Bloodsport (1988): Breakdown by RANTBO
Van Damme does the splits, beats people up, sweats and yells. A lot.
[THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THEIR BADASSITUDE]
Jean-Claude Van Damme is Frank Dux
Jackson: His first fight in the Kumite, broke the fuckin’ world record! Yeah!
Supposedly upon meeting Jean-Claude, the real Frank Dux declared that Van Damme (a martial arts world champion), wasn’t nearly fit enough to play the role and put him into a training program for 3 months. An endeavor that Van Damme has reportedly claimed was, “the hardest training of his life.” And it shows. JCVD’s body is a god damn marvel. You could bounce a quarter off his ass. Sure, it would be slathered in oil, but it’d come back.
Aside from a short backstory in which Frank Dux is more-or-less adopted by a Japanese martial arts master and taught the ways of the mighty leg-split (amongst other deadly arts), Dux’s character is about as bland and one dimensional as you can get. But with the one-two punch combo of looking cut from granite and being malleable as an invertebrate, Van Damme’s Dux is a none-stop ass-kicking machine. Dominating every fight with his superior form and technique, Frank decimates every opponent that dare break-dance his way in the ring. Even in his final, life defining bout with the reigning champion, Frank’s power and fortitude are muscles upon muscles above the competition. In fact, he is so good at martial arts, he even beats Don Gibb (a man that clearly spends a lot of time playing video games) at Karate Champ. First try. Yes sir, Dux is one bad-ass mother fucker.
Donald Gibb is Ray Jackson
A self described REAL man, Ray is ‘too good looking’ for most women. Jackson is a fighting champ (read: drunken lug-head) from the States, and played by Conan alum, Donald ‘NERRRDS!’ Gibb. And with Gibb’s signature crossed eyes, snaggletooth grin and Grizzly Adam’s beard, he is quite a site to behold. It doesn’t seem to matter that he’s completely out-of-shape either, as his girth alone seems plenty enough to bring defeat and shame to his tiny Asian opponents. That is, until he faces raining champ Chong Li. In an embarrassing display of over-confidence Jackson gets his mongoloid looking ass handed to him on his way off the mat and into the hospital. But, he survives (due in most part to his abnormally thick skull–seriously). And he won me over with his bar-buddy swagger and lovable sense of tough-guy humor. Plus he breaks a brick on his face–and that’s fuckin’ manly.
Bolo Yeung is Chong Li
Victor the Liaison: He’s never been defeated . Holds all the records, including the fastest KO. He kill a guy during the last kumite.
Jackson: Yeah, kicked the poor bastard right in the throat… Chong Li stood there and watched him die.
At 50 years old (yeah, 50!) Bolo was more fit than most men at 25 and looked as though he hadn’t aged since he himself was (ancient Chinese secret?). Renowned for his barrel chest, inhuman set (for an Asian man, at least) of muscles and hideous mug, Bolo was the go-to guy for vicious martial arts mother fuckers for about 30 years and Chong Li is arguably his greatest (if not, easily his most memorable) version of the stock baddy.
Mirroring Dux in being nigh untouchable in the ring, Chong one-ups him by being an unmerciful and brutal bastard. The current Kumite champ, Chong visibly gets off on hearing the crowd chant his name. And what better way to achieve sexual stimulation than quickly and with gusto? So, Chong shoots for the quick “kill”, and succeeds leaving nothing but broken, bloodied shells of former men in his wake. And he even shines them on by dancing around like an silver-back ape in heat after his victories are declared. In the sub-genre of Fight/Tournament Movies, Bolo’s Li is one of the all time greatest.
[THE SEX AND VIOLENCE]
DUDESWEAT AND MACHISMO:
Army Peon: Sir!
Army Colonel: Where’s Dux?
Army Peon: He was in the gym, like you said… took a shower, I waited—he disappeared.
Army Colonel: What do you mean he disappeared!
Army Peon: One minute he was there, the next he wasn’t!
