Here’s one I hadn’t seen in a long time. It seemed like a good idea to revisit it before Hollywood remakes it. I’m not just being cynical, either: an all-female version has already been shot. As far as I know, they’re still planning a traditional remake, too. So prepare yourself for trailers which will inevitably play “Let Da Bodies Hit Da Flo’.”
Bloodsport kind of has an identity crisis. It’s not so bad it’s bad-good (cheesy montages and poor dubbing notwithstanding), but it’s almost good enough to be good-good. Besides, I always liked Jean-Claude Van Damme more than Chuck Norris. By the time I was old enough to sit through entire movies, Norris already seemed like an old man. Beards will do that to you.
I guess Norris felt too much like my mother’s B-level action star. Van Damme was mine. Besides, he gave us Cyborg, Universal Soldier, and Timecop, whereas I don’t remember Norris ever doing any science fiction. (A quick Google search indicates Silent Rage could be the movie I’m looking for.) Looking past his questionable acting abilities, Van Damme just seems like a really cool dude.
Bloodsport wasn’t Van Damme’s first movie, but it’s probably the one which put him on the map. In it he plays a U.S. Army Captain who goes AWOL to participate in the underground kumite (“koo-muh-tay”) in which thirty martial artists gather in Hong Kong to face off until there’s only one left. One character describes it as cockfighting with humans.
Along the way he meets Donald Gibb (Ogre from Revenge of the Nerds) who provides the so-so comic relief until the film’s villain damn near smashes his skull in. At that point the stakes have been raised and Van Damme’s character not only has to fight for his own honor, but… blah-blah-blah.
All that is beside the point. If you haven’t seen Bloodsport, all you want to know is: Is the fighting any good? Sort of. It’s a helluva lot better than the Mortal Kombat movie, but not nearly as good as Enter the Dragon. Frankly, Van Damme’s moves are so plodding I wonder why they employ slow motion at all. That’s more of a problem with American martial arts movies in general, but it’s no less frustrating.
And you know what? There’s a curious lack of blood for a movie that has “Blood” right there in its title.
Still, the film’s extremely watchable, I guess because it’s so damn pleasant and rarely boring. That and Cannon was pretty good at making cheap movies that looked expensive. Consider the fact the movie was made for around four million dollars, adjusted for inflation, and I can’t imagine a modern studio getting that kind of production value for anything less than twenty million or so.
The character Van Damme plays in Bloodsport was a real guy, but it turns out he was probably full of shit when he convinced the filmmakers he was involved in a real life kumite. Oh well. It’s still a fun picture.