking for Solomon. I should mention that multiple people have referred to Joe as the “Chinaman” or, uh… worse. That’s something that carries over from Low Blow. That movie constantly had people referring to Joe by derogatory terms. I feel like it is meant to be either funny or some sort of insider talk among the people who Leo Fong hung out with.
Solomon is not exactly forthcoming with info. His son, the Eddie Murphy guy, steps up to tell Joe he’s got a lot of balls to come into the bar and ask questions. Joe beats him up. Solomon then has his other guys go to kick Joe’s ass, but he handles them pretty quickly. There’s a guy, who I do not think was one of Solomon’s goons, just hanging out at a pool table in this bar. Joe throws a dart at the guy, hitting him square in the forehead. I… I mean it. I think that guy just happened to be in the bar playing pool one table over. We did not see him come at Joe. I really do believe Joe just killed a bystander.
Joe questions one of the goons by slamming his head against a pool table to find out where Aldo MacDonald lives. That guy might have died from blunt force trauma. Now, I’m not sure if time has passed or if this info we learn next has been the cause for Boyd to order the hit on MacDonald or what, but MacDonald says he now RULES. I imagine if he were to graffiti that on the wall, it would say “ALDO RULEZ!” He says that the profits from drugs is up 50%.
Anyway, he must be ruling the streets from hiding because Joe’s not found him. Vanna hasn’t seen him, and things are pretty dicey. But after he concludes business to say that the drugs are flowing 50% better, an assassin comes in to try to kill him. At the same time, Joe and Vanna are having lunch to discuss the case and a guy follows them. The guy pulls up beside Joe on the highway and brandishes an uzi. Joe spins the car around to face the goon and he blows the gunman away with a sawed off shotgun.
Jeepers! If you want to know who’s to blame for the bloodbath in San Francisco, look no further than Leo Fong! What’s great is that after he blows that fucker away, Joe just drives off like it’s something he sees or does every day.
Now, here’s the weird thing about this movie. Joe and Vanna go to the buildings that Aldo MacDonald apparently lives at. It’s a condo that doesn’t particularly seem all that fancy for a guy who is stupid rich. He’s with Vanna, right? He asks the gardener where Aldo MacDonald lives. Wouldn’t Vanna know that? Actually no. Vanna has no knowledge of this place. She finds out that maybe she’s not the only woman in his life. Some guys bust in to kill the pair, but Joe gets the drop of them and kills them both pretty fast. They leave quickly.
Meanwhile, Aldo is getting a rubdown at the massage parlor he frequents. The masseuse working his upper body does something he doesn’t like and he slaps her. Solomon and his son come in and tell Aldo that Boyd is having a cocktail party. Aldo wants one of his goons there. Solomon then says if he ever strikes a woman in his presence again, he’ll come to have a conversation with him. Aldo wants to know if that’s a threat.
Solomon says it’s a promise.
Now, when it’s said that Boyd is having a cocktail party, what that really means is he’s going to have some people in formal wear around, and he’s going to also have greased up guys doing cage fighting. I hate to break it to him, but I had that idea way before he did. He’s stealing my schtick.
Also showing up at this cocktail party that almost seems like it is happening in a business office is Joe posing as a smack dealer looking to get to know Boyd. Vanna is there disguised as his assistant. A creep comes up and instantly hits on Vanna, so Joe beats him up. I’m surprised he didn’t kill the hired help passing out the drinks and finger sandwiches or whatever it is that gets served as formal cage fights. Boyd is not so stupid to suddenly think that this guy he’s never seen before or heard of is totally on the up and up. He has his greased up cage fighter goon follow Joe when he excuses himself from the fights.
Joe does plant a bug and overhears some business between Boyd and one of the dealers. The dealer is a bit concerned over how MacDonald has seemingly taken over a chunk of the Boyd territory. When a couple gunmen show up and fire on a few of the people at the party, Joe comes back, fires his shotgun a couple times and then leaves with Vanna. Cut to Solomon and Son reporting that the gunmen did not return from the party. I must assume Joe killed them.
MacDonald is pretty disappointed with Solomon. However, he’s happy hearing about the plans to expand his territory. He’s also happy to hear about how 200 kilos are coming in for a drug kingpin. Solomon’s son kills the people dealing with that giant shipment while Boyd looks on from his car and Joe watches from above. He’s now convinced that MacDonald is indeed a dealer and he must have pretty big balls because he’s been moving hard and strong against kingpins.