Army Colonel: JESUS CHRIST! If anything happens to Dux in Hong Kong… Get Helmer and Rawlins on this RIGHT AWAY and I don’t want to see your face again until Dux is beside it! Understand!?
I sure do. Aw skeet-skeet, motherfucka!
Van Damme does the splits seven times over the course of the film. SEVEN TIMES! I know that for a fact because in-between involuntary spouts of masturbation, I counted. With an unspoken, yet clear goal of surpassing the two year title holder Tom Cruise as King of the Gays, Van Damme succeeds with flying colors of spittle.
While one could argue that Dux does sleep with a pretty blonde reporter, I believe that there are just as many signs that point to otherwise. For starters, no contact aside from kissing is shown and the night after the sex-in -question, the first thing we see is Dux putting on a pair of, what appear to be, red panties. And thus, I submit that he was merely putting on a fashion show for the lady, during which they became exhausted and decided to snuggle. Which I can back up by outlining his other relationship in the film, to Ray Jackson. His true lover.
Donald Gibb proves once and for all that there are, in fact, gay retards. Bonding with Dux over video games, Jackson immediately begins to hit on Frank like a horny teenager at a rollerskate birthday party. From this moment on, the two become inseparable, spending every non-fighting second by one-another’s side. That is, until the evil Chong Li dares to try and take Dux’s soul mate away from him in the ring.
As spoiled above, Jackson lives through the beating, but is so fucked up that it leads to a classic 80s montage of memories from Dux as he mopes around the city reflecting on the depressing situation. Which in turn leads to Frank literally putting his life on the line to defend the honor of his fallen mate. Which he does, AND he even gets back Jackson’s stolen Harley Davidson head-band from Chong’s sweaty, K.O.’d thigh. And it’s upon returning said garment that the following clincher dialogue occurs…
Jackson: Anytime, any place, anywhere—if you ever need me—I’ll BE there.
Dux: I love you, my friend…
And then Frank kisses him. Seriously. And you know who he doesn’t kiss goodbye? The woman. The prosecution rests.
EXPLOITATION AND MISOGYNY:
Leah Ayers plays a reporter whose name doesn’t matter. As mentioned above, not only is it insinuated that she sleeps with Dux for the sole purpose of getting into the tournament for her oh-so important story, but in failing to win him over with her vaginal charms, finds an Asian business man who does. What a whore. Not only that but after finally getting in to cover the Kumite, she becomes disgusted at the sheer manliness of it all and does everything in her power to end the tournament. And THEN has the audacity to show up in support of it when her attempts to shut it down fail, successfully one-upping Chong Li as the most detestable character in the movie.
MURDER BY NUMBERS: [ 01 ]
On the third day of the tournament, his bloodlust at it’s highest, Chong Li solidifies himself as a complete psycho in continuing to pummel a fallen opponent, refusing to stop until after the poor bastard’s neck is snapped like a bamboo stick. But that’s the only kill. Thankfully though, what the film lacks in death, it more than makes up for with brutal ass-kickings. As one would expect.
MOST SATISFYING ASS-KICKING AND/OR DEATH:
Chong Li vs. Frank Dux
Li’s time has ended and Dux’s time has arrived. The bout you wait the whole film to see, ends up being the one to watch the movie for. As so it should be. Dux’s talent in the ring is so indisputable (except for all the fighting, that is), that Li is forced to cheat just to even the odds. This, of course, only pisses off Frank more and leads him to jump kick Chong in the face about 18 or so times. And better yet, Dux literally makes Li scream for mercy at the end of the beat-down.
Reporter Bimbo: He made him say matte. (Translation: I’m your bitch.)
Not only is this the best fight in the film, it’s one of the best from the entire genre.
