This was the movie that started Van Damme's career in the big time. While he had previously starred as villains in No Retreat, No Surrender and Black Eagle, this would be his first role as the first billed, hero of a movie.
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Bloodsport is the semi-true tale of American martial arts legend Frank Dux.I say semi, because it is not known how much of it is true. Some of it is definitely false (Karate Champ had not been invented when Dux won the tournament), however it is taken as the truth that Dux was the first westerner to win the secret Hong Kong martial arts tournament known as the Kumite.
The movie starts with Dux in training at a military base in the USA. His superior wants to see him, having learned of his plans to go to Hong Kong to take part in the full contact 'Bloodsport' of the Kumite. Evading his escort and escaping the base, Dux goes to visit his sensei Tanaka (Roy Chiao - Game of Death), who is gravely ill. While in his home, Dux has flashbacks to the day he met his sensei, when he and a few other local boys broke into his home to rob the old man. When Tanaka returned,the other boys fled but Frank felt guilty and stayed to try and clear the mess up.Tanaka has Frank's parents over, and he makes a deal with them to let Frank off, if he agrees to be Tanaka Jnr's martial arts training partner .What then follows is a few scenes of them training, before it cuts to a bit later, where Tanaka's son has passed away. Tanaka is naturally heartbroken, for more reasons than one. Tanaka had hoped his son would follow in his footsteps and win the Kumite. Dux says he will do it for Tanaka, but the old man snaps at him that he is not Japanese. After some discussion, it cuts to present day where Frank goes to see his bed ridden mentor who bids him luck.
When Frank finally reaches Hong Kong, he befriends fellow American Kumite fighter Ray Jackson (Donald Gibb Savate) over a game of Karate Champ. They are assigned a guide and taken to where the tournament will be held. The grand master types of the Kunite demand the Dux prove he is representing Tanaka by performing his Shidoshis famous Death Touch move.Dux does this by punching a stack of bricks, and destroying only the one at the bottom.
To complicate matters, two Army agents, Helmer (Norman Burton Mausoleum) and Rawlins (Forest Whitaker Ghost Dog) have been sent to Hong Kong to track down Dux and bring him back.
Frank also earns the attention of reporter Janice Kent (Leah Ayres The Player), who wants a scoop on the Kumite.
The tournament begins, with a variety of different fighters using a variety of different styles taking part. There are Paco(Paolo Tocha Fist of the North Star) and Paredes (Michel Qissi Kickboxer) two Muay Thai fighters and Chong Li(Bolo Yeung Enter The Dragon), the reining champion Korean powerhouse.
As the many competitors battle it out, Ray is drawn against Chong Li, the fight is going in Rays favor until he stops to gloat, at which point Chong Li takes command and sends him straight to hospital.
In his other fights,Chong Li breaks Paredes leg, and actually kills one other opponent, he is clearly going to be Franks greatest opponent, and it is he who will be his opponent in the final fight of the Kumite.
Bloodsport is a very 80s movie. The haircuts and music make this clear. It is hard to find Leah Ayres attractive when there is some sort of creature where he hair should be, and the less said about Van Dammes hair the better. The music is pure 80s Van Damme movie, by Stan Bush, who also done some tunes for Kickboxer,the standout song has to be the one with a chorus of FIGHT TO SURVIVE!!! with backing vocals of a group of men chanting Kumite!Kumite!Kumite!.
There are no special effects whatsoever, but the fighting is excellent. Choreographed by Mr.Dux himself, all the scenes are performed brilliantly.It is clear that all the fighters can actually fight.
The acting is all right, but nothing special. Van Damme is, well, Van Damme.If you find him enjoyable in any of his movies, then you will like him here. Donald Gibb plays Ray Jackson as a likeable slob and does a good job of it.
Leah Ayres is good enough as Janice, but I do think the character is slightly flawed. She begs and begs to get into the Kumite, yet seems disgusted by it. Weirdo.
Bolo Yeung steals the show as nasty bam Chong Li.He actually has very few lines, but comes across as very imposing.He is also in immense physical shape for his age (he was around 50 when this was made, and he carried on in martial arts movies well into the 90s).
Forest Whitaker is actually brilliant with what little he has to do. I always chuckle at the scenes where he tries to be demanding, only for his partner to step over him and play nice guy.
Bloodsport is an entertaining martial arts movie. Personally, I prefer Kickboxer, due to the fact that it just seems more gritty, sure Ray Jackson goes to hospital, but unlike Eric Sloane, no serious damage is done.And while Chong Li is a nasty piece of work, he isnt the truly hate-worthy rapist that was Tong Po. The training scenes also do not go into the depth of KB, and those that are shown are nowhere near as entertaining. Fans of Van Damme really should see it, as it is where he made a name. Unfortunately, it also features a shot of his naked butt. Out of order.
The movie went on to have 3 sequels, none of which starring Van Damme, all of which starring VD look-alike Daniel Bernhardt, and several rip-offs (most notably Don the Dragon Wilsons Bloodfist) , but none of them match up to the original.
Other Bloodsport Series Reviews
Bloodsport 2: The Next Kumite
Bloodsport 4: The Final Chapter
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