He's a real tough guy, but almost everyone he deals with is just a bit tougher, but not tough enough to out tough his toughness. That was until he meets his weekly nemesis, Cat-Man!
So Zach Kane is a character. He's a total loser. He's a washed up boxer that now is a borderline vigilante who can barely make ends meet. While that seems like a fairly cliché character model for a late 70s action movie, there's a nice twist to Kane's character; he believes he's still one tough guy. He's never come to terms with his loserness, either by denial or just complete lack of context. He keeps getting his butt kicked by life and his own decisions but he's oblivious. Imagine Johnny Lawrence in episode 1 of Cobra Kai but never having any sort of redemption.
While this is mostly considered as an action movie, this is much more of a thriller with the plot centering around a man-hunt for a serial killer. The serial killer himself is quite the character as well. He's a rich kid with some serious mommy issues or at least issues with his mommy being an orgy-loving swinger. So he puts on his trash bag hood and stalks the night as Cat-Man. He literally makes hissing sounds whenever he's in some sort of danger. Little Richard is not exactly Zodiac.
The cast is rounded out by Sherry Jackson's Jennifer. Jennifer also has some serious mental health issues or at least self-destructive tendencies. First, Sherry Jackson is a smoke-show and therefore so is Jennifer. Second, she's a well-to-do gal who appears to have a stable source of income. Third, she's an LA socialite with connections to the upper crust. Yet, she is given a bag of Pizza Hut by a guy in a parking lot and she's now swooning for him. He's covered in dirt and blood every time she's with him and comes and goes as he pleases, yet within two dates she's in love with our boy Zach. Why, Jennifer? Why?!?!?
Bare Knuckles isn't your typical stinker of this vein. It's mildly slow. The action isn't good. There's relatively low amounts of stunts. There's zero shoot-outs and little blood. Yet, the price of admission is whether you can discover the good movie that is buried in the crap that is the narrative and film production. You may find yourself asking yourself where the line is on bounty-hunting and vigilantism. You may find yourself analyzing the motives of the characters. You may find yourself comparing Zach and Richard to Batman and Joker. You may find yourself living in a shotgun shack. And you may ask yourself, well why am I watching this?
Its not for everyone, and its not any sort of bad movie show stopper. But it is a very interesting movie with much to be discussed by lovers of bad movies. We say go for it with your other film buddies, but don't bring any rookies in. This is for intermediates.