Bloodsport Still Ooozes Testosterone and Action 35 Years Later

Sometimes films are considered art because of excellent acting, exceptional script writing, exceptional cinematography, or cultural impact, and other times a film is simply that. Bloodsport.

What this particular icon of the silver screen lacks in some of the aforementioned categories, it makes up for in martial arts glory, pure ’80s nostalgia, and a direct injection of testosterone into the eyes of viewer. This is the film produced by Jean-Claude Van Damme an overnight success – after it spent several years on the shelf and had to be re-edited – and legend has it that he got the role by showing up at a restaurant where Menahem Golan of Cannon Films, his future boss. , came out simple kicked the man in the head to show his skills. What they did together became a staple in the movie libraries of many households, a foundation of the genre, and an inspirational piece for many.

The story of Bloodsport an instant victory because it is about a fighting tournament. It’s easy to love a good movie with a martial arts bracket and watching the hero engage with various opponents, climb to the top to face his opponent, and win it all. Frank Dux (Van Damme) goes AWOL from the military to win a series of underground battles for the honor of his mentor, Senzo Tanaka (Roy Chiao), who is dying. He must evade the authorities on the streets of Hong Kong, befriend other fighters, and face the ruthless Chong Li (Bolo Yeung). It’s simple, clean, and has a positive ending.

That event is called Kumite. This is a beautiful word. Say it a few times out loud, you’ll thank yourself for it. Kumite roughly translates to “free fighting,” which is perfect for a competition that should be a no-holds-barred series of bouts where people can be scarred for life or even die. The current champion, Chong Li, he did that to a guy once, “Yeah, kicked the poor bastard in the throat. Guy died on the stage. Chong Li stood there and watched him die. The other a tournament like this is out of sight, out of mind, and it’s only held every five years, so it feels prestigious to those who participate and witness it. It attracts a lot of different fighters who play different styles from worldwide, a ‘best of the best’ kind of deal, but that’s a movie.

It’s not all fighting, there is a love interest in the form of Janice Kent (Leah Ayres), a journalist who does everything to get the Kumite skin. Dux also bonds with Ray Jackson (Donald Gibb) and Victor Lin (Ken Siu), who act as his fellow fighter from America and North American fighter liaison respectively. Jackson is like that good friend to all of us, but always apologizes to others for him. They make a great team and I paid to see a friend joke about them experiencing Hong Kong together after winning what Lin said was, ‘the biggest Kumite ever.’

The best relationship in the movie though is between Dux and Tanaka. Their history was harsh, strict, and unloving as the master wanted with his biological son, but with his children dead, Frank took over that role. We see intense training, respect, and growth between the two characters. It’s not hard to understand why Dux wants to prove himself to Tanaka. As someone whose father died when I was just a year old, I think this part of the movie registers a little more. The two met when a young Dux and his friends tried to steal a ceremonial sword from the Tanaka residence and it made the end more meaningful when he won a a similar sword for his Kumite victory, having earned it the way his teacher wanted him to.

The actual martial arts of Bloodsport solid, made by a bunch of guys who know what they’re doing (with a couple of dancers thrown in), but there are plenty of movies in the genre with better fights that perfectly choreographed. In the end, this film is less good in technical execution and more in its presentation and drama in the fights. It’s all about the journey, and each of these fights serves to reveal the style and reach the destination. There is less art in the individual fights and more focus on Dux’s struggle and the passion behind that.

What makes Bloodsport even better is how it showcases multiple martial arts disciplines, mixing things up and giving these different characters a layer of personality that’s hard to match in movies like this, in most cases the fighters barely said a word. It’s something that’s hard to do outside of martial arts films, which add that extra fingerprint, and somehow they’re good at making every challenger, even if we’ve never seen them win, feel that they have their own skills and deserve to be included in the tournament.

Some extra credit goes to the fact that these matches are everything done without stuntmen, meaning that some legitimate contact occurred in some of these games. Many praised the movie for being able to sell the fight at such a high level and draw crowds, with most of the credit going to JCVD ​​himself. Her work in making the scenes look as good as they could and her training in dance and ballet helped make her movements look perfect for every shot. According to Van Damme, he also worked to save the fights in the editing process as well. These people are good together, because both of them will continue to help the actor in the film Kickboxer as well.

The soundtrack helped secure some glory for the film as well. The score was composed by Paul Hertzog and is an excellent accompaniment to many scenes where the songs of Stan Bush and Michael Bishop are not playing. There’s no reason not to get pumped when hearing “Fight to Survive,” further proof that Bush is really killing it, even outside of the Transformers. The overall sound design is solid for a film of this era with its reported budget (a figure disputed in some quarters), but Bloodsport rocks with some ambient sound quality.

This project also gained attention for allegedly being loosely based on true events. Frank Dux is a real dude who claims to lead a pretty wild life, but there are people who you think he is a fraud. There are even stats at the end of the movie for Dux which are amazing, unless you do some basic math and put some thought behind it. There’s been a ton of back and forth about Dux’s legitimacy over the years, but either way, the story makes for a great film that has created its own legacy.

Bloodsport in fact helped to push some people to the martial arts film genre and to take the activities as well, in one form or another. I remember loving these movies and wanting to be like JCVD. I joined a Karate class, but my instructor ran away with his secretary when I was getting ready to test for my yellow belt. Another life lesson I guess.

JCVD and Bloodsport ALSO provides a ton of inspiration with Mortal Kombat, another favorite of mine, and basically, Johnny Cage only lives because of this movie. There are also some moments that live as clips, references, memes, and signatures for the actor himself (all separations). Most remember Dux going blind at the end and using his training to succeed, it’s a good chance, or he’s going for a style nut punch. The real Frank Dux says that’s supposed to be in the bladder, but the angle makes everyone think it’s a dick shot (it’s cooler this way, Frank).

What always pops into my head is the old man yelling, “Okay, USA” or my friend responding to everything I say he doesn’t like with various Chong Li GIFs. It’s a quintessential ’80s action movie, 90-plus minutes of muscle-bound dudes trying to tear each other apart with a little story, some kickass montages, and a great song to- back it up. I tried to look at the sequels, but it’s best not to talk about it too much (especially part four). No, there is always something special about anything original Bloodsport is – lightning in a bottle. I just remember sitting on the floor watching it on TBS and being inspired, even if it was simple, poorly acted, or a lie, Bloodsport still means something to me and others 35 years later.

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