Bloodsport (1988)


Apparently you’re not allowed to root for the bad guy. At least that’s what Ben told me when I started chanting “Chong Li! Chong Li!” along with the crowd in the movie. But what am I supposed to do, root for Jean-Claude Van Damme? He’s clearly the underdog. No way he’ll win the Kumite. No one’s chanting his name.

So obviously Van Damme’s character, Frank Dux, does win the competition. Also, Chong Li kills a guy and gets away with it because bloodsport, I guess? This entire movie is one big macho fight fest, which is OK if you’re into that sort of thing. I wasn’t particularly drawn in to this particular movie, but did find it reasonably entertaining. The weakest spot is the beginning when Dux’s backstory is explained. It’s very clunky exposition delivered in laughable flashbacks, intercut with what I’m pretty sure is the same shot of Van Damme looking pensive thrown in over and over to remind you that these are his memories. Obviously an easy fix for this would be to disperse the flashbacks throughout the movie, but this isn’t really the type of film that concerns itself with good storytelling and character development. Stacking all this backstory into the first 10 minutes might actually be perfect for the target audience. Why interrupt all the cool fight scenes with feelings?

I did notice that Jean-Claude was quite a handsome man. I can definitely see his appeal with the ladies. He can also do the splits. I’ve never been able to do them, so my hat’s off to anyone who can with ease.

Bloodsport was entertaining, but if this really is Van Damme’s best– as Ben has told me repeatedly it is– then I’m not looking forward to watching the rest of his filmography.

Rating: C

This is Jean-Claude Van Damme’s best film. It’s also his first major role. I remember thinking when I was watching this that the film would be a good starting point for a film based on the video game street fighter. The movie, which is apparently based on a true story, and it revolves around an underground fighting tournament that is basically no rules and no limits. If they took this approach with a street fighter film, I think it could be really successful. It’s ironic then that Van Damme would go on to star in a bastardised version of that same video game.

Van Damme stars as Frank Dux. An American soldier who wants to enter a dangerous fighting tournament in china called the kumute. He has trained since he was a boy in America and wants to win the tournament as a tribute to his dying sensei, Senzo Tanaka. The army is not keen on Dux competing and tries to stop him. They send two men (Norman Burton and a very young Forest Whitaker) over to stop him and bring Dux back to America. Frank must avoid these two and still find his way around this deadly tournament.

Van Damme is very charming in this role. He has a great screen presence, even though this is his first real film. It’s easy to see why he ended up being such a big star later on in his career. I wish they’d try to explain his Belgian accent a little better though. He is meant to be an American soldier, but he clearly has a European accent. I’d have liked it if there was even just a throwaway line about him training for a few years abroad. It would’ve been nice if there was even just a simple explanation. It’s a small gripe though, in the end nobody is watching this film to complain about Van Damme’s accent. They want to watch the fight scenes.

This is where Bloodsport absolutely delivers. The fight scenes are spectacular. They are incredibly brutal with lots of blood. There is one fight in particular where Dux’s main competition, Chong Li (Bolo Yeung), snaps a man’s leg in half showing his bone. It is quite a squeamish shot. Even after all these years, I still can’t watch it and tend to turn away when I know it’s coming. That being said, the fights are awesome. The montage scenes of several fights are really cool. There is no one type of fighting in this tournament. There is wrestlers, karate, Muay Thai boxing, sumo wrestlers and even a small African man who fights like a monkey. He runs around on all fours attacking when he gets his chance. So it’s interesting to see what happens when all of these different fighting styles go up against each other.

This film should be considered successful purely for Sally’s reaction to it. I am sure she will give it an ordinary review, but you should’ve heard her yelling at the tv when the fights were happening. She was invested in these characters and considering how hesitant she was towards this film before it started, I’m going to call it a win for Bloodsport if the movie can get her reacting at all to the screen.

Rating: B

4 thoughts on “Bloodsport (1988)

  1. Pingback: Commando (1985) | From The Abyss to Zoolander

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