[THE BEST OF THE REST]
Li Cheats, Dux Screams
Remember when I mentioned that Li cheated in the final match against Dux? Well, that shit was awesome. Throwing some type of powder into Frank’s eyes and blurring his vision, the coward Li succeeds for the first time of any of Frank’s opponents to gain the edge against him—that is, until…
Spaz-Attack! Dux pops a rage-boner and the mad rush of blood leaving his brain causes him to unleash a hellscream from the 9th level of his balls. Successfully allowing Dux to re-center his chi, and finish the fight blinded, but clam as a Hindu cow. Fuck Yeah!
Chong Li: You break my record, now I break YOU—like I break your friend!
Pretty weak, I know, but it’s the best this film has to offer.
It has been five years since last the trash-can sized mixed-cocktail of human fluids has spilled over a dank warehouse floor in Hong Kong. If these mats could talk… But now, the year is 1988 and the brutal 3-day underground martial arts tournament known as the Kumite, has returned. Dozens of fighters will enter, but only one man will leave with his pecks held high in victory. This is the true* story of Frank ‘Put Up Your’ Dux, a scrappy young American (Belgian) soldier with a dream to combat other sweaty beefcakes, win, and become their God.
Named after the thick ropes of blood and saliva that fly out of the combatants’ mouths when fists and insoles hit them at high speeds, Bloodsport is Bad-Ass Fight Cinema at it’s finest. The film opens with a bunch of sweaty young studs (and Bolo) all breaking shit with their martial arts prowess which segues into two more training montages, ALL within the first 15 minutes.
Epic though this is, it is also a tad bittersweet as even though Bloodsport’s main character is based off of and coordinated by martial arts legend, Frank Dux, there is very little development into his character outside these training sequences. And the guy comes off as being a completely one-dimensional sweat and kick machine. And I know, I know, what am I bitching about—too many fights!? Fair enough (and I’ll even agree this makes me sound like a puss, but still…). For a biopic intended on being a culmination a 5 year tale (1975-1980) of such a crazy-assed and interesting dude, it left me wanting. But, that’s pretty much my only gripe. And it’s small. Like that sumo guy’s nuts after Dux uppercutted them into sesame seed oil. So the fact remains, Bloodsport is pretty fucking spectacular.
Something interesting I noticed (as many a action fan would) are all the references to Enter The Dragon. Of course there is Bolo, but more than that, they gave his character several similar lines to that of Dragon’s Lee, such as: “Brick not hit back.” Which makes for a fun ‘spot-the-reference’ game to play with friends who are cool enough to spot awesome shit like us. More than that though, the filmmakers took that kick-ass kung-fu tournament set-up from the 70s and infused it into a late-80s setting (despite being the “true story” of Dux’s career from the 1970’s). Hell, the movie actually features Van Damme sporting his infamous nipple-high slacks, complete with a too tight tank-top (so skimpy that Madonna would have been embarrassed to be seen in), taking on Ogre from Revenge of the Nerds on an arcade karate game.
But more than the fashion, video games and Donald Gibb, there are several totally 80s co-stars strewn about. Such as; Forest Whitaker as a military police officer, Roy Chiao (Temple Of Doom’s Lao Che) as Dux’s mentor and best of all, oft Chinese Inspector character-actor Philip Chan (Hard Boiled, Police Story 3) as, what else? A Chinese police inspector! The biggest and greatest indicator of the times, however, is the soundtrack, as there is not only one, BUT TWO Stan Bush songs in this movie. Not to mention a bitchin’ 80s-style cheesy synthesized score composed by Paul Hertzog. A man who’s only other credit that I recognize (unsurprisingly enough), is Kickboxer. But I give credit where credit is due and I dig those tunes, man. And you will too. RIGHT NOW. “Kumite!—Kumite!—Kumite!” Enjoy the SHIT outta that link.
The director, Newt Arnold only did three projects under the big-D title, only one of which, Bloodsport, was an action film. Which at first sounds odd, especially if you’ve seen this flick and know how well shot, choreographed and all-around put together it is, but then a quick trip to his IMDb page reveals he’s done a shitload of second unit/assistant directing, including being second-banana on such films as; The Getaway, The Godfather: Part II, Blade Runner, The Goonies, Invasion U.S.A., Red Scorpion, The Abyss and Last Action Hero. And that’s just a few. Which in turn begs the question, why didn’t Arnold branch out and make more movies as top-dog?
