Isaiah Bone (White) gets out of prison and ends up renting a room at an L.A.-area house run by Tamara (Gaye). Bone is a quiet and mysterious man, and we don't know much about his past. What we do know is that he's an outrageously talented fighter, and he proceeds to get involved with the illegal, underground Punchfighting circuit. Immediately recognizing that Bone is head-and-shoulders better than the normal street thugs, charismatic fight promoter Pinball (Basco) takes him under his wing and Bone moves up the ranks. This puts him in the sights of James (Walker), a high-class thug with aspirations to join the ranks of the ultra-wealthy, as represented by Franklin McVeigh (Sands). James also recognizes Bone's fighting talents and wants to use him to break into the really big time. But Bone has his own reasons for doing what he's doing, and only his strength and personal honor and integrity guide him through his mission. But will he make it out alive? Blood and Bone is as good a movie you could possibly hope for in the world of the modern-day Punchfighter. There's just enough depth and interesting things going on with the plot and characters to raise it above the muck and mire of the "I-punch-you-you-punch-me-and-that's-it" Punchfighters out there. Seemingly, it's a movie out of time, as we felt this could have come to the movie theater, had it only been released in 1997 or so. The only things that mark it as new are some brief - but still unfortunate and unnecessary - uses of CGI. Otherwise, the plot has a nicely familiar feel, and Michael Jai White makes a powerful hero.
As for MJW, we've always been huge fans. His Martial Arts abilities and screen presence have only continued to improve since Ring of Fire III (1995) and Ballistic (1995), which is rare. It's a joy to watch him execute his moves. One of the great injustices in life is that Steven Seagal is more of a household name than White. White deserves to be in the action pantheon with Dolph, Van Damme, (and unfortunately, Seagal). His appearances in two of the Universal Soldier movies make sense towards that aim, but it seems MJW is primarily known in the action community. We feel he deserves wider recognition. As for fellow fan favorite Gina Carano, she has a criminally small part. It would have been awesome to see her team up with MJW to take down the baddies. Maybe someday that will happen.
As for Julian Sands, you might ask yourself what he's doing in an urban-themed modern-day Punchfighter. His one scene where he verbally faces off against James should answer all your questions. One of the things that make Blood and Bone a worthwhile movie, besides its pleasantly surprising spurts of intelligence at times, is its sense of humor, which is well-portioned out. We don't know if this was on purpose, but in a throwback to the Blaxploitation movies of the 70's, all the Caucasian characters are just lightweight, silly, stereotypical whiteys. The Punchfighter "Cowboy" is just a "redneck" stereotype, the white family that eats dinner with James wear sweaters around their necks and listen to Wang Chung, and Julian Sands is the whitest person on earth. It's hard to discern whether the tried-and-true plot line and some characteristics of the movie are homages to the past, or just a simple lack of originality. That's the danger of homages, the audience might misunderstand your intentions. The Hitter and Lionheart seem to be primary influences.
But just as in all great movies, Blood and Bone gets its own title song during the end credits. Seeing as how it's a competently-made film with just the right amount of depth, and you really have a hero to root for in MJW, we feel that Blood and Bone is one of the better modern-day Punchfighters out there.