There are three primary distinguishing factors at work in “Bloodmoon”. The first is that most fans will generally agree that it’s Gary Daniels’ best film. The second is that it’s one of the last opportunities fans have had to see Chuck Jeffreys in action in front of the camera. The third is that Darren Shahlavi proves himself one of the most memorable and entertaining villain actors in action films today, with the added bonus that he happens to be able to kick people in the face incredibly well. These three attributes together, in a nutshell, are precisely why “Bloodmoon” is as much of a blast as it is!
Gary Daniels leads the way as retired cop Ken O’Hara, who finds himself pulled into the investigation of a series of murders right as he’s in the midst of trying to save his crumbling marriage. Gary’s got everything that the film calls for in its leading man, a guy with punishing, extremely well-honed martial arts skills who always seeks to avoid a life of violence, even at the expense of his career in law enforcement. He must put aside his pacifism if he is to put a stop to the murders plaguing his city, however, as well simply to endure his rivalry with Detective Chuck Baker, played by martial arts supremo (and Eddie Murphy lookalike!) Chuck Jeffreys. Like Ken, Chuck is a highly adept martial artist but their methods at solving the case frequently clash. This also gives The Killer, played by Darren Shahlavi, many opportunities to steal the show, all of which he enthusiastically seizes. But the three leads aren’t alone in their conflict, as the film is packed with cameos by such names as Joe Lewis, Frank Gorshin (known for playing The Riddler in the 1960’s Batman TV show), Hakim Alston, Keith Vitali, Michael DePasquale Jr., and Rob Van Dam.
Retired NYPD Homicide Detective Ken O’Hara is recruited by his former Chief William Hutchins to help solve a series of murders occurring throughout New York City. Ken is reluctant to take on the case, partially because he retired after being repelled by the violence inherent in police work. He’s also on the verge of a divorce with his wife Megan, but he ultimately agrees to rejoin the force. Ken quickly begins butting heads with his new partner Chuck due to their differing approaches to detective work, but the unlikely duo manage to set aside their differences to solve the case, with assistance from Ken’s niece Kelly. It soon becomes clear that the killer is specifically targeting martial arts experts throughout the city, and it isn’t long before Ken, Chuck, and Kelly’s fighting skills put a target on each of their heads.
Ten minutes into “Bloodmoon”, it’s clear that the villain has already stolen the show. That much is obvious once Darren Shahlavi pops up to challenge a local boxing champion played by kickboxing and taekwondo exponent Hakim Alston to discover his “killer instinct”. He sweetens the deal by locking out one leg six feet in the air as casually as if he were opening a jar of peanuts. The opening fight between Shahlavi and Alston does admittedly leave the kicking skills of the latter out of the equation (a challenge Shahlavi himself would later take on in “Ip Man 2”), but it’s a negligible gripe in what is a splendidly well-orchestrated kickoff for the rest of the film. We learn as the film progresses that The Killer is a disgruntled former martial arts champion targeting the best fighters he can find, and his approach towards committing his killings is almost chivalrous in the code of conduct he abides by.
True, he does have an advantage over his opponents in the form of the steel-toed boots he wears, as well as the stainless steel index and middle fingers he’s attached to his left hand that enable him to penetrate the flesh of his enemies. But the principles that The Killer adheres to make him an almost likeable villain! He exclusively targets trained fighters skilled enough to hold their own against him, and never attacks anyone in a situation where he or she is unable to fight back. It’s almost like watching Yuri Boyka as a serial killer, all the more so by how much Shahlavi absolutely devours the role. Whether it’s spewing taunts and challenges towards his foes or dishing out his incredible kicking skills, this would have been a lesser film without him. Indeed, when your two heroes are played by the likes of Gary Daniels and Chuck Jeffreys, you’re not going to stand out without the blood, sweat, and tears Shahlavi puts into it.
Speak of the devils! While Shahlavi earns high praise for the villain he embodies in the film, Daniels and Jeffreys are both more than capable of stepping up to the same plate. As previously mentioned, “Bloodmoon” marks one of the last prominent roles on screen for Jeffreys, who these days is more involved in stunt work and fight choreography. In “Bloodmoon”, he manages to find a nice middle ground between partner and comic relief – one might call Detective Chuck the middle point between Roger Murtaugh and James Carter. The rivalry between Chuck and Ken lends itself to a minor brawl between the two that’s better justified than such action scenes tend to be in buddy cop films -affording the viewer a great chance to see their skills side-by-side. Surprisingly, the fighting style of both men is actually pretty similar, a blend of powerful, sweeping kicks with close-quarter kung-fu hand techniques.
As the leading man of the film, Gary Daniels is as amazing as ever both with the sheer versatility of his fighting style and the textbook quality of his kicking skills. Whether a basic sidekick or a powerful jump spinning kick, each one is a picture perfect recreation of the last kick of its kind that he put out, all the more reason why Shahlavi is such a perfect match for him. The film’s finale pits the two men against one another (with Jeffreys providing a bit of ringside assistance), after the Killer kidnaps Ken’s wife and daughter. Both of them are on fire here! Bearing in mind that Gary’s kicking ability is almost sparkling in its utter flawlessness, it takes a seriously talented master of leg combat indeed to rival him, and Shahlavi is that very candidate. Add in Shahlavi’s predilection for making his character colorful to the point of outright supervillainy, and the result is a finale that’s absolute dynamite in the case of this film.
Any Gary Daniels fan who hasn’t seen “Bloodmoon” is missing out big time. Indeed, the same can be said for Chuck Jeffreys where he showcases his colossal martial arts abilities. In fact, the same can also be said of Darren Shahlavi’s incredible talents both in combat and as a villain.
- After “Bloodmoon”, Gary Daniels and Darren Shahlavi would each go on to play video game characters – Daniels would play Bryan Fury in “Tekken”, while Shahlavi would portray Kano in “Mortal Kombat: Legacy”
- The final fight between Gary Daniels and Darren Shahlavi took ten days to film.
- Chuck Jeffreys has collaborated with Wesley Snipes on several films, such as “Blade: Trinity” and “The Art of War II”, and has also done stunt work and fight choreography on movies such as “Gladiator”, “Universal Soldier: Day of Reckoning”, and most recently, “Falcon Rising” alongside Michael Jai White.