The best answer I can figure (not being able to find any sufficient info on his career), is that while Bloodsport is a well known and much beloved cult movie now, it wasn’t well received back in ‘88 (or as I like to call it, the year that everyone started shitting on Bad-Ass Cinema) and only managed to bring in around a 12 million gross. A success by the budget’s standards, but apparently not enough to warrant those involved to continue carrying the Kumite flag. Sadly, Newt expired in 2000, and though he worked up until that very year in the business, he never did make a follow-up film as the director. But, Bloodsport lives on in the hearts and minds of young Van Damme and Bad-Ass Cinema enthusiasts. RIP, Newt.
As I stated above, Bloodsport is a classic entry in not only the Tournament Fighting sub-genre, but for Bad-Ass Cinema in general. The action is top-notch, the fights are as brutal and bone-crushing as the title would suggest and despite accounting for nearly 90% of the entire film (as though the crowd reading this review would complain), they never become tedious or boring as the variety of different fighters and styles are almost overwhelming. Not to mention the editing of the bouts is so well paced. So if you like watching men-on-men FIGHTING action, this flick will be your Holy Grail. Plus, you get to see Van Damme’s first lead role where he flaunts his uncovered glutes. What’s not to like about that? Bloodsport—get it.
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One final thing, the film ends with a freezeframe of Van Damme and a title card declaring that:
“From 1975 to 1980 Frank W. Dux fought 329 matches. He retired undefeated as the World Heavy Weight Full Contact Kumite Champion.’ And further more that, ‘Mr. Dux still holds four world records:
– Fastest Knockout – 3.2 Seconds
– Fastest Punch with a Knockout – .12 Seconds
– Fastest Kick with a Knockout – 72mph
– Most Consecutive Knockouts in a Single Tournament – 56”
Well, OK then. How did this not become a series?
[EDITOR’S NOTE: Bloodsport II – Bloodsport III – Bloodsport: The Dark Kumite]
…Oh. Well how do you like that? It appears my journey is just beginning…
[THE MORAL OF THE STORY]
Determination, hard work, perseverance and a perfectly formed ass can, and do, lead to victory.
[THE AOBG ACTION CHECKLIST]
[X] Athlete(s) Turned “Actor” [Take Your Pick. No, Not Forest Whitaker]
[ ] Clinging To The Outside Of A Moving Vehicle
[X] Crotch Attack
[X] Dialogue Telling Us How Bad-Ass The Main Character(s) Is/Are
[ ] Ending Featuring An Ambulance, A Blanket or A Towel
[ ] Giant Explosion(s)
[ ] Heavy Artillery
[ ] Improvised Weapon(s)
[ ] Macho Mode(s) Of Transportation
[X] Main Character Sports Facial Accessory(s)
[X] Manly Embrace(s)
[ ] Notorious Stunt-Man Sighting
[X] Passage(s) Of Time Via Montage
[X] Politically Fueled Plot Point(s)
[X] Senseless Destruction Of Property
[ ] Shoot Out(s) and/or Sword Fight(s)
[X] Slow-Motion Finishing Move(s)/Death(s)
[X] Stupid Authoritative Figure(s)
[X] Substance Usage and/or Abuse
[ ] Tis The Season
[X] Torture Sequence(s)
[X] Unnecessary Sequel [Bloodsport II (1996)]
[ ] Vehicle Chase(s)
[ ] Vigilante Justice
[TOTAL: 14 outta 25]
Bloodsport (1988) © MCMLXXXVII CANNON FILMS, INC. and CANNON INTERNATIONAL / Review © AllOuttaBubbleGum.com and Ty ‘RANTBO’ Hanson