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Bare Knuckles (1977)

Directed by Don Edmonds
Amazon MGM VHS

A bounty hunter and a criminal throw down in a good old-fashioned fistfight. There are flying punches to the jaw and sharp knees to the gut. The men are caked in dirt and smeared with blood. This is not some Chuck-Norris-I’m-just-a-little-sweaty-whatever-no-big-deal fight. This is down-and-dirty fisticuffs. There’s writhing and panting and gasping, and neither bounty hunter nor criminal is particularly good at fighting. But cold justice prevails. The bounty hunter drags the perp into the precinct. It’s just another day at work for him, bringing criminals under civilian arrest and collecting the reward. He’s cool, collected, and smooth. His name is Zachary Kane (Played by Robert Viharo!), and he has a hairy chest and a full mustache that he grew last night while I was eating an organic vegan burrito. Kane can pummel punching bags. I cannot. Kane can do a hundred sit-ups. I cannot. Kane can do two hundred push-ups. On bricks. I can not. Kane can also PLAY THE FLUTE. I actually can do this, but that’s beside the point, which is this: Is there anything he can’t do?

Kane breaks up a domestic spat while carrying a mushroom and olive pizza. The lady, grateful and obviously in love with this hunk of a man, asks coyly, “Do you want to buy a lady dinner?” He passes her a slice. It is crucial to note that this pizza is from Pizza Hut, which is actually a dog’s butthole, and the lady has a hard time eating it sensuously. Anyone would.

“I don’t even know your name.”
“It’s Kane.”
“Kane? As in Abel? As in candy? As in “Citizen”?
“No. As in ‘blind man’s.’”

Somewhere in Los Angeles, a masked man hisses and gurgles as he assaults and slashes a woman on the street. People look out their windows and gawk, but they don’t do anything because then the movie would be over. No one comes to her rescue.

Now there’s a $15,000 reward to capture the slasher. Kane enlists the help of another level-headed, badass bounty hunter, a man in black named Black who is black. Together they go to a gay bar and shake down a gay man and get into a gay bar fight. They end up exhausted and bruised. Black sighs in exasperation.

“You do this shit for fun. I just do this shit for a living.”

Now Kane must find the killer before all the women in Los Angeles end up facedown in the gutter. But the killer has set his target on Kane.

Bare Knuckles is both classic action and classic slasher, with zesty exploitive twists that are molto Italiano in flavor. It combines everything you love, and while it doesn’t add anything new, it does everything well. It’s got so much going for it: a deranged killer with mommy issues, a man who has lost everything, boobage, and a motorcycle that rides down the stairs, albeit very slowly. And pizza! There’s also a slashing that takes place in a rub n’ tug massage parlor, but, it’s actually pretty classy. Bare Knuckles is a movie that plays it effortlessly cool and smooth. Like Panic City, the pace is relaxed and confident. Kane carries himself with the knowledge that he can kick anyone’s ass, even though he doesn’t know karate and gets his ass kicked constantly. That is part of the film’s charm. Kane has no right to be as collected and cocksure as he is, but we can’t help but get pulled in by his magnetism. The film plays everything simply and straight: tragic figures are tragic, mysterious men are mysterious, distressed damsels are distressed, tough guys are tough, gay guys are gay. Coffee is black. Whiskey is straight. Cigarettes are unfiltered. This is a film that doesn’t “use much window dressing,” thanks to writer/producer/director Don Edmonds (Ilsa: She Wolf of the SS, Terror on Tour, among others). There are beautiful wide shots, snappy one-liners, and scenes that build suspense, dread, and that nervous tension that comes when you’re at a horrible dinner party and stuck in a conversation with someone who is mentally unstable and, in addition, very annoying.

This movie features the world’s cutest gun, which gets fired down someone’s pants.