Film reviews

Bloodstone (1988) – Blu-ray Review

Bloodstone is the latest eighties’ release from Arrow Video that’s making the leap to Blu-ray for the first time, giving a whole new audience the chance to see it. Set in India, the film follows newlyweds Sandy (Brett Stimely) and Stephanie (Anna Nicholas) as they travel by train. They’re joined on their journey by a man who’s transporting the famous Bloodstone, a giant ruby that was taken from India by the British in the 18th Century, but was recently stolen. At the train station, the ruby is slipped into Stephanie’s bag to get past the waiting police.

Both the newlyweds, and their taxi driver Shyam (Rajinikanth) are targeted by criminals who want the Bloodstone. When Stephanie is kidnapped, Sandy and Shyam must work together to try to save her.

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The basic concept for the film is pretty good, and whilst it has some slight ridiculousness to it, it’s the kind of misunderstanding or someone’s after the mcguffin type plot that’s been done countless times. What makes Bloodstone stand out, however, is the fact that it’s a joint venture between American and Indian production teams. Whilst this means that the film has a very different look and feel to other 80’s action fare, it also has a very Indian film style about it too (which the film’s extras do go into a little).

This is somewhat evidenced by the fact that the film’s biggest star is Rajinikanth, who plays Shyam. Rajinikanth was a huge star in Tamil cinema at the time, and still works to this day. With over 200 acting credits to his name, as well as a number of action roles, he was a big draw for Indian audiences. In the interview with producer and co-writer Nico Mastorakis, he talks about how crowds were so big when Rajinikanth was on set that there was even an accident where people caused a house to collapse. The film comes with a video essay about him, and it’s one of the most interesting parts of the set.

The extras prove to be more interesting than the film itself for a lot of the background details they included. I spent most of the film thinking that something about Brett Stimely’s voice sounded off, only to find out that they’d completely re-dubbed him with David Soul from Starsky and Hutch to make him sound more rugged.

Sadly, the film itself didn’t entertain as much as the extras did. The plot seemed to meander around a lot, and the story felt like it could have been tightened up a lot more, and the action sequences never really had a sense of energy to them that really sold them. They felt like stage fights rather than real fights because something about them felt slow and sluggish half the time.

One of the biggest things that drew out of the film, however, was the rather strange tone that it had. It was like the film wanted to be a straight action thriller, yet had moments of slapstick comedy that felt completely out of place. This was chiefly due to the main police character, who Mastorakis described as being a Clouseau-like figure. Not only were these scenes pretty bad because they didn’t fit the tone of the rest of the film, but because the character was played by Charlie Brill, complete with blackface, and a bad Indian accent.

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Worst of all was the way he’d make his head sway around whenever he delivered a line. There were scenes with him where other characters would look fed up with him, and I wonder whether this was an acting choice to show his fellow officers didn’t like him, or was actually the Asian cast members being annoyed about his awful blackface impressionism.

Overall the film wasn’t the best I’d ever seen, and whilst it was interesting to see a co-production between a US studio and Indian film, I’d rather just watch an Indian-made action film instead. Luckily the disc has some good extras that I found to be more engaging than the film itself, otherwise it would have scored lower.

Bloodstone is out now on Blu-ray from Arrow Video.

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