| “Bottom one.” Then JCVD Dim Mak’d that brick into oblivion. The Eighties had no shortage of martial arts. It was the world of Ninjas and Chuck Norris and endless Chinese kung fu epics. And yet if one were to poll a generation, the decade’s top martial arts movie is very likely to be Bloodsport.
After the death of his Japanese trainer’s son, Frank Dux steps in to represent at the Kumite, an underground fighting tournament in Hong Kong. It is full-contact to the extreme, which explains why the fighters vary from a giant Korean to a beer-swilling American biker. At the same time Dux, who went AWOL in order to compete, is being chased by two government men. An attractive journalist, destined to sleep with our hero, is also trying to dig her way into the shadowy underworld of this contest.
But those are only side distractions, resulting in a chase here or a sexy curve there. The story and the real action is all in the arena. Bloodsport‘s unique appeal was in how it brought a variety of martial arts experts to star as the various combatants, leading to the claim that it fathered VS-style games like Street Fighter.
The meat and potatoes came from the bloody brawls, yet Bloodsport is also a masterful example of how to tease an audience. Other than the training montage of the opening credits, there is no actual fighting until the second act. Instead we are entertained by exploding bricks, insane splits and the most awesome coin trick in cinema. Before a single punch has fallen, you are already drawn into this world of extreme athleticism. Then it just starts getting better.
Almost every fight is fluid, physical and brutal. Granted, when stacked to the modern wonders of Ong Bak and Ip Man, it seems a little light. But even with that in mind, Bloodsport stands strong, despite having the most Eighties soundtrack ever conceived.
Again the critics hated it. In fact, Van Damme both got a Rassie nomination for Worst New Star. Rotten Tomatoes still gives it 33%, but the audience meter is far more appreciative. At the end of the day Bloodsport outlived its critics and stands as a martial arts classic. Even as other contenders of the age, like American Ninja, have faded due to mediocrity, JCVD’s debut remains an undisputed champion of movie brawls.
Best Scene: When Van Damme destroys the brick. NOW the movie has our attention.
Best Quote: “Very good. But brick not hit back!”
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Last Updated: May 5, 2014