Bloodsport (1988)


Roughly 5 years before 1 of the most famous fighting tournaments of all time, UFC 1, became a reality, Bloodsport presented a very similar idea.  The movie is based on the autobiography “The Secret Man: An American Warrior’s Uncensored Story” by martial artist Frank Dux, who claimed that between 1975 and 1980 (when he was aged 19 to 24), he took part in secret fighting tournaments known as Kumite in Hong Kong.  He also claimed to have been undefeated and held numerous fighting records that are only known by those who witnessed the events.  I say the word ‘claimed’, because only Frank Dux himself knows whether it’s true or not.  Many dispute the story as complete myth, or part truths.  But at the same time, it has to be admitted – the concept is fascinating.

Martial Arts movies fans and action movie fans will probably be aware of this film, because it was the first in which Jean-Claude Van Damme was not only in a starring role, but he was the hero as well.  He plays Frank Dux in the film (Obviously), and the bare bones of the story is this:  Frank Dux escapes the Army to go fight in a 3 day tournament in Hong Kong that he has been preparing for since his Sensei decided to make him ‘the son’ who he passes down his fighting style to.  Along the way, he makes friends with an American who is also fighting in the tournament, meets an absolutely scorching journalist, tries to escape the American authorities who want to drag him home kicking and screaming, and obviously play Bruce Lee’s role in the tournament.

This is a fun little movie, but it’s also quite terrible at the same time.  Van Damme apparently worked as 1 of the editors, and it shows because the editing is painfully bad.  It also came across to me as being like a parody of a Martial Arts movie from the ’80s…and yet it was made in the ’80s!  If you’ve developed a diet of Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, Hero and House Of Flying Daggers, you’ll probably watch this film and call it complete and utter crap.  And you know what, you’re right…but it still has its good points.

I liked the ’80s synthesiser music that would have been common in most movies from that decade, as well as the end theme “Fight To Survive” by Stan Bush (Which sounds a lot better on CD than in the film).  The film’s concept of different fighting styles coming together to see who’s the best is excellent fun and has a lot of different variations that deserve to be used and exploited for our enjoyment.  Such variations can be seen used in Fighting Games series such as Tekken, Soul Calibur and Dead or Alive.  One other thing I love about Hong Kong movies, and it’s very evident in this one, is their use of stereotypes.  When whites use stereotypes, it can be seen as racist.  When blacks used stereotypes, it can be seen as distasteful.  But when the chinese use stereotypes, it is comedy gold.  Frank Dux’s large american friend, Ray Jackson, is straight out of a fighting game.  He’s a large, loud, hairy biker type who wears all denim, giant white sneakers, heavy metal T-shirt and a bandana.  And unlike most “foreigners” in Hong Kong movies who would normally have a fighting or professional wrestling background, this guy has nothing like that, unless he is simply a “strong street fighter”.  No formal discipline, just the look.  I also thought 1 of the middle eastern fighters looked Thai, and the African fighter with his “Monkey” Martial Arts style?  Yeah…that would go down well today.  The film also got some lovely shots of Hong Kong within its cinematography.

Now onto the bad and the ugly: The acting for the most part in this film is pretty awful.  Even though it featured a young Forest Whitaker.  The story is simple, so simple in fact, that it’s difficult to become invested in the characters, who aren’t fleshed out at all.  I mean, how often does an intimate bromance show itself in a film when they only met 3 days ago?  Same with the Romance after 1 or 2 days?  It’s nearly as fast that 1 of those Titanic animated films that rips off the James Cameron version and feature talking mice.  The fight scenes are nowhere near as good as what you would expect from Hong Kong cinema.  What Donnie Yen, Michelle Yeoh and Jet Li did back in the early 1990s was a million times better, never mind Donnie Yen’s most recent work.  Having Bolo Yeung as the main villain in this could also be seen as a selling point, because he had a famous appearance in the movie Enter The Dragon.  This is 1 of 2 films he is best remembered for in the west.  The “troubled times” sequence was so bad it was funny.  It could also be remarked that this film is either full of a million cliches, or it was 1 of the first.  The fight sequences were too slow and poorly shot to look convincing.  It was like watching pro wrestling kicks in slow motion and creating little to no suspense of disbelief a lot of the time.  Want awesome action scenes that were 10 years older than this film?  Drunken Master.  What about within 5 years before it?  Police Story.  I’d recommend watching it at least once for a laugh, but never take it too seriously.  It’s not worth it.

8/10 for the soundtrack.  4/10 for the acting.  6/10 for the story.  5/10 for the characters.  6/10 for the fight sequences.  8/10 for the cinematography.  2/10 for the editing.  10/10 for being unintentionally funny.  Overall: 61/100

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