Joe goes to the massage parlor saying he’s looking for MacDonald. He fights his way through to MacDonald’s office. Joe tells him that Vanna hired him to find her husband. Okay, so movie over, right? He’s found MacDonald. He can tell Vanna where he’s at, and he can get paid, right?
Nope! It’s time to learn Low Blow’s origin story. Four years ago, we see that Joe was in Texas teaching martial arts to three guys who snicker like teenage girls when Joe’s daughter introduces her boyfriend who studies art at UC-Berkeley. Anyway, this was back when Joe was a cop, and, apparently, part-time karate teacher. On their date, the young lovers get approached by a big ol’ black dude who Joe put in jail. He punches her boyfriend, very likely out of existence because he’s never seen again after he falls down out of frame, and the bad guy smashes the girl’s face, killing her.
So, yeah, Joe’s daughter was killed. His wife left him. Sad stuff. Joe finds out that the man who killed Joe’s daughter got off on a technicality. So he went to find him and make sure he pays. He goes from bar to bar beating the shit out of everyone. Then, he finds the killer and he beats the fuck out of him. I like that, in this scene, Joe is wearing a red shirt. I assume it’s to hide all the blood he gets on himself from the ass-whoopins he hands out. He finds himself haunted by words from the prosecutor who handled the murder trial – “If you take the law into your own hands, you’re on your own.”
Back to the present. Joe tells Vanna he’s found MacDonald. He tells her where he can be found and Joe warns her about taking the law into her own hands when she mentions she wants to kill him. Meanwhile, she’s not the only person who wants Aldo dead. Boyd has sent some more goons to attempt to assassinate MacDonald, but they fail.
Later, a woman gets into the hot tub to sex Boyd. One of his people come in to say that MacDonald got away with the stuff, but they know where he went. Boyd goes to deal with this and it is revealed that the woman sexing Boyd is Vanna… DUN DUN DUN!
Joe arrives at the massage parlor. MacDonald has finally been killed. Now… Question. Was Vanna always in on this plan with Boyd? Was it possible that she took the info from Joe to Boyd? This movie really kind of can’t sustain all its ideas and I’m sure finding it hard to believe that it can handle a twist.
Anyway, MacDonald is dead and Solomon has taken over his operation. He calls Boyd to basically say he’ll give him back the merchandise the MacDonald crew stole for the right price. So Boyd plans to kill everyone. I guess this was something Solomon’s son was aware of because he just randomly kicks one of Boyd’s guys in the face after he checks the merchandise. Anyway, Solomon and Son are both killed and Boyd makes off with all his drugs and stuff.
The next day, the cops arrest Joe for murder. As it turns out, the murder weapon used to kill MacDonald was from his gun. When Joe gets out of prison on bail, he returns to his apartment and finds Vanna ready to pay her fee for the work he did. Now… I have to admit a couple things. First, I thought she was hanging out with Boyd. Was that not her in the hot tub? The camera lingered on her for a bit as if it was meant to tell us it was her. It looked like her. Frankly, this movie is kind of confusing. There are lots of crosses and doublecrosses and people sending people to kill people here, there, and everywhere. It’s actually surprisingly hard to follow. I’ll talk more about that in a bit.
Second… Joe, do it. Get that payment.
Vanna tells Joe that she and MacDonald had drifted apart several years ago. She was hoping he’d help her find him, but he doesn’t really buy that story. That’s especially because there was a key worn around MacDonald’s neck that was missing after he was found dead. She has that key. She says it’s a gift from her dead husband.
Joe calls his computer whiz kid who can find info about Vanna. The important thing is where does she bank because that will tell Joe where to try to access a safety deposit box that fits that key. The kid discovers that she banks at two places. One under the name Vanna MacDonald. The other? Vanna Boyd… DUN DUN DUN!
Okay, so let’s talk for a second before we dive into the final act of Blood Street. There are two main problems with this movie. The first is that it is nowhere NEAR as fun as Low Blow. That movie had all of Joe’s quirks about how he drives or his sloppiness or his general don’t give a fuck attitude. This one doesn’t really follow Joe enough. He’s the fun character. He’s the guy who has so little charisma that it comes all the back around to being charismatic! Don’t ask me how that works because I couldn’t tell ya. We’ve got all these other characters and their goons and their plots and what have you. It’s just a bit more of a slog to get through. It’s really not helped when you include this dour backstory to Joe Wong that involves his daughter being murdered.
