Bloodsport

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US film poster.

Bloodsport is a martial arts film starring Jean-Claude Van Damme released on 1988-02-26 as the first film in the Bloodsport series. Although the film was promoted as being based on factual events from the life of a man named Frank Dux, several lawsuits lost by Dux demonstrate that he actually made up most, if not all of the story. Because the film was hilariously bad, it has a cult following and influenced later purposely over-the-top media like Mortal Kombat character Johnny Cage.

The film's plot is about a US army captain named Frank Dux (Van Damme) going AWOL to participate in an underground full-contact martial arts tournament in Hong Kong to honor the family of his Japanese sensei. While there, he has to defeat fighters from all over the world while also avoid being caught by police sent to apprehend him.

Personal

I first saw Bloodsport in the early 1990s, probably rented on VHS. I remember my mother watching the film as well and commenting on how awful the acting was, but, as a kid who cared little about acting quality and loved cinematic martial arts, I found it to be really enjoyable. Later, in my late teens, I saw the movie again on TV and, while still enjoying the fight scenes, found the film to be much more hokey than I remembered. Now, as an adult, I find the film to be hilariously awful and enjoy watching it just to make fun of it.

Cast

Actor Roles
Jean-Claude Van Damme Frank Dux
Pierre Rafini Child Frank Dux
Donald Gibb Ray Jackson
Leah Ayres Janice
Norman Burton CID Agent Helmer
Forest Whitaker CID Agent Rawlins
Bolo Yeung Chong Li
Ken Siu Victor Lin
Roy Chiao Senzo Tanaka
Philip Chan Captain Chen
Bernard Mariano Hossein
Lily Leung Mrs. Tanaka
Sean Ward Shingo Tanaka
Kimo Lai Kwok Ki Hiro
Bill Yuen Ping Kuen Oshima
Paulo Tocha Paco
Cihangir Ghaffari Gustafson
John Cheung Toon
Dennis Chiu Chuan
Michel Qissi Parades
David Ho Pumola
Eric Neff Morra
Michael Chan Yasuda
Rick Erikson Coutard
John Law Luu
Samson Li Prang
Ken Boyle Colonel Coo

Review

— This section contains spoilers! —

Good

  • The film does a great job of showcasing a wide variety of fighting styles from all around the world. Although most of them are poorly choreographed, they include muay thai, kung fu, hapkido, jeet kune do, aikido, savate, kickboxing, monkey-style, vale tudo, and others.
  • The idea of an underground full-contact martial arts tournament where fighters from all over the world compete is certainly alluring.
  • This is one of those films that's so bad, it's fun to mock. The soundtrack especially! I fight to survive!

Bad

  • Despite having fighters from all over the world, the film still suffers from mild white supremacy. The white American easily wins with honor while the non-white fighters must result to cheating and exhibit various forms of criminal behavior.
  • Senzo's son Shingo is supposed to be a great fighter learning from his master father, but he gets beaten up by a couple of school bullies, both of whom are easily defeated by the much less-trained Dux.
  • Most of the voices are poorly overdubbed.
  • A lot of the scenes and dialogue are lifted from earlier Bruce Lee films.
  • The film is set in 1980, but the video game Dux and Jackson play, Karate Champ, didn't come out until 1984.

Ugly

  • The acting is really horrible, especially from Jean-Claude Van Damme, who has no range at all, Leah Ayres, where every scene is forced, and Pierre Rafini, who mostly just stands there clearly uncomfortable while on camera.
  • The fight choreography is painfully bad. Most of the fighters just stand still while their opponent makes hugely telegraphed moves that clearly wouldn't contact. Only a few of the scenes actually show interesting fights, and all of those are from the stuntmen.
  • The entire film is based on a lie so blatant, even a little bit of investigation would have uncovered it. The producers were clearly more interested in cashing in than being honest.

Media

Covers

Posters

Fan Art

Videos

Trailer.

Representation

Strong female character?Fail
Bechdel test?Fail
Strong person of color character?Pass
Queer character?Fail

Links

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