The other main problem is focused on the cluster of characters. We were given no reason to think Vanna is using Joe for anything beyond her initial reason – to find her husband. Having her be involved with both drug kingpins is weird. We don’t see her sneak off to call someone. We don’t see her have shifty eyes over something being said or revealed. We DO see her be followed with Joe and a couple goons come in and at least try to gun down Joe, but would probably also gun her down too in the crossfire. When we see her in the hot tub with Boyd, it’s not accompanied by a music sting or anything other than the camera resting on her. There’s no dialog that makes her complicit in being a bad guy. She even covered her breasts, which she was fine with showing earlier. I know this is a VHS rip that I have but I’m pretty sure the quality wasn’t so bad that you had to question whether or not that was a significant character! These things make this movie a lackluster sequel to Low Blow, and it’s unfortunate because I would love for this to be a rollicking good time.
Joe goes to one of the banks. He’s followed by some of Boyd’s goons, but Joe NEVER misses out a chance to kill or maim people when the opportunity presents itself.
Apparently, there was a ton of cash in that safety deposit box. To stash it for now, he crams it into his heavy bag in his office. He says that he does not plan to keep this money. He knows the owners will come to claim it soon enough. And… Yes, a couple goons follow and corner Joe to get it.
So, yeah… Joe was a pawn all along. Boyd wanted that money from the safety deposit box that MacDonald had the key for. Vanna was to basically use her wiles to get him to find MacDonald so he could be killed. Then, they were going to frame him for the murder so he would be out of the way and they’d get away scot-free. Not only that, but they also had a cop on the take that could help connect the pieces to frame Joe.
But it turns out that Joe is a little bit of a stickier problem than they expected. However, Boyd keeps sending people after the money. Joe either beats the shit out of them, kills them, or both. For a little extra muscle, Joe’s lawyer and a beefy guy he knows comes along to help Joe strike against Boyd to get him off Joe’s back. Joe’s lawyer is instantly defeated in hand-to-hand combat by a woman. The beefy guy and Joe just go around and shoot everyone.
Joe and the beefy dude get to Boyd and Vanna. A couple guys almost ambush Joe and his hired muscle, but they shoot them and chase after Boyd. Pretty much the climax consists of Joe walking through halls, going up stairwells, and so on and shooting the people who jump out at him. Joe’s hired muscle is shot and is probably going to die.
Boyd gets into an elevator to go down and escape, but Joe’s able to stick his shotgun into the door before it closes and shoots Boyd. So… That’s that with him I guess. Some drug kingpin he turned out to be. Vanna’s showered and doing her makeup when Joe finds her. You’d think he’s going to kill her, but no, he just gets her arrested. She tries to sweet talk the booking officer, but no dice. Joe concludes the story by saying San Francisco isn’t such a bad town as another pretty woman approaches him to beg for his help.
I really wanted this movie to be as fun as Low Blow. I explained earlier that it just stumbles all over the place. It’s like Low Blow had the character he liked, and he liked being a private eye, but instead of following the original trail of this very quirky and seemingly sloppy detective who turns out to actually be pretty good at what he does, they opted for something more like a classic noir type detective. You can keep some of the fun elements, but the entirety of how much you liked watching the Low Blow version of Wong is almost entirely missing.
What’re you gonna do? They can’t all be winners.
Next week, we return to the world of Lucio Fulci as we cover the first of his Gates of Hell Trilogy with City of the Living Dead. So be sure to be here in one week for that review. Tomorrow, we continue Season 3 of B-Movie Enema: The Series with the 1966 Esperanto classic Incubus starring none other than the man himself – William Shatner. The best way to watch would be to, first, follow B-Movie Enema on Facebook and Twitter. That way, you can find out when the episodes drop. But then, subscribe to B-Movie Enema on YouTube and Vimeo. There, you can watch the episodes. If you have a Roku, download the free B-Movie Enema channel and watch everything there as well! While you’re there at Roku getting channels, get OtherWorlds TV too! My show is there on Sunday afternoons and they show lots of fun and good flicks with hosts on the